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January 2009 Archives

Harris County Appeals Judgment

bagosto@abrahamwatkins.com, Jr., Chelsie King Garza and Abraham, Watkins, Nichols, Sorrels & Friend undertook the representation of Eluid Cesar Hinojosa, a Sergeant with the Harris County Constable's Office, when he challenged a decision of the Texas Department of Insurance - Workers Compensation Division regarding compensability of benefits in Harris County District Court. The injured worker was victorious at trial and Harris County has now appealed the Court's verdict with the Texas 1st Court of Appeals.

The Dangers Of Pit Bikes

The original Pit Bikes were simply small motorcycles with a 4-stroke, 50cc motor used by adult-sized motocross riders to navigate the pits (an off-track area designated for setting up prior to an event). Pit bikes have evolved to look more and more like mini versions of the factory built motorcycles.

Obama & Change - Shaky Oath, but Actions Speak Louder than Words

President Obama took the oath of office on Tuesday, January 20th becoming the 44th President of the United States. The oath, however, is regarded as the "flub heard round the world." Chief Justice of the United States Supreme Court, John Roberts, got the words of the oath a little off, which prompted Obama to do so, too. This mistake was widely noticed and even prompted a "do-over." In fact, for the second time, and with the constitutionally correct wording, President Obama was sworn in by Roberts on the following Wednesday night. So his first official act, being sworn in, was a stumble. However, the actions that President Obama took on the following Thursday speak volumes about the change that he promised and the change that he is now going to deliver.

Marketing, the Difficulty with Selling Yourself

I was talking recently with a colleague of mine about marketing. She very candidly confided in me that she is having difficulty with marketing. That when in politics, she had no problem with talking up the candidate she was working for, but now in her own practice she was having trouble selling herself. I identify with her plight. When working as a defense lawyer in a big firm, I did not feel too much pressure to do marketing, nor did I see it as something that would move me forward at that firm.

"The Road Goes on Forever & the Tests Never End"

In July 2002 I walked out of Reliant Arena here in Houston, Texas thinking that I would never have to take another standardized test again. It was the final day of the bar exam. Little did I know that I was wrong. Over the past seven years I have attended numerous continuing legal education courses, taken countless depositions, tried dozens of lawsuits, and worked with hundreds of clients. The one thing I didn't do was fill out a scantron sheet. That all changed this past October when I decided to sit for the board certification exam in personal injury trial law. According to the board of legal specialization, there are currently only 1740 attorneys in the entire State of Texas who are board certified in personal injury trial law. After asking various lawyers around Texas who have taken the exam, I had a better understanding of what to expect. However, I was not prepared for what I actually encountered. I spent many days leading up to the exam studying volumes of materials to help prepare. On the day of the 6 hour written exam, I walked into the testing room feeling confident I was ready. The first 3 hours of the exam were essay. I left for the lunch break feeling pretty good. I had no idea what was laid in wait for me after lunch. I returned from lunch eager to start the final 3 hours of the exam. This portion is 100 multiple choice questions. Wow, I forgot how much I hated multiple choice scantron tests. With each question, I easily narrowed it down to two answers. Then came the hard part, which one of the final two is more correct. Deep breath, JUST PICK ONE! After 3 hours of misery, it was finally over. Then came the waiting. For over three months I checked the mail daily looking for the results. Finally, they arrived yesterday. Much to my relief I passed! Now that I've completed this hurdle in my career, I've promised myself no more scantrons! However, I have a strange feeling that somehow it won't be my last. I guess no matter how much we try to tell ourselves we don't have to go to school anymore, the truth is everyday is an education and I'm sure I'll be tested on it again one day.

Themes In Lawsuits

I attended the January13, 2009 meeting of the Houston Chapter of the American Inns of Courts. The topic of this meeting focused on themes and their roles in trials. Panelists included Judge Randy Wilson, Judge Reece Rondon, Judge Dion Ramos, Judge Jaclanel McFarland, Ellen Finley (with Jury Focus), Jeff Nobles (an appellate specialist) and myself. How themes affected the outcomes of trials and appeals was the major topic discussed throughout the night. In the end, the various perspectives (from the judges' view, the practitioners' view and the jury consultant view) of the panelists were consistent on the impact of the themes. Themes are a must if a lawyer hopes to succeed on behalf of his or her client.

Supreme Court Alters Statute Against Patients

On January 9, 2009, the Texas Supreme Court altered a statute to the disadvantage of patients seeking justice from doctors who have committed malpractice. In the case of Badiga v. Lopez, the Court ruled that a doctor can appeal a certain pre-trial ruling even though the medical malpractice statute says that no such appeal can be taken.

Can Texas employers get away with gross negligence?

The 81st session of the Texas Legislature is upon us. One area of law that needs to be revisited is the area of Workers' Compensation law as it regards to fatalities on the job. The Texas Workers' Compensation law of 1991 bars any employee from suing his/her employer if they are injured on the job if the employer is a Workers' Compensation subscriber. However, if the employee is killed on the job, the family of the killed worker can sue the employer for acts constituting gross negligence; thus, the suit is for gross negligence only. Or can they? Under the Texas Workers' Compensation law, suits for gross negligence against the employer can be brought by the spouse and/or children of the killed worker and no one else. The parents of the worker cannot sue under the Workers' Compensation statute. So what happens if the killed worker has no spouse nor children? Therein lies the problem. If a worker in Texas is killed on the job and he/she does not have a spouse and/or children, the case is over...no one can sue. It doesn't matter how grossly negligent the employer was in its actions, no one can sue.

A Simple Thank You Makes This Job Rewarding

Last week, bagosto@abrahamwatkins.com and I resolved a case where a loving wife lost her husband of 19 years and two beautiful children lost their father. On August 30, 2006, my client's life was forever changed when she received a phone call stating, "Something has happened to your husband; he died today."

Themes In Lawsuits

I attended the January13, 2009 meeting of the Houston Chapter of the American Inns of Courts. The topic of this meeting focused on themes and their roles in trials. Panelists included Judge Randy Wilson, Judge Reece Rondon, Judge Dion Ramos, Judge Jaclanel McFarland, Ellen Finley (with Jury Focus), Jeff Nobles (an appellate specialist) and myself. How themes affected the outcomes of trials and appeals was the major topic discussed throughout the night. In the end, the various perspectives (from the judges' view, the practitioners' view and the jury consultant view) of the panelists were consistent on the impact of the themes. Themes are a must if a lawyer hopes to succeed on behalf of his or her client.

Electronic Stability Control (ESC) Litigation

In 1995 Mercedes Benz starting offering electronic stability control as a standard feature in some of their models. As early as 2000 some Lexus models started carrying ESC as a standard option. Some automakers have waited for much longer to provide ESC as a standard safety feature. The question is how does ESC make a vehicle safer?

Surviving the Holiday Season

With two small children who were both very sick these past two weeks, this holiday season has been a very difficult one to navigate. As with any other illness that my children have had to bear, the worst of it is always at night. That means that I do not sleep much and when I do sleep, it is the best quality sleep I can muster with little feet kicking me and little arms around my neck. I am happy to report that even in spite of being sick, the kids enjoyed Christmas and thoroughly enjoyed my being home so much. Between sick days with the kids and office closings, my hours at the office have been less than regular.

Bankruptcy Stay Partially Lifted in Hurricane Rita Evacuation Bus Fire Multidistrict Litigation

On September 23, 2005 a bus carrying elderly passengers from a nursing home in Bellaire, Texas headed to Dallas, Texas caught fire on IH - 45. As a result of the fire, 23 passengers died and several others were injured. Suits were filed in several counties by families of the deceased and the injured passengers. All the cases were transferred to 206th Judicial District Court of Hidalgo County, Texas. The Law firm of Abraham, Watkins, Nichols, Sorrels and Friend represents several plaintiffs and is on the Plaintiffs Steering Committee.

Underinsured Motorist Coverage to Good Samaritan

One week before Christmas, the Texas Supreme Court denied a severely injured "good Samaritan" the benefits of his underinsured motorist (um/uim) coverage. In the decision of United States Fidelity and Guaranty Company v. Goudeau, issued on December 19, 2008, the Supreme Court overruled the Court of Appeals and held that Louis Goudeau was not allowed to go to trial in his suit against usf&g.

Tips to Make 2009 Better

As we enter 2009, there is always something that every person can do to make you feel better. I recently came across a list that I would like to share-I know that at least one of the items can benefit you.

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