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May 2009 Archives

Supreme Court Reverses Jury Verdict for Plaintiffs Again

Last week, in the case of Texas Department of Transportation v. York, ___ S.W.3d ___ (Tex. 2009) (5/22/09), the Supreme Court reversed a verdict in favor of the family members of a woman who was killed when her car went out of control after it hit loose gravel a day after TxDOT applied a "spot seal coat" to repair a highway; her car crossed the centerline and hit an oncoming vehicle. The Supreme Court reversed a verdict of $1,033,440 and held that there was "no jurisdiction" over TxDOT by stating that "loose gravel is not a special defect as a matter of law. . . ."

Summer Warning - Be Safe with Swimming Pools

With Summer upon us, everyone needs to take extra precautions when swimming in pools, especially those with young children.& nbsp; Additionally, parents who have swimming pools in their neighborhoods need to take extra precautions to ensure that their children are safe. I recently handled a case where the clients' four-year-old son drowned to death in a neighbor's artificial, backyard swimming pool. While we were able to get the clients a favorable settlement for the policy limits of defendants' homeowners liability insurance, there was no way to bring back their son. As such, this blog is intended to serve as a Summer warning to all parents.

LegalAid - Texas Access to Justice Commission

I was recently appointed to serve a three year term on the Texas Access to Justice Commission. The purpose of this organization, also known as LegalAid, is to provide legal aid to the poor in civil matters. Its mission is to develop and implement policy initiatives designed to expand access to, and enhance the quality of, justice in civil legal matters for low income Texans. Due to the economy and the historic low interest rates, there is an epic economic crisis that threatens a devastating blow to the funding of our legal aid offices in Texas.

"Modern Day David v. Goliath"

•1. Last Thursday I had the privilege of introducing the speaker for our monthly TTLA Advocates Luncheon. We were fortunate to have David J. Berardinelli, author of the book "From Good Hands to Boxing Gloves, The Dark Side of Insurance" come and discuss his epic battle with Allstate Insurance. From 2001 to 2006, Mr. Berardinelli waged war with one of the country's largest insurance companies. The battle all stemmed over Allstate's failure to produce documents that have become known as the "The McKinsey Slides." The basic outline of the story is that Mr. Berardinelli's clients were policy holders with Allstate for nearly 40 years when they were struck by an uninsured drunk driver. His clients made a claim on their own insurance which was denied on the basis they didn't have coverage for uninsured motorists. Mr. Berardinelli's clients insisted that the agents who sold them the policy promised that the coverage they had was the same as uninsured motorists coverage. During litigation, the agents admitted under oath in their depositions that they had mislead the clients and had actually been trained by Allstate to misrepresent the coverage they were being provided. As a result of this testimony, Mr. Beradinelli requested copies of the training documents used by Allstate. Allstate refused. After years of court battles, Allstate finally turned over the precious "McKinsey Slides." After reading what's in them, it's clear why Allstate didn't want to the public to see them. The story of the Jose and Olivia Pincheira, Allstate's insureds, is one that can't be told in this blog, but is one that everyone should read. I strongly recommend reading Mr. Beradinelli's book so you can clearly appreciate what you as a consumer are up against when it comes to insurance.

Aviation Litigation Update

Abraham, Watkins, Nichols, Sorrels, Agosto & Friend has a long history of successfully litigating cases involving aircraft crashes. Our extensive experience includes cases against Braniff Airways, Hawaiian Airlines, Swiss Air Boeing airplanes, various military aircraft manufacturers, numerous private plane manufacturers. The causes of these crashes involved pilot error, manufacturing defects or both. Over the years we have developed and maintained close professional relationships with several experienced and knowledgeable experts on aircraft failures, involving both the pilot error/negligence and products liability issues. In short, our firm is well equipped, given our experience, knowledge and resources needed, to competently and successfully litigate these complex cases.

Stanford Update

1. United States District Judge Godbey last week established the briefing schedule for arguments on whether Allen Stanford should be able to obtain money to pay his attorneys. John Little-the court-appointed Examiner representing the interests of CD investors-has been given until today (May 4) to file his response. Since the Court denied the proposed interventions of the CD investors two weeks ago, they do not have the right to respond. Allen Stanford's attorneys have been given until May 8 to reply. Allen Stanford has also filed an appeal with the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals seeking to lift the Order freezing his assets, and Judge Godbey has questioned whether he has authority to amend that Order while it is being appealed. There is no date set to decide that issue.

Recent Trial Victory - A Win for the Injured Worker

On April 22, 2009, I tried my client's case to a Harris County jury. Johnny Garza and I picked a jury that morning, and we proceeded to trial that same day. We split up the duties for directing the witnesses, Johnny conducted voir dire (jury selection), and I handled opening statement and closing argument.

FDA Says Stop Using Hydroxycut

The US Food and Drug Administration has just warned consumers to immediately stop using the dietary supplement Hydroxycut, because of an association between the Hydroxycut products and a number of serious liver and other injuries. Made by Iovate Health Sciences Inc. (Oakville, Ontario) and distributed by Iovate Health Sciences USA Inc. (Blasdell, N.Y.), the manufacturer has agreed to recall their products from the market. The actual FDA warning can be found at http://www.fda.gov/bbs/topics/NEWS/2009/NEW02006.html. The FDA received several reports of serious health problems including: Jaundice Elevated liver enzymes Liver failure Seizures Cardiovascular disorders Rhabdomyolysis There was a report of liver damage so severe it caused one person to die of liver disease and an undisclosed number of people who required liver transplants. These lower-cost Hydroxycut products were marketed for weight-loss, as fat burners, as energy-enhancers, as low carb diet aids, and for water loss under the Iovate and MuscleTech brand names. Although the FDA has not received reports on all of the associated products, Iovate agreed to recall the following products:

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