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November 2009 Archives

Honesty is the Best Policy

Recently, I tried a lawsuit in Harris County. It was car wreck lawsuit where the cause of the accident was in dispute. It was a typical he said, she said situation. I had the case referred to me the weekend before the case was set for trial on Monday. The referral lawyer had a commitment that had to be met that Monday, and this particular client was set for her day in court. As a trial lawyer, this was a great opportunity and I took the case. I had to get caught up quickly on the facts of the case and I spent the entire weekend preparing jury selection notes, an opening statement, direct and cross examinations, and a closing argument. I studied the police report and the officer's findings, the depositions that had been taken, and the client's medical records regarding the treatment that she received following the incident.

Tort Reform Editorial Sets the Record Straight

In the Sunday, November 22, 2009 edition of the Houston Chronicle, Jennifer Bard writes a very factual opinion piece on the lack of proof that tort reform reduces health costs. Dr. Bard is the Alvin R. Allison Professor of Law and the director of the Health Law Program at Texas Tech University School of Law. She is also the adjunct associate professor in the Department of Psychiatry at the Texas Tech School of Medicine. Her premise is actually quit simple:

Low Stress Living Requires Some Tippling

As most lawyers know, stress in our lives can have a significant effect on our health. As I just wrapped up a six week trial, believe me when I tell you that this proposition has never been more evident. I am constantly interested in reading about how I can better deal with stress and remain healthy through stressful times. I recently read a few articles that dealt with this specifically, and thought I would pass on what I have learned.

First Things First

As I sit here procrastinating about writing this blog, I wonder what are those 7 Habits of Highly Effective People? I have not read the book by Stephen R. Covey, however, as I struggle over the topic for this blog, my phone is ringing, I have letters to get out, emails to answer and a trial to prepare for, I'm wishing that I had. I'm sure there is something in that book to help me get through what is on my desk and what waits for me at home.

Driver Distractions Present Significant Dangers

In September of this year, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration did research on driver distractions. Based on the information in its databases, the NHTSA concluded that 5,870 people lost their lives and 515,000 people were injured in 2008 in car accidents in which some form of driver distraction was reported on the police report. However, the NHTSA concedes that the "true numbers" are likely greater since it is often difficult for officers to identify the distraction and its contribution to the crash.

Intermediate Court Requires Manufacturer To Provide Design Information

In a recent ruling from the Court of Appeals in Corpus Christi, an appellate court has determined that the party suing a manufacturer of a riding lawn mower can learn about the manufacturer's efforts to reduce the risk of a rollover on other machines.

Immigration Debate Front and Center in Houston

As many of you are aware, the Houston Police Department opted not to sign an agreement with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), which would have allowed HPD officers to screen suspected illegal immigrants for their immigration status. ICE is a federal agency under the wing of the Department of Homeland Security. The mission of ICE is to protect national security by enforcing our nation's customs and immigration laws. Obviously, any immigration issue is highly controversial, with emotions ranging all over the spectrum. It is my belief that Mayor Bill White should be congratulated on his efforts to distance our great city away from a program like this.

The Importance Of Jury Service: A Dialogue With High School Seniors

I recently spoke to a group of high school seniors at the High School for Law Enforcement and Criminal Justice on the importance of jury service in our society. The "Importance of Jury Service" dialogue began when I was President of the Houston Bar Association in 2005. I am thankful the HBA has continued this informational dialogue that encourages newly qualified potential jurors to appear when they are summoned for jury duty. Many of the class members were already 18 years old (making them currently eligible for jury duty), and the rest were approaching their 18th birthday.

Insurance Coverage - What To Do Following a Catastrophe

Recently, I did a podcast where I was asked questions regarding what to do following a catastrophe with your insurance claim. The podcast was conducted in a question-and-answer format and ended up running about twenty minutes long. That podcast can be reached by navigating my firm's website (http://www.abrahamwatkins.com/). I wanted to discuss what you should do following a catastrophe, such as a hurricane or a fire.

Fifth Circuit Opinion Allows Climate Change Lawsuit

Private plaintiffs have begun filing suit for damages alleged to have been caused by climate changes. Whether these cases, involving energy and chemical company defendants, will stand remains an open question. On October 16, 2009, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit reversed the dismissal of a climate change lawsuit brought by residents and owners of lands and property along the Mississippi Gulf Coast who claim damages from Hurricane Katrina. No. 07-60756; Comer v. Murphy Oil, et al. These Plaintiffs sued numerous energy companies, chemical companies, and coal mining companies based upon the claim that the Defendants' operation of the energy, chemical, and fossil fuels industries in the United States caused the emission of greenhouse gases that have contributed to global warming. The Comer Plaintiffs claim that the increase in global surface, air and water temperatures caused a rise in sea levels and added to the impact of Hurricane Katrina, which combined to destroy the Plaintiffs' private property, as well as public property useful to them.

Cheo's Release Sparks Emotions

It saddens me to see a great man depart from our beloved Astros. Jose Cruz, most of us know him as Cheo, was released from his coaching responsibilities with the Astros this week. Though he will be remembered for his great play and great attitude, what saddens me is the commentary by a Houston-based sports writer as to the reasons Cheo was released.

Reduction In Allowable Hours Of Service Considered

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration is reconsidering a rule that allows long-haul truckers to drive for up to 11 hours straight after concerns were raised about greater fatigue Amongst drivers that could lead to more accidents.For 65 years, truckers were allowed to drive a maximum of 10 hours at a time. However the trucking industry wanted to let truckers have an extra hour of driving time. The rule also cut rest and recovery time at the end of a work week from 50 or more hours off duty to as little as 34 hours off-duty.

Justice Eva Guzman becomes the first Latina to serve on the Texas Supreme Court.

The history of Texas has had many firsts. This great state has seen many heroes and leaders evolve and do great things. Others have become wonderful role models for our youth and all to follow. Surprisingly, even in 2009, yet another first in Texas history has emerged. Last week, Texas Governor Rick Perry named Justice Eva Guzman to replace Scott Brister on the Texas Supreme Court. This monumentous event marked a special place in history for all Texans, especially to those of Hispanic decent, since Guzman, a Houstonian, becomes the first Hispanic woman to serve on the bench.

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