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June 2010 Archives

Reception Commemorating the Launch of HNBA Legal Education Fund A Success

Abraham Watkins was honored to host a reception commemorating the Launch of The Hispanic National Bar Association ("HNBA") and The HNBA Legal Education Fund ("The Fund"). The Fund received its first donations that total over $10,000.00. The HNBA recently created The Fund to assist it with its educational and charitable mission, and by all indications, The Fund is off to a great start.

BP's Tony Hayward Goes Before Congress...And Then On A Yacht Race?

On Thursday, June 17, 2010, BP's CEO, Tony Hayward, went before members of Congress to answer questions regarding the Deepwater Horizon disaster. It has now been two months since the massive blowout that left 11 people dead and the Gulf of Mexico in ruin. Despite the fact that it has now been two months since the incident, BP's Tony Hayward still hasn't "drawn a conclusion" when faced with substantial evidence that BP cut corners on the well plan that led to the April 20 rig explosion and ongoing leak that is still spewing oil into the Gulf of Mexico. In his opening remarks, Hayward stated "none of us yet knows why it happened." Really?

"Gas Pipelines: How Safe Are We?"

Our firm has recently been retained by two more families who lost loved ones as a result of a gas line explosion. This is the third separate gas pipeline explosion which our office is currently working on. One explosion involved a liquid propane line which burst under pressure in Mississippi leading to the deaths of two women and numerous other injuries and damages. The second involves a gas leak from a local natural gas line which led to our clients' house exploding killing one occupant and seriously burning the other. The most recent matter involves a natural gas pipeline which was ruptured by a backhoe when a crew was working nearby. As you can see, all three incidents involve different facts, but all have the same results. People were killed. Considering we are just one Texas law firm with three major explosion cases at one time, just how many more incidents take place around the country? The bottom line is pipeline operators need to be forced to properly maintain their equipment, train their employees on how to respond to leaks, and make sure all of their major lines are openly marked and identified. Regulations on pipelines needs to be strengthened with stiffer penalties for violations. Because it's clear that when bad things happen involving gas pipelines, there is only one result, people will end up dead.

Deepwater Horizon Gulf Spill

As the Deepwater Horizon Gulf well continues to spew millions of gallons of oil in the Gulf, I read with great interest, intrigue, and utter amazement the commentary of Court Koenning in this week's edition. The lengths to which Mr. Koenning goes to again demonize, vilify, and outright bash trial lawyers is remarkable. The focus of his commentary surrounds the worst environmental disaster in the United States history (the BP rig explosion), as well as the Toyota recall of millions of vehicles earlier this year. The thrust of his argument though is the involvement of trial lawyers in these matters.

Shortcuts in Industrial Safety = Tragedy for Workers

It was reported on Monday, June 7, 2010 that yet another disaster has occurred near Cleburne, Texas when a natural gas pipeline exploded. The facts and circumstances surrounding this explosion are still being determined at this time, however it is becoming more and more common to hear of the occurrence of industrial type disasters such as plant explosions, drilling rig explosions and pipeline explosions among many others.
As has been learned through numerous lawsuits filed on behalf of hundreds of workers and families of workers who were injured or killed in incidents such as this latest pipeline explosion, the cause of these disasters can systematically and routinely be directly or indirectly linked to short cuts taken by companies in the safe operation of their facilities.
Abraham Watkins has successfully represented injured workers and their families for almost 65 years. Our thoughts and prayers are with those involved in this latest occurrence.

BP to Set Up a Massive Victims' Compensation Fund

Just today, President Obama starts this fourth tour of the Gulf Coast, which he says will help him "get tough with the oil company's leaders." This comes on the heels of White House statements indicating that BP (British Petroleum - NOT Beyond Petroleum) appears willing to set up a massive victims' compensation fund. According to spokesman Bill Burton, the fund will likely run into the "billions of dollars;" although, he would not provide a specific amount. Apparently, the particulars of the fund are still being discussed.

SUPREME COURT RULES AGAINST WOMAN

Today, in the opinion of Waffle House, Inc. vs. Cathie Williams, the Texas Supreme Court threw out a jury verdict in favor of a female employee who had been subjected to sexual harassment at work. The woman, who had been the victim of assault by a cook, sued her employer, Waffle House, Inc. The conduct involved both offensive comments and contact.

"Toyota Ordered to Turn Over Documents Related to Acceleration Problems"

A Federal Judge on Friday gave Toyota 30 days to produce nearly 125,000 pages of documents related to previous investigations of complaints about cars racing out of control. The order by Judge James Selna marked a defeat for Toyota in what is likely just the beginning of may more courtroom battles during this litigation. Toyota will likely appeal the Judge's ruling to the Court of Appeals

Report: 3 dead after Texas gas blast

CLEBURNE, Texas - Officials say three people were killed and at least 10 people were missing and about a half-dozen more were injured when a gas line exploded Monday after it was struck by workers.
Cleburne city manager Chester Nolen said three people are dead and at least 10 people were missing, Dallas-Fort Worth television station WFAA reported.
Johnson County Emergency Management Coordinator Jack Snow told The Associated Press about six people were transported to hospitals. He said officials believe a gas line was struck with a digging machine.

TEXAS SUPREME COURT THROWS OUT WOMAN'S CASE

Olivia Carbajal was injured when she drove her car "onto an excavated road." The Dallas Police Department investigated, and the officer noted in the accident report that the street "was not properly blocked." Ms. Carbajal filed suit without providing "formal notice" required by the Texas Tort Claims Act, relying instead upon the "actual notice" provision of the Act. In the recent opinion of City of Dallas v. Carbajal, ___ S.W.3d ___ (Tex. 2010)(5/7/10), the Texas Supreme Court ruled that the notice provision of the Tort Claims Act is jurisdictional, and that police report did not provide the city with actual notice of the claim, so it reversed and rendered a judgment that she cannot pursue her claim.
"When a claimant fails to timely provide a governmental unit with formal notice of a claim, . . . the Texas Tort Claims Act requires the governmental unit to have 'actual notice that . . . the claimant has received some injury,' id. 101.101(c). In Texas Department of Criminal Justice v. Simons, we clarified that merely investigating an accident does not provide a governmental unit with actual notice--that is, with subjective awareness of its fault. Because the police report here was at most an initial response to the accident, we hold that the governmental unit, the City of Dallas, lacked actual notice. The provision of notice is a jurisdictional requirement in all suits against a governmental unit."
Governmental entities only "have actual notice when they have 'knowledge of (1) a death, injury, or property damage; (2) the governmental unit's alleged fault producing or contributing to the death, injury, or property damage; and (3) the identity of the parties involved.'" Regarding the second requirement, actual notice means "the same notice to which it is entitled by section 101.101(a). . . . It is not enough that a governmental unit should have investigated an incident . . . , or that it did investigate, perhaps as part of routine safety procedures, or that it should have known from the investigation it conducted that it might have been at fault. If a governmental unit is not subjectively aware of its fault, it does not have the same incentive to gather information that the statute is designed to provide, even when it would not be unreasonable to believe that the governmental unit was at fault." Here, the report "did not provide the City with subjective awareness of fault. . . ." It was "no more than a routine safety investigation. . . ." "When a police report does not indicate that the governmental unit was at fault, the governmental unit has little, if any, incentive to investigate its potential liability because it is unaware that liability is even at issue."

Chrysler recalls almost 700,000 Jeeps, minivans

DETROIT - Chrysler is recalling almost 600,000 minivans and Jeep Wranglers in the United States and another 100,000 elsewhere because of brake or wiring problems that could create safety problems, the company and federal regulators said Monday. Chrysler said it is recalling 288,968 Jeep Wranglers from the 2006 through 2010 model years due to a potential brake fluid leak.
It also is recalling 284,831 Dodge Grand Caravan and Chrysler Town & Country minivans from the 2008 and 2009 model years because a wiring problem can cause a fire inside the sliding doors.
Another 76,430 Wranglers and 34,143 minivans are being recalled in Canada, Mexico and other international markets, Chrysler said.
Neither problem has caused any crashes or injuries, Chrysler Group LLC said.
It was the second notable recall in the past week for Chrysler. The company recalled nearly 35,000 Dodge Calibers and a limited number of Jeep Compasses last week to fix a potential problem with sticky gas pedals, the same issue that has afflicted millions of Toyotas.
In the latest recall, the front inner fender liners on the Jeeps can rub against the brake fluid tubes and cause a leak. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said the leak could lead to a partial brake loss.
The minivans can have improperly placed wires that can come into contact with sliding door hinges that could cut through the insulation, Chrysler and NHTSA said.
Chrysler spokesman Nick Cappa said the defect could lead to a fire inside the minivan door "in rare instances."
Chrysler will notify owners and dealers about the repairs, which will be made free of charge. The recall is expected to start later this month.
The Wranglers affected by the recall were made from May 15, 2006 through Aug. 9, 2009, according to NHTSA. The minivans were made from February 2007 through September 2007.

Corporate Cutbacks Compromise Safety

In another example of large corporations making cutbacks without due regard for adequate levels of safety, a subsidiary of pharmaceuticals giant Johnson & Johnson is being thoroughly investigated by the United States Food and Drug Administration. McNeil Consumer Healthcare, a Pennsylvania drug plant plagued by quality-control problems that prompted a recent nationwide recall of children's Tylenol and dozens of other pediatric medications, appears to have drastically reduced its workforce in recent years. The FDA released an inspection report from early 2010, finding McNeil failed to properly train contract and temporary employees working at their plant, as well as other violations.

The HNBA & Senator John Cornyn Calling for Swift Movement on Judicial Appointments

On Friday May 14, 2010, United States Senator John Cornyn, a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, will be in Dallas, Texas to join representatives from the Hispanic National Bar Association, the Dallas Hispanic Bar Association, local elected officials, and various other organizations in voicing their unified support for the nomination of Sarah Saldana to serve as U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Texas. I applaud the efforts of both Sens. John Cornyn and Kay Bailey Hutchison to nominate Ms. Saldana for this important position. Both Texas senators have championed a bipartisan Federal Judicial Evaluation Committee, and received endorsements of numerous bipartisan organizations in the State of Texas, in order to have this vital position filled with someone as qualified as Ms. Saldana, yet to no avail. The U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Texas position has been vacant for over a year. At the press conference in Dallas, Sen. Cornyn will emphasize the need for the nomination to move forward, pointing to wide bipartisan support, including endorsement letters from more than ten organizations, several of which will be in attendance.

More on the BP Fiasco - BP's Internal Investigation & BP's Publicity Stunt

By now, the whole world has taken notice of the mess that BP has caused in the Gulf of Mexico. However, this story is developing day by day, hour by hour, and minute by minute. According to a memo outlining the results of a recent internal investigation by BP, there were multiple warning signs of a valve leak nearly five hours before the deadly explosion that is now known as the Deepwater Horizon Disaster.

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