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May 2011 Archives

Supreme Court Rules Against Employee

In a recent decision, the Supreme Court of Texas ruled against an employee who had successfully proven that her employer had discriminated against her. The case was Nafta Traders, Inc. v. Quinn, ___ S.W.3d ___ (Tex. 2011)(5/13/11).

Is the Texas Legislature Turning its Back on the Poor?

As the Texas legislature is coming to a close, it appears that those who are often in immediate need of legal assistance, but who cannot afford it, are going to be left out in the cold by the currently proposed budget. Senate Bill 1811 was sent to Conference Committee to enable the House and Senate to reach an agreement on a budget that would control state fiscal matters for the next two years. As originally written, critical legal aid funding was not included in the bill. The proposed legal aid funding would provide up to $23 million financial resources to legal aid clinics throughout the state who assist in representing civil clients who can least afford a lawyer.

Lead Found in Another Children's Toy

Earlier this month, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission announced that G. A. Gertmenian and Sons had begun recalling 600 units of the Toy Story 3 Bowling Game Rugs with batch marking of JA 148. The recalled product, which was manufactured in China, contains six white plastic bowling pins with two red stripes painted on the neck, one black plastic ball, and a nylon game rug with a print of the character Buzz Lightyear on the front. The toys were sold in Wal-Mart stores between September 1, 2010 and September 25, 2010.

Houston Hispanic Residents Need a New District in Southwest Houston

In January of this year I wrote a blog post about the effects of the 2010 U. S. Federal Census on congressional redistricting in Texas, and the important role that the rising Latino population is playing in that process. A recent article in the Houston Chronicle about the shape of Houston's City Council maps showed how those population changes are affecting local government, and how important it is to make adjustments to ensure that all of Houston's citizens are represented.

City of Houston Suing CenterPoint Energy

According to a lawsuit filed on May 17, 2011, CenterPoint Energy has overbilled Houston for the past twenty years. Noting a similar lawsuit settled by New Orleans for $12 million, City Attorney, David Feldman, said the claim could be for "tens of millions of dollars." CenterPoint distributes electricity to Houston residents regardless of which provider actually sells the electricity. CenterPoint is also the entity that installs, owns and maintains streetlights in Houston. Houston pays CenterPoint monthly charges based on the amount of illuminations it expects to receive from the streetlights.

Houston Rodeo Carnival Death Preliminarily Ruled as an Accident

The Harris County Institute of Forensic Sciences has classified the death of a 47-year-old man who fell from a roller coaster at the Houston Rodeo in March as an accident. While the autopsy report has not yet been finalized, it was determined that the primary cause of the man's death was "multiple blunt impact trauma" -- likely from the impact of falling 30 feet.

Avandia to be Pulled from Shelves

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration announced this week that the diabetes drug Avandia will no longer be available in stores starting in November. The drug is one of the most popular diabetes drugs on the market, but came under fire in 2007 when a study was published that showed "that the drug increased heart attack risk by about 40 percent in people with type 2 diabetes." Starting November 18th, the drug will only be available through doctors who will be certified to prescribe it and have informed patients of the risks.

Texas Has Second Highest Costs Annually for Fatal Crashes

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), over 30,000 people are killed in car accidents each year in the United States. Costs of those deadly car crashes are upward of $41 billion a year when looking at medical expenses and work loss costs. And those costs are simply the measurable ones -- they don't include the actual emotional loss experienced by the loved ones of those killed in motor vehicle accidents.

Supreme Court Rules Against Patient, Again

Last week, the supreme court threw out another suit brought by an injured patient. The case, the latest of numerous rulings against patients, was Harris Methodist Fort Worth v. Ollie, ___ S.W.3d ___ (Tex. 2011)(5/13/11).

Honda Recall

Honda recently announced the recall of 833,000 additional vehicles to repair defective airbags that could deploy with too much force during a collision.
In its description of the defect to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, Honda said that "the driver's airbag inflator could produce excessive internal pressure. If an affected airbag deploys, the increased internal pressure may cause the inflator rupture. Metal fragments could pass through the airbag cushion material possibly causing injury or fatality to vehicle occupants."
According to media reports, Honda has implicated the defect in 12 incidents, including 1 death.
The vehicles recalled in the latest roundup include the following models:

"LOSER PAYS - IT'S A LIE"

The Texas House of Representatives this week has passed a bill that is being called the "loser pays" bill. Proponents of this bill are touting the necessity of the bill by misleading the general public into thinking that this bill is only aimed at "frivolous" lawsuits. The goal of the bill, according to those that support it, is to "make those who file frivolous lawsuits responsible for paying the defense costs of the innocent defendant." However, this bill does much more and, if passed, will likely close the courthouse doors for many Texans and small businesses that operate in Texas.

"Governor & TLR Continue to Pull Wool Over Texans"

In a year where the State faces a 27 billion dollar budget deficit, working Texans can't afford health care, gas is over $4.00 a gallon, and education has become an afterthought, Governor Perry decided that so called "tort reform" is an emergency agenda item. After 2003, it's hard to imagine how Texans for Lawsuit Reform (TLR) could find more ways to line the pockets of big business and insurance companies while basically abolishing Texans' 7th Amendment right to a trial by jury, but they have. HB274 and HB272 both passed the Texas House of Representatives and are now being considered by the Texas Senate. These bills severely limit the ability to hold wrongdoers accountable and delay victims' ability to be reimbursed for losses caused by another's negligence. Everyone should read these bills and contact their elected officials to let them know this legislation is unacceptable.

Transocean Blamed for Inadequate Worker Safety in Last Year's Deadly Oil Rig Explosion

Federal officials investigating the Deepwater Horizon incident released their investigation report in April, a year and two days after the deadly oil rig explosion killed 11 workers and injured another 17.

Should School Busses Have Underride Guards?

The latest debate among highway safety proponents concerns more stringent requirements for underride guards for 18 wheelers and other large commercial trucks. After conducting a number of safety tests, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety even petitioned the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to strengthen underride guard standards.

CLASS ACTION REPRESENTING OVER 77 MILLION SONY PLAYSTATION OWNERS FILED AGAINST SONY

The firm has filed a class action lawsuit against Sony for the wrongful release of over 77 million Sony PlayStation owners. Between, April 17 and April 19, 2011, Sony's PlayStation Network service user account information was compromised by an illegal and unauthorized intrusion into their network. Although the breach occurred between the dates of April 17 and 19, 2011, the public was not notified until April 26, 2011. Defendants then issued a "Consumer Alert" by email notifying the public of the breach of personal information. The alert noted that "while there is no evidence at this time that credit card data was taken, we cannot rule out the possibility." On April 26, 2011, an article in The Wall Street Journal commented that this breach could rank among the biggest in history.

Latest Avandia Lawsuit Involving Wrongful Death Filed in Texas

Limitations placed on the use of the active ingredient of Avandia (rosiglitazone) by the FDA last fall lead to a number of product liability and wrongful death lawsuits being filed against the drug's manufacturer, GlaxoSmithKline (GSK). The latest in these wrongful death lawsuits was recently filed in Texas.

Governor Declares Tort Deform an Emergency?

With all of the issues facing state and local governments, Gov. Rick Perry declared tort deform an emergency issue that needed to be immediately decided by the Texas Legislature just last week. I use the term "tort deform" because the term "tort reform" really is not a reformation of the tort system - - but instead is an effort by certain special interest groups to limit access to the court system for certain groups of people. "Tort reform" activists are really seeking to provide those special-interest groups unchecked legal protections that have been abused in the past and will, no doubt, be abused in the future.

Father Finds Son's Body Following Fatal Car Accident in Harris County

Last week, in the early morning hours of Wednesday, two 23-year-old men were involved in a fatal car accident in northeast Harris County. But it wasn't until over 12 hours after the crash that the bodies of both victims were actually found.

Harris County Jury & Texas Attorney General Hit Credit Repair Companies Big

On April 26, 2011, a Harris County jury hit Jubilee Financial Management, LLC, The Credit Card Solution (TCCS), Freedom from Debt Alliance, and Robert M. Lindsey with a $13.8 million verdict. The jury found that these defendants defrauded indebted Texans and failed to register with authorities in violation of state law. According to the State's enforcement action, the defendants assured customers that they could eliminate their credit card debts and restore credit ratings by filing lawsuits that would allow the defendants to erase their debts and reap thousands of dollars in court-awarded damages from debt collectors; this was false.

Class Action Ruling

This past week, the United States Supreme Court dealt a blow to consumers who had relatively small claims and attempted to band together to bring a class-action against a major corporation accused of wrongdoing. In a 5 to 4 decision, the Court ruled against a group of AT&T cell phone customers who were promised free phones in a promotion, but were charged $30.22 in sales tax based on the phone's retail value. Multiple suits were consolidated into the class action alleging that AT&T committed fraud and falsely advertised a "free "phone when there was actually a cost associated with it.

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