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October 2009 Archives

"Several Household Products Recently Recalled for Safety"

With over 580,000 units sold, the "H2O Mop Steam Cleaners" is one of the most successful steam cleaner mops sold on the market. However, the product has recently been recalled by the distributor, Thane. The model numbers of affected units are 808.092 and OEM-TV-001. There have been 10 reports of shock injuries and 8 reports of burn injuries while using the product. Allegedly, the power cord can wear down and expose wiring which leads to the shock and burn hazards. If you own one of these products, please stop using it and call the distributor Thane at 800-485-0017.

Hazing May Be Hitting Close To Home

As we have recently successfully wrapped up the tragic hazing death of Jack Phoummarath, there is a possibility that another young man may be the victim of a fraternity hazing episode. While the investigation is just starting, the media has already made the connection that a 20-year-old Prairie View A&M male student, who was finishing a very early morning run on a track nine miles from the Prairie View campus at Hempstead High School when he collapsed, had signed papers as a prospective member of Phi Beta Sigma. There were apparently other people out at the track with Donnie Wade, a junior biology major from Dallas, when this occurred.

Why are Truck Drivers Prone to Suffer from Sleep Apnea?

I have written previously about the very sobering statistics on truck drivers and their unusually high propensity to suffer from sleep apnea -- commercial vehicle drivers are four to five more times likely to suffer from sleep apnea, and those suffering from untreated sleep apnea are seven times more likely to be involved in a vehicle. But why are drivers of 18 wheelers and big rig more affected?

Texas Access to Justice Commission

I recently attended my first meeting of the Texas Access to Justice Commission as an official commissioner. This organization is charged with assisting low income and poor Texans who are in need of civil legal services. The effort to provide civil legal services is done both through legal service providers, as well as through pro bono attorneys. The statistics, however, are somewhat staggering:

Ecuador Judicial Exchange

Abraham, Watkins, Nichols, Sorrels, Agosto & Friend, in connection with others, is pleased to welcome to Houston a delegation of 23 judges from Ecuador as part of the Ecuador Judicial Exchange, a program designed to allow Ecuadorian judges the ability to witness the criminal justice system in the state and federal courts of Texas and the United States. The program will be held from October 22-29. Additionally, Abraham Watkins will be hosting a reception for the Ecuadorian judges on October 27th at our office located in downtown Houston.

Insurance Coverage - Personal Injury Protection (PIP)

Recently, I did a podcast where I was asked questions regarding what I felt were essential insurance coverages for Texans. 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 (www.abrahamwatkins.com) and it should be posted soon for all to hear. However, in the meantime, I wanted to discuss Personal Injury Protection benefits and how those benefits actually work following an auto accident.

Workplace Deaths Reported for Texas

According to statistics released recently, 457 workers died from workplace accidents last year. This number represents a decline from 2007, and about a 20% drop from the highest level of 2000. (After a drop from 2000 to 2002, workplace deaths increased until 2007.)

OSHA Citations Issued In Building Collapse Case

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration has concluded it's investigation into the building collapse that occurred on April 14, 2009 . At the time of the incident workers were performing demolition operations within a structure that collapsed on them and trapped and killed one worker. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration investigation concluded that the death of the worker was a "result of failure by his employer to conduct and engineering survey prior to demolition operations, failure to conduct inspections during the progression of work and failure to provide lateral bracing to wall sections."

Texas Windstorm Insurance Association Moves To Have Lawsuit Transferred to Travis County

The law firm of Abraham, Watkins, Nichols, Sorrels, Agosto & Friend is currently handling a lawsuit filed against Texas Windstorm Insurance Association related to claims handling procedures. The lawsuit has been filed in Galveston County, Texas and alleges bad faith by Texas Windstorm Insurance Association in the calculation of general contractors or hidden profit in determining the value of a claim. Central to the class allegations is whether the claims of TWIA insureds were under-adjusted when TWIA excluded General Contractor's Overhead in calculating General Contractor's Profit to determine the Actual Cash Value of their claims.

Ford Recalls Additional 4.5 Million Vehicles

Ford has issued what is now the largest single recall in its history. Drivers of an additional 4.5 million Ford vehicles have been alerted about a fire hazard from a faulty switch. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration this was the eighth recall, involving a total of 16 million Ford Motor vehicles, concerning the cruise control deactivation switch manufactured by Texas Instruments.

Catholic Church Settles Molestation Case

The Catholic Dioceses of Corpus Christi and Baton Rouge have reached a settlement with Glenn Hymel who alleged a Baton Rouge Bishop, Joseph Sullivan, sexually abused him as a boy while he was minor seminarian with the Diocese of Baton Rouge. Sullivan abused Hymel from 1978 to 1982 while he was a seminary student in Baton Rouge and Corpus Christi.

Texas Supreme Court Case Watch - High Court to Consider Constitutionality of Statutes of Limitations and Repose for Medical Malpractice Cases

Surgical sponges left inside two Texas women - but undiscovered for years - will test state laws that place strict time limits on suing doctors and hospitals for malpractice. Although a ruling is not expected until next year, the cases of Walters v. Cleveland Regional Medical Center, 08-0169, and Methodist Healthcare System v. Rankin, 08-0316 may change the game in Texas, for better or for worse, with regards to suing healthcare providers for malpractice.

Professional Liability Insurance Disclosure

Process Leading to January 2010 Board VoteThe State Bar Board of Directors at its January 2010 meeting will vote to recommend to the Supreme Court of Texas a.) whether Texas should require lawyers to disclose whether they have liability insurance, and b.) if disclosure is required, the preferred method of disclosure. To ensure that the Board is well informed and that information about the process, discussion, and issues considered be part of the report to the Court, the Board will collect information from both lawyers and members of the public. The process, includes public hearings, opportunities for written comments, and online information about this issue. Public hearings scheduled as of Friday, Sept. 25, include:

"Working Together as a Team"

Currently two of my partners, one associate, and several other support staff are in trial here in Harris, County. The case technically began on September 10th with pre-trial matters taking place on that Thursday and Friday. Voir Dire began on Monday, September 14th and testimony started on Tuesday. Since then, all of my colleagues have dedicated their time, energy and focus on this trial. There is a possibility that the trial could last several more weeks. As a result, the rest of the firm has to come together and work as a team to help them with other matters which are going on here at the office. I will be the first to admit that sometimes I'm not as good of a team player as I could be. With the pressures of bringing in business, working the files, protecting the rights of your clients, and hopefully coming to a successful resolution helping out others sometimes is not in the front of my mind. However, in order for any business, and especially a law firm, those who are in firms together must work with each other to make sure that the clients' are the number one priority and that means helping each other out. At the end of the day, everyone wins if those who are focused on trial and keep that focus while the rest of us help carry the water for them back at the office.

Commercial Driver Fatigue and its Role in Crashes

In my last entry, I started to introduce the significant impact fatigue can have on drivers of 18 wheelers. The medical community, the federal and state governments and the trucking industry recognize the prevalence of drivers who push it passed the limits, and simultaneously decrease their attentiveness and effectiveness as professional drivers. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration recently studied the cause of accidents in which big rig drivers were found at fault. The results of the study are clear on how fatigue plays a factor in almost every category of accident. NHTSA found:

Largest Company Vehicle Recall Ever

Toyota Motor Corporation announced it would recall 3.8 million vehicles in the United States -- the company's largest ever U.S. recall -- to address problems with a removable floor mat that could cause accelerators to get stuck and lead to a crash. The recall involves popular models such as the Toyota Camry, the top-selling passenger car in America, and the Toyota Prius, the best-selling gas-electric hybrid. Toyota said owners could be notified about the recall as early as next week. Toyota spokesman Irv Miller said until the company finds a fix, owners should take out the removable floor mat on the driver's side and not replace it. A stuck open accelerator pedal may result in very high vehicle speeds and make it difficult to stop a vehicle, which could cause a crash, serious injury or death. The Toyota models being recalled include the 2007-2010 Camry, 2005-2010 Avalon, 2004-2009 Prius, 2005-2010 Tacoma and 2007-2010 Tundra. The Lexus models facing the safety recall are the 2007-2010 ES 350 and the 2006-2010 IS 250 and IS 350.

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