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July 2010 Archives

BP FIASCO UPDATE: Deepwater Horizon Workers Voiced Concerns Over Safety

In the ongoing saga that is now being touted as the worst environmental disaster in human history, we have more disturbing news. A confidential survey of workers on the Deepwater Horizon, which was conducted weeks prior to the oil rig explosion, showed that many of them were worried about the safety practices on the rig and feared retaliation if they reported mistakes or safety concerns. Transocean, the rig's owner, conducted this survey and the results are disturbing.

SUPREME COURT RULES AGAINST WHISTLEBLOWER

The Supreme Court recently ruled against a tenured professor who had sued the University of Houston under the Whistleblower's Act, alleging that it had retaliated against him after he reported "contracting and accounting irregularities." At trial, the jury listened to the evidence and ruled in favor of the professor. When the university appealed, the court of appeals ruled that it had waived its "legal sufficiency" challenge to the reporting requirement of the Act. But in The University of Houston v. Barth, ___ S.W.3d ___ (Tex. 2010)(6/11/10), decided last month, the Supreme Court reversed and remanded the case to the court of appeals, saying that the reporting requirement is "jurisdictional."

"Blinds Recalled"

Smith and Noble is recalling 1.3 million Roman shades and roller shades, after a child was nearly strangled. The Consumer Product Safety Commission says a 5-year-old boy in Tacoma, Wash., was entangled in the cord of a roller shade in May 2009. If you have these blinds in your home, please contact the manufacturer as soon as possible and remove the blinds. Always make sure cords from blinds are secured so they do not become a strangulation hazard.

BP's Cap is in Place - Are We Out of the Woods Yet?

A few days ago, the President delivered good news. The cap is on, and early tests show that oil is being contained as efforts to permanently plug the well continue. The President also delivered words of caution; "...I don't want us to get too far ahead of ourselves."

SUPREME COURT OVERTURNS VERDICT IN DEATH CASE

The Texas Supreme Court recently overturned another jury verdict. In the case of Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. v. Merrell, et al., ___ S.W.3d ___ (Tex. 2010), the court threw out the testimony of the expert witness; without that testimony, the plaintiff's did not have sufficient evidence for their case.

Additional Recall of Drop-Side Cribs

Drop-side cribs are again the focus of the Consumer Product Safety Commission. In a new round of recalls, at least 82,000 cribs from the popular retailer, Pottery Barn Kids are being pulled from the market. The CPSC has proposed new rules that would completely ban the manufacture, sale and resale of drop-side cribs. These cribs are identified by their side rail that can be raised and lowered, and have been around for decades. Unfortunately, there are several instances in which the drop-side rail becomes partially detached, and create a dangerous "v"-like gap between the mattress and the side rail, where a baby can get caught and suffocate or strangle.

Government Recalls Go-Carts & Mini Bikes

"The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission has recalled mini bikes and go-carts made by Baja Motorsports due to concerns on leaky fuel tanks that pose a fire threat. There have been at least nine reports of gas caps leaking and detaching from the fuel tank, the government said in a statement Thursday. Additionally, the throttle can stick because of an improperly positioned fuel line and throttle cable, which poses a threat of sudden acceleration. There have been 25 reports of stuck throttles, causing injuries to the face and other body parts. The voluntary recall affects 308,000 units of Baja Motorsports mini bikes with model numbers beginning with HT65, MB165, WR65, MB196, DB30, WR90 and DR90. Go-carts with model numbers BB65, SD65, DN65 and TR65 are affected as well."

"TWIA Criticized by State"

According to a report released by state regulators, Texas Windstorm Insurance failed to comply with its own internal hiring procedures. The regulators' other allegations were that TWIA permitted conflicts of interest by hiring family members, Didn't have claims managers in the field to train adjusters or handle problems; and didn't update pricing guidelines

Texas Attorney General Abbott asks BP for $25 Million

On Monday, July 5, 2010, the U.S. Coast Guard confirmed that tar balls from the Deepwater Horizon disaster are washing up on Texas shores. On Tuesday, July 6, 2010, Texas Attorney General, Greg Abbott, issued a request for BP (British Petroleum) to provide Texas with $25 million for the clean-up efforts. According to Abbott, "While we do not yet know, and cannot yet calculate, the ultimate damage this ecological and economic disaster will inflict upon the State of Texas, we do know that BP will be held fully financially accountable for the costs incurred by the taxpayers when state and local governments engage in clean-up and response efforts." This is good news for Texans; we should not have to pay to clean up BP's mess.

More Toyota Problems

Toyota has announced a new round of recalls of up to 270,000 cars, including the luxury Lexus sedans, to fixed engine problems that may cause the vehicle to stall. This is the latest round of safety issues faced by Toyota in the last year. Unfortunately, for the driving consumer, this may not be the last of the recalls.

"Summer Car Trips: Make Sure to Pack Safely"

Heather Storey, of Delta, British Columbia was killed last year when a tow truck hit the back of her car. It wasn't the tow truck itself that killed Heather, but most likely her laptop which was in the backseat. The force of the impact caused the computer to become a projectile and hit her in the back of head and neck. According to a study from the National Roads and Motorists' Association in Australia, if a driver brakes suddenly at 30 mph, items in the backseat could hit with the same force as if they where dropped from a second story building. In order to limit the chance of being injured, here are a few pointers from Consumer Reports: 1) Don't leave snacks or soda cans to roll around or lodge under brake or gas pedals; 2) Use the trunk instead of the back seat where they won't become projectiles; 3) Position heavy items carefully, in an SUV they should be as far forward as possible; 4) Putting heavy items on the top of an SUV makes a rollover more likely in a crash; 5) Make sure you can see out of the back window; and 6) Keep essentials such as emergency kits, cell phone, and maps within reach. The attorneys at Abraham Watkins wish everyone a wonderful summer vacation. We just want you to be safe.

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