May 2015 Archives

No End to Texas Grand Jury Reform

Grand jury reform is shaking up the legislature once again this week. The grand jury legislation, inserted into House Bill 2105, passed the House, but it contains an amendment that would still exempt counties with a population of less than 500,000 from having to use random selection systems if officials did not want to. In order to keep Texas as the only remaining state with the key man system of grand jury selection, State Representative Tony Dale proposed stripping the entire reform language from the initial bill but failed by a narrow vote of 64 to 61.
The role of the grand jury in legal proceedings has been under much scrutiny from the media in the past few months. In the United States the grand jury is given a very important task - deciding whether or not to indict those persons who are arrested for a felony or suspected of committing a crime. We have supported efforts by State Senator John Whitmire and State Representative Harold V. Dutton, Jr. who are aiming to end grand jury injustices in Texas.
Unfortunately, House Bill 2105's exemptions do not allow for the full reform needed by Texas to remedy the problem of minority representation in grand juries. The Houston Bar Association has voiced their concerns on this subject, as well as State Representatives Sylvester Turner and Roland Gutierrez, who feel that the random-selection system should be implemented like many other Texas counties. We strongly encourage legislators to follow this lead and implement a more random, all-encompassing system that would reestablish trust between the minority community and the grand jury establishment. Senator Whitmire has said he intends to remove that exemption from the House Bill once it reaches the Senate. The Senate had earlier approved his own bill for reform in courts statewide with unanimous bipartisan support, but it has not been brought up before the full House for a vote. We strongly prefer the more representative grand jury approach utilized in Senator Whitmire's bill.
Benny Agosto, Jr. is a partner at Abraham, Watkins, Nichols, Sorrels, Agosto & Friend in Houston, Texas. For over 65 years, Abraham Watkins has successfully represented injured people and families who fall victim to catastrophes. Our attorneys have the knowledge, experience and resources necessary to obtain just compensation their clients. For more information, please contact the office of Benny Agosto, Jr. at Abraham, Watkins, Nichols, Sorrels, Agosto & Friend, by letter at 800 Commerce Street, Houston, Texas 77002, or by phone at (713) 222-7211.

Multiple Suits Filed Against Amtrak for Injuries Suffered From the Crash of Train 188

On Monday, May 18, 2015, four passengers of Train 188 sued Amtrak in federal court in Philadelphia for injuries suffered from the crash that occurred while the train was in route from Washington D.C. to New York City. Additionally, two other suits were filed Monday, one in federal court in Manhattan and the other in state court in Newark.

BP's Settlement Agreement with Worker is Valid, But May Have Been Fraudulently Induced

On May 15, the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit issued an opinion regarding the validity of a settlement agreement between BP and a man who sustained injuries as a result of the blast that caused Deepwater Horizon oil spill in 2010. BP had appealed the District Court's decision finding that the agreement was valid.

Arbitrary Cap On Damages Will Deny Amtrak Crash Victims the Justice They Deserve

Most of the attention to the horrific May 12 Amtrak derailment has focused on what could have been done to prevent it (delays in implementing an automatic speed control system) and the carnage it caused (eight dead and 200 injured, many seriously). Yet the wounded passengers and their loved ones can't dwell on the crash; they must look to the future as they pick of the pieces of their shattered lives and work to put them back together. Infuriatingly, however, Congress will tie their hands as they try to do so.

City Hosts another Sunday Streets

Houston has continued its attempt to innovate in the area of urban living. Begun last year, the city hosted the final Sunday Streets of the season this past week on May 17. The route ran along Navigation in Houston's East End. Prior Sunday Streets have been in Houston's Montrose and Heights neighborhoods. For each Sunday Streets, the streets are shut down for four hours for pedestrians and cyclists.

Amtrak Train Derailment Kills 8, Injures Hundreds - Could It Have Been Prevented?

One of the deadliest train derailments since 2000 happened in Philadelphia on May 12, 2015. According to the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), the Amtrak train was traveling over twice the speed limit allowed for that portion of the track. The engineer lost consciousness after the crash and has no memory of any events whatsoever after attempting to reduce the speed coming into the curve (where the derailment occurred).

Amtrak Train Crashes and Kills Seven

In Philadelphia, an Amtrak train crashed and killed seven people. Over 200 passengers were injured. Investigators are trying to determine why the train derailed while rounding a curve. The speed limit just before the curve is 70 mph. The speed limit on the curve is 50 mph. One source claims it is believed the train was traveling in excess of 100 mph, which is about twice the 50 mph speed limit for the curve it was in.

New York Family Files a Notice of Claim against Railroad for the Death of Motorist

The family of Ellen Brody has filed a notice of claim against the Metro-North Railroad, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, Westchester County, and the Town of Mount Pleasant, NY for failing to install safety precautions at a dangerous railroad crossing. The attorney representing the family has stated that he expects to file a lawsuit in the coming months. The Brody family claims that the drive up to the intersection did not have proper lights and signs to give drivers any warning of the rail tracks. The notice states that the lack of warning at the rail crossing where the collision occurred is in violation of federal standards. Additionally, the state Department of Transportation had set aside $130,000 for added safety lights and signs. Yet no precautionary upgrades occurred at the Commerce St. Intersection, where Ellen Brody lost her life.

You Can Prevent Some Wrong-Way Crashes: Don't Drink and Drive

A recent article in the Houston Chronicle describes efforts made by the Houston Police Department to educate people about wrong-way driving accidents. Although such car accidents are relatively infrequent, they often result in catastrophic injury or death when they do occur. This is especially true on freeways and ramps, where speeds are likely to be much higher than on city streets.

Multiple Vehicles involved in Chain-Reaction Collision

Media accounts report that, at about 10:00 a.m. on Sunday morning, there was a wreck involving multiple vehicles-including an 18-wheeler-in the southbound lanes of U.S. 59 near Cleveland. Eight people were injured, but, thankfully thus far no fatalities have been reported. The crash closed the lanes for many hours afterwards.

Texas Supreme Court: A Visitor's Slip-and-Fall in a Hospital is Not a Health Care Liability Claim

The Texas Supreme Court recently held that a lawsuit based on a slip-and-fall that occurred in a hospital did not qualify as a health-care liability claim.

Fifth Fiery Train Derailment of 2015 Demonstrates Danger of Oil and Gas Transport

On May 6, 2015, another train transporting oil and gas derailed and erupted into flames. The accident marks the fifth high-profile case in as many months and serves as another reminder of the dangers of domestic oil-and-gas production absent safe infrastructure to move it.

Family Sues Fedex and Others

James Ednie's sister, appointed as the wrongful death representative for Mr. Ednie, filed suit in federal court against FedEx Ground Package Systems, Bridgestone Americas Tire Operations and its various subsidiaries, and CLR Transportation. She alleged the defendants negligently caused or substantially contributed to Mr. Ednie's death.

Texas Family Files Lawsuit Against the City of San Antonio on Behalf of Woman Injured in Car Wreck

The family of Tomekia Baldwin filed a lawsuit against the City of San Antonio and Mayor Ivy Taylor's driver for injuries she sustained as a result of a car wreck that occurred on April 18, 2015. The plaintiffs allege that Mayor Taylor's driver failed to stop at a red light and hit a convertible in which Baldwin was a passenger. As a result of the wreck, Baldwin suffered a traumatic brain injury. Baldwin has permanent brain damage and critical cognitive insults, which have led to the loss of her bodily functions.

Texas Supreme Court: No Sovereign Immunity for Government Contractors

Among the thirteen opinions released by the Texas Supreme Court last Thursday was Brown & Gay Engineering, Inc. v. Olivares, in which the Court held that Texas government contractors who exercise independent discretion in their work are not entitled to the same sovereign immunity as the government itself. This opinion stopped what could have been a broad expansion of the sovereign immunity doctrine.

Awards & Recognition

  • 2016-2017 Equal Access to Justice Champion

    The Equal Access to Justice Champions Program was started by the Houston Bar Association in 2006, to help ensure placement of Houston Volunteer Lawyers cases with pro bono volunteers. Originally, firms were tiered according to size, and firms within each tier committed to accept a certain number of pro bono cases from HVL each year for five years.

  • The National Trial Lawyers | Top 100 Trial Lawyers

    The National Trial Lawyers: Top 100 is an invitation-only organization composed of the premier trial lawyers from each state or region who meet stringent qualifications as civil plaintiff and/or criminal defense trial lawyers. Selection is based on a thorough multi-phase objective and uniformly applied process which includes peer nominations combined with third-party research.

  • Million Dollar Advocates Forum

    Established in 1993, the Million Dollar Advocates Forum (which includes the Multi-Million Dollar Advocates Forum) is one of the most prestigious groups of trial lawyers in the United States. Membership is limited to attorneys who have won million and multi-million dollar verdicts and settlements. There are over 4000 members throughout the country. Fewer than 1% of U.S. lawyers are members.

  • Recognized by Best Lawyers America | Abraham, Watkins, Nichols, Sorrels, Agosto & Aziz | 2017

    Recognition by Best Lawyers is based entirely on peer review. Their methodology is designed to capture, as accurately as possible, the consensus opinion of leading lawyers about the professional abilities of their colleagues within the same geographical area and legal practice area.

  • Lead Counsel Rated

    In order to earn the Lead Counsel Rating, an attorney must not only demonstrate significant legal experience, but must also receive multiple peer recommendations advocating his or her ability. This is a key component in the screening process.

  • Texas Super Lawyers | Texas Monthly

    Each year, Super Lawyers recognizes the top lawyers in Texas via a patented multiphase selection process involving peer nomination, independent research and peer evaluation. The Texas lawyers who receive the highest point totals during this selection process are further recognized in Texas Super Lawyers Top Lists.

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