Septermber 24, 2016
On September 21, 2016, after a trial of nearly two weeks, a jury of twelve (12) Tarrant County citizens rendered a unanimous defense verdict in favor of FSSV client Pantego Camp Thurman, Inc., a non-profit Christian camp located in Pantego, Texas. The case arose from a fatality incident in which the 30-year-old adult male decedent entered Camp Thurman’s premises after hours, climbed onto one of Camp Thurman’s ropes course elements, and fell to his death. The plaintiffs—mothers of the decedent’s two minor children—argued that Camp Thurman failed to construct adequate fencing, failed to post adequate warning signs, and failed to prevent the decedent from accessing the ropes course element in an unauthorized and unsupervised manner. On behalf of Camp Thurman, FSSV partner Scott W. Self showed that the decedent was a trespasser and was legally intoxicated when he entered Camp Thurman’s premises and successfully argued that Camp Thurman was not negligent.
Septermber 4, 2016
FSSV is pleased to announce the opening of its Houston, Texas office. As Texas Trial Attorneys, we are focused on providing not only legal expertise and sound judgment, but also timeliness and responsiveness to our clients’ needs.
August 18, 2016
On August 18, 2016, after four days of trial, a Van Zandt County (Texas) jury rendered a unanimous (12-0) defense verdict in favor of FSSV client Triple T Amusements in an accident involving two passengers on an amusement ride. The passengers were 14 and 18 years of age at the time of the accident on April 4, 2012. Both plaintiffs argued that they were injured in the accident and continued to have medical problems related to the accident. The 14 year-old, who is now 18 years of age, argued that she sustained a thoracic compression fracture at T10-T11 and continued to suffer pain from the injury. She also claimed to suffer from post-concussion syndrome. The 18 year-old, who is now 21 years of age, argued that she continued to suffer from post-concussion syndrome, neck and low back pain and post-traumatic headaches. At mediation, plaintiff counsel demanded $150,000 for the now 21 year-old plaintiff and $100,000 for the now 18 year-old plaintiff.
June 8, 2016
On June 8, 2016, a Potter County (Texas) jury rendered an 11-1 no negligence verdict in favor of FSSV client Dee King Trucking and its driver, Bobby Joe Raymond, in a wrongful death action brought by the five children of the decedent (ranging in age at the time of the accident from 14 months to 14 years old). Defendants argued that the decedent, Valeria Kabagwira, failed to yield right of way at a stop sign, thereby intruding the path of Mr. Raymond's tractor. Plaintiffs argued that the defendant driver's speed, fatigue, and faulty evasive maneuver caused the accident, which resulted in the death of Valeria Kabagwira. Plaintiffs also argued that Defendant Raymond's logs were inaccurate and that he exceeded the maximum hours of service and maximum driving time allowed by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration. Plaintiffs made independent claims against Dee King Trucking for negligent entrustment, inadequate training, and inadequate supervision, but those issues were not submitted to the jury. The case was tried by FSSV Partner, Scott Self and Senior Counsel, Meg Johnson.
May 31, 2016
Fee Smith Partner William Toles has been named a 2016 Best Lawyer in Dallas in the area of Tort: Personal Injury, Product and Medical Liability.
Mr. Toles is a trial lawyer with experience throughout the state of Texas in tort litigation ranging from simple negligence cases to more complex premises liability, DTPA, commercial and contractual dispute matters.
May 13, 2016
William Toles, a partner in the Dallas office of Fee, Smith, Sharp & Vitullo, was sworn in as a member of the Washington and Lee University Board
of Trustees on May 13, 2016, during its spring meeting. Washington and Lee is a small, private, liberal arts university located in Lexington, Va. It is
the ninth oldest institution of higher learning in the nation.
April 18, 2016
Fee Smith Partner Jennifer Lee, has been named a Fellow for the 2016 Leadership Council on Legal Diversity (LCLD) Fellows Program. LCLD is comprised of more than 250 corporate chief legal officers and law firm managing partners—the leadership of the profession—who have dedicated themselves to creating a more open and truly diverse legal profession.
LCLD's Fellows are nominated by their company or law firm’s leadership because they are high-potential attorneys with a history of strong performance and leadership. The LCLD Fellows Program is an ambitious, highly structured training program designed to build relationships and leadership skills. The “Fellow” year focuses on relationship-building, in-person training, peer-group projects and extensive contact with LCLD’s leadership. Partner William Toles was previously an LCLD Fellow in 2014.
Ms. Lee is a trial lawyer who defends wrongful death, trucking and construction fatality matters, as well as nonsubscriber, construction liability and defect litigation. Her practice also includes premises liability matters and employee benefit plan interpretation (ERISA).
March 28, 2016
During the week of March 28, 2016, Attorneys Bryan Reese and Frank Catalano successfully defended their client, Lopez Masonry in a multi-million dollar subrogation lawsuit filed by State Farm Insurance Company in Tarrant County District Court arising from a fire which rendered a residence in Southlake, Texas a total loss. State Farm was attempting to recover $1,600.000.00 in insurance proceeds it had paid to its insured homeowner for the loss. Specifically, State Farm alleged that Lopez Masonry had left a large gap near the opening of the outdoor fireplace during the original construction resulting in a false chimney that caused the fire and the $1.6M in damages.
Despite these allegations by State Farm, the jury found 50% responsibility on the general contractor Swift Custom Homes, Inc. as well as 40% on the City of Southlake due to the multiple building code inspections that occurred at the property during construction. Lopez Masonry was found only 10% responsible. In addition, Lopez received a settlement credit from a codefendant who had settled earlier in the litigation and prior to trial.
March 25, 2016
Jason A. Burris, Margaret A. “Meg” Johnson, and Frank Catalano have been selected to the 2016 Texas Rising Stars list. Each year, no more than 2.5 percent of the lawyers in the state are selected by the research team at Super Lawyers to receive this honor.
Super Lawyers, a Thomson Reuters business, is a rating service of outstanding lawyers from more than 70 practice areas who have attained a high degree of peer recognition and professional achievement. The annual selections are made using a patented multiphase process that includes a
statewide survey of lawyers, an independent research evaluation of candidates and peer reviews by practice area. The result is a credible, comprehensive and diverse listing of exceptional attorneys.
March 18, 2016
March 17, 2016
On March 17, 2016, Mike Sharp, Scott Self, and Jason Burris won summary judgment in Dallas County District Court for their client, a national bus company.
Plaintiffs alleged they were injured when a passenger assaulted the driver of a motor coach causing the vehicle to drive into the median. The Plaintiffs claimed that the bus company should have known that a criminal act was imminent as the passenger was listening to his music loudly and arguing with his girlfriend several minutes prior to the assault. Plaintiffs settlement demand prior to the motion for summary judgment hearing was in excess of 4 million dollars.
The court found that the national bus company did not owe a legal duty to protect Plaintiffs from the criminal acts of a third party because they did not have actual and direct knowledge of an imminent occurrence of the criminal act and disposed of all of Plaintiffs’ claims.
March 2, 2016
On March 2, 2016, FSSV Partners Bryan Reese and Jennifer Lee successfully defended their clients, Allegiance Health Management, Inc., New Directions B&S, LLC, and Allegiance Specialty Hospital of Kilgore, in front of a jury from the Federal Eastern District of Texas, Tyler Division. It was alleged that Plaintiffs, which were comprised of an adult and two minors, were injured when involved in an accident with our clients' medical transport bus. Plaintiffs requested damages in excess of $2,000,000.00 for medical bills for the adult Plaintiff’s back surgery and inability to return to work and one minor Plaintiff’s fractured ankle. In response, the jury awarded the adult Plaintiff $21,384.91, the minor with the broken ankle $4,429.23 and the other minor Plaintiff $1,684.52. This totaled a judgment in the amount of $27,498.66 despite Plaintiffs’ sizeable medical bills and damage request.
February 10, 2016
On February 10, 2016, a Denton County (Texas) jury rendered a no negligence verdict on behalf of Defendant and premise owner, Cartwright's Ranch House Restaurant. Plaintiffs alleged Cartwright's outside furniture, as placed in front of the restaurant, created a dangerous condition. One of the Plaintiffs, a disabled veteran, utilized a walker at the time of the accident. The Plaintiffs claimed Defendant violated the Texas Human Resources Code and Texas Accessibility Standards Act causing one Plaintiff to fall and break his neck resulting in his death after being on life support for 4 days.
January 1, 2015
Fee, Smith, Sharp & Vitullo LLP is proud to announce its inclusion in the listing of top law firms in the United States, Martindale-Hubbell®—the authoritative source for information about U.S. lawyers since 1868—researched their comprehensive database of 1 million lawyers and firms in over 160 countries and identifed U.S. law firms of 10 or more attorneys, where at least one out of three of their lawyers achieved the AV Preeminent® Peer Review Rating. This rating indicates the rated lawyer has been deemed by his or her peers to have demonstrated the highest level of ethical standards and legal ability.
Martindale-Hubbell® Peer Review Ratings™ are driven by the confidential opinions of lawyers and members of the judiciary who provide reviews of lawyers about whom they have professional knowledge.
The firms featured in this section vary in practice, but all share the distinction of being staffed with attorneys of the highest caliber.
October 21, 2014
Fee, Smith, Sharp & Vitullo LLP (FSSV) is on the short list of whom to call in Texas following a major incident. The statewide practice represents companies and individuals facing high-profile disputes in a broad range of matters, including construction accidents and defects, personal injury torts involving catastrophic injury and death, major commercial transportation accidents and product
and premise liability.
JULY 7, 2014
Mr. Bryan joined the firm after four years in the U.S. Air Force J.A.G. where he gained valuable trial experience
in over 30 cases. That experience and familiarity with the Rules of the Evidence make Justin a true asset for any
company or individual facing potential tort liability.
Read Bio >
JUNE 19, 2014
Mr. Knecht earned his law degree from South Texas College of Law in 2002. While attending South Texas,
Mr. Knecht was involved in many trial advocacy programs including the Board of Advocates.
Where the Rubber Meets the Road: Unique Litigation Strategies in Highway Sector and Motor Carrier Cases, Co-Authored by Partners, William M. Toles and Rebecca E. Bell.
Clint Cox, IV with Fee Smith Sharp & Vitullo, will speak at TXANS 2014 Nonsubscriber Conference & Exhibition, planned for April 30- May 1, 2014 in Austin, Texas. TXANS Annual Nonsubscriber Conference & Exhibition is the longest-running educational event dedicated to Texas nonsubscriber programs -welfare benefit plans that offer occupational injury benefits to the employees of Texas employers that operate outside the state's traditional workers' compensation system.
Fee, Smith, Sharp & Vitullo LLP is proud to announce that senior partner Tom Fee has recently been voted one of D Magazine's 2013 Best Lawyers in Dallas in the areas of Tort and Products Liability law. Tom represents companies and individuals in high-exposure and high-profile disputes in federal and state courts throughout Texas and the U.S. He has been lead trial counsel for clients in personal injury torts involving catastrophic injury or death, professional liability, and commercial business litigation disputes. Mr. Fee is board certified in personal injury trial law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization, is recognized by Martindale-Hubbell as an AV Preeminent®-rated attorney, and was selected as a Super Lawyer from 2005 through 2012. He is also a member of the American Board of Trial Advocates.
FSSV congratulates Partners Mike Sharp and Clint Cox, of the firm's Dallas office, for winning a trucking defense verdict in Dallas' 44th Civil District Court. Plaintiffs Robert and Rebecca Fuller sought over $9MM in past/future damages against Defendants Genuine Parts Company (NAPA Auto Parts) and their driver Carmen Mooreman. Plaintiffs argued the Defendants were grossly negligent in the operation of an 18-wheeler that struck Plaintiff Rebecca Fuller in February 2008, causing catastrophic brain and bodily injury. Plaintiffs presented testimony as to liability and damages, through five experts, seeking a life care plan in excess of $2.4MM. With only one dissenting juror, the verdict placed 100% of the negligence on Plaintiff Rebecca Fuller, thereby denying the Plaintiffs any recovery.
Recent Appellate Decision on the Stowers Duty Protects the Insurer
Fee, Smith, Sharp & Vitullo, L.L.P. congratulates partners Rebecca Bell and Tom Fee for the result in McDonald v. Home State County Mutual, Paragon, et. al., an appeal involving an alleged Stowers demand. In the underlying suit, McDonald's attorney sent Paragon a settlement demand letter stating that full and final settlement of McDonald's claims could be made in exchange for payment to McDonald of the total amount of liability insurance available, and gave a deadline of seven working days for receipt of payment in counsel's office. The demand letter made no reference to a recorded hospital lien, and by its terms stated that any negotiation other than the scope of the correspondence would be considered a rejection of the offer. Although Paragon attempted to reach counsel to discuss the demand, the call was not returned. Suit was filed against the insured and resulted in over $1.3 million in damages awarded. McDonald obtained an order turning over the insured's right to sue his insurers for failure to settle with McDonald, including any Stowers claim, and sued Paragon and Home State for bad faith.
Competing motions for summary judgment were filed by all parties. McDonald argued that the insurers did not act as a reasonably prudent insurer when faced with clear liability and damages well in excess of policy limits. Rebecca Bell argued on behalf of all of the insurers, asserting that the demand letter failed to trigger the Stowers duty or any statutory duty due to the short fuse of the demand letter, the absence of an independent duty by an insurer to verify the enforceability of a hospital lien, and reaffirming the need to explicitly address a hospital lien in a demand letter in order to trigger bad faith claims. The First District Court of Appeals affirmed the summary judgments in favor of the insurers.
Senior partner, Tom Fee, discusses commercial injury matters with John Criswell, during the Texas Business Update on KLIF 570 AM.
Seven Deadly Sins To Avoid In Collective Bargaining; an article prepared by Partner, Darrell G-M Noga and Associate, Robert M. Rosen.
Defense Verdict in Serious Brain Injury Case
In Murphree, et. al v. Site Concrete, et. al, the final live pleading of the lawsuit asserts that the Site Concrete Defendants, as the general contractor, was responsible for a duty to exercise ordinary care in the operation and maintenance to the construction zone (Highway 380 Widening Project) in question. Plaintiffs generally alleged the duties to provide for the safe passage of traffic, the safe ingress and egress of traffic, proper implementation of reasonable and appropriate traffic control devices, and timely completion of the project were violated by these Defendants. The pleadings asserted that at the time of the collision, Site Concrete breached these duties by failing to be in compliance with contract documents regarding the timing of phases relating to the underlying construction contract as well as compliance with the relevant traffic control plan. The scope of these allegations generally allege that the combined course of action and non-compliance led to the existence of an uncontrolled intersection at Highway 380 and County Road 1110 on August 17, 2007, with no barricades, no STOP signs, and what was alleged to be improper traffic control devices.
Plaintiffs also alleged that Betty Monroe breached her duty to exercise ordinary care in the operation of her vehicle on public roadways, including but not limited to the duty to keep proper lookout; the allegations against Monroe, however, were extremely brief. Plaintiffs' pleadings made no mention of her breach of duty in complying with traffic control warning signage, road closure signage, rate of speed, or high level of intoxication at the time of the collision. It was determined after the accident that Betty Monroe had a 0.36 blood alcohol content at the time of the blood draw. Despite these facts, the Plaintiffs' focus was instead upon Site Concrete as the prime contractor, and Austin Bridge & Road, L.P., one of the subcontractors that had worked on the Highway 380 project.
Plaintiffs' asserted that the Austin Bridge Defendants had a duty to exercise ordinary care with respect to the responsibilities retained and undertaken pursuant to its role as a sub-contractor for the project in question. Plaintiffs' asserted that under the terms of its contract with Defendant Site Concrete, Austin retained responsibility to ensure that traffic control devices in place complied with the traffic control plan during the performance of its work, and indeed continuing after completing its work. It is undisputed that Defendant Austin performed certain work at or near the intersection of County Road 1110 and U.S. Highway 380 prior to August 17, 2007. Plaintiffs therefore alleged that Austin held a continuing duty to ensure traffic control devices in place at the conclusion of its work complied with the traffic control plan. Plaintiffs generally allege that Austin breached a duty to the traveling public in not ensuring traffic control devices were in place that were reasonable, proper and in compliance with the traffic control plan. Plaintiffs further asserted that Austin was negligent in not ensuring the safety of the traveling public by placing or otherwise requiring a continuing traffic control plan after the conclusion of its work. To the extent necessary, Plaintiffs invoked the Doctrine of Voluntary Undertaking as set forth in the Restatement (Second) of Torts ¤ 323. Plaintiffs further alleged that Austin "contractually retained responsibility for ensuring that traffic control devices complied with the traffic control plan and/or the MUTCD." Plaintiffs further alleged that Defendant Site Concrete and Defendant Austin Bridge should be held jointly liable under the doctrine of joint enterprise.
The Texas Department of Transportation was originally added as a Responsible Third Party pursuant to Motions for Leave filed by both Site Concrete and Austin Bridge. Plaintiffs then filed suit directly against the governmental agency. However, after multiple dispositive motions filed by TxDOT, the Plaintiffs dismissed the claims against TxDOT with prejudice, and requested that the Court grant summary judgment as to the responsible third party claims asserted by the Defendants. The Court denied Plaintiffs' request.
Plaintiffs alleged that a collective result of the occurrence in question is that Jackie Murphree sustained severe, permanent and disabling injuries, inclusive of a severe brain injury that would result in extensive care for the remainder of her life. The final pleadings upon which the case went to trial included a specific pleading for approximately $66,000,000.00 from the fact-finder at the time of trial. According to the expert testimony prior to and at the time of trial, the life care plan alone totaled in excess of $12,000,000.00.
The defense of Austin Bridge & Road, L.P. was the cooperative effort of trial counsel Thomas Fee (Fee, Smith, Sharp & Vitullo, L.L.P.) and Ed Wright (Stradley & Wright), and appellate counsel, Rebecca Bell (Fee, Smith, Sharp & Vitullo, L.L.P.). After a two-week trial, the jury brought back a verdict in favor of the Plaintiff in an amount that totaled approximately $23,500,000.00. The jury determined that Defendant Monroe was 70% responsible for the accident. The jury also determined that Site Concrete and the Texas Department of Transportation each held 15% liability. The jury found in favor of Austin Bridge & Road, answering "NO" to the initial liability question as to its alleged negligence.
For media coverage:
The attorneys you chose to represent me did an excellent job. I don't know if this was a hard case or an easy case since this was the only time I have been involved in this type of action. Easy or hard Mr. Fee and Mr. Garner met the challenge with what appeared to be very little effort.
FSSV wish to congratulate Brian D. Garner, Rebecca Bell and Scott W. Self of their selection as Texas Rising Stars by Texas Monthly Magazine. Rising Stars names the state's top up-and-coming attorneys. Rising Stars is published in 48 states and reaches more than 10 million readers annually.
Tom Fee has been selected in Texas Super Lawyers magazine from 2005-2009
FSSV wish to congratulate Thomas W. Fee and Steve Springer of their selection as Texas Super Lawyers by Texas Monthly Magazine. Super Lawyers identifies the top 5 percent of attorneys in each state, as chosen by their peers and through the independent research of Law & Politics. Tom Fee is Board Certified in Personal Injury Trial Law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization.
Head of the Class - A Letter of Appreciation
It was a pleasure to have you come and share about the judicial system and your profession with my class. It was obvious that you care a great deal for children based on your demeanor with the students. My students were able to verbalize lots of the things that they had learned about the legal system and the field of law from your visit. It is my hope that your visit helped to spark a fire in my students to dream big and to work towards their goals.
Thanks for caring about the students in DallasISD and for putting that caring concern into action.
6th Grade Social Studies
E.H.Cary Middle School
FSSV wish to congratulate Clinton V. Cox, IV, Scott W. Self, Brian D. Garner and Rebecca Bell of their selection as Texas Rising Stars by Texas Monthly Magazine. Rising Stars names the state's top up-and-coming attorneys. Rising Stars is published in 48 states and reaches more than 10 million readers annually.
Super Lawyers and Rising Stars
FSSV wish to congratulate Thomas W. Fee and Michael P. Sharp of their selection as Texas Super Lawyers by Texas Monthly Magazine And Scott W. Self, Brian D. Garner and Clinton V. Cox, IV of their selection as Texas Rising Stars by Texas Monthly Magazine Super Lawyers identifies the top 5 percent of attorneys in each state, as chosen by their peers and through the independent research of Law & Politics. Rising Stars names the state's top up-and-coming attorneys. Super Lawyers is published in 48 states and reaches more than 10 million readers annually.
Supporting our Troops
"It was learned through a distant contact with one of the partners that American troops in Iraq were in desperate need of laptop computers in order to communicate with loved ones back in the US. In the Spring of 2003, FSSV purchased two new laptops and shipped them over to Iraq along with a box full of Crawfish Boil t-shirts which can be seen being worn by one of the troops. A very thoughtful thank you note was received several months later."
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