April 19, 2017
Kinsley v. Cartwright’s Ranch House, et al.; in the Fort Worth Court of Appeals
On April 6, 2017, Senior Counsel Craig H. Myers and Senior Counsel Timothy R. George obtained a decision from the Fort Worth Court of Appeals upholding a complete defense verdict following a jury trial involving FSSV clients -- a Denton restaurant and its owner -- in a premises liability case involving a customer’s fall from a curb in front of the restaurant and resulting death. FSSV successfully argued that there was no evidence that the restaurant’s placement of outside furniture caused a customer using a walker to fall from the curb and, in any event, the restaurant did not control the public curb upon which the accident occurred. FSSV Partners Thomas W. Fee and William M. Toles conducted the successful jury trial, and obtained the judgment upheld on appeal.
Garren, et al. v. Cunningham and Greyhound Lines, Inc.; in the Dallas Court of Appeals
On April 13, 2017, FSSV Partner Scott W. Self and Senior Counsel Timothy R. George obtained a decision from the Dallas Court of Appeals upholding a summary judgment granted in favor of FSSV’s clients -- a passenger bus company and its driver -- in a lawsuit in which a passenger attacked the driver, causing a crash and injuries to other passengers. FSSV successfully upheld the trial court’s summary judgment on appeal and prevailed on an argument that even a common carrier, with a heightened standard of care to protect passengers, does not owe a duty to protect against the criminal action of a third party when there is no evidence that the company or its driver had any reason to anticipate that criminal action.
Partner Howard J. Klatsky Prevails in Appeal of Defense of Personal Injury Suit Will v. Bambenek; No. 05-16-00222-CV, In the Court of Appeals Fifth District at Dallas
On April 19, 2017 the Court of Appeals Fifth District at Dallas issued a unanimous Memorandum Opinion affirming a Collin County District Court's granting of a Motion for Summary Judgment rendered in favor of FSSV's client Cathy Bambenek, a (now retired) chemistry teacher who taught in the Plano Independent School District. The case arose out of an accident that occurred during a laboratory experiment, resulting in personal injuries. The Will family sought to hold Bambenek personally liable. The trial court granted summary judgment in favor of Bambenek, who had asserted defenses under the Texas Education Code (immunity for professional employees of a school district where the act is incident to or within the scope of the duties of the employee's position of employment and involves the exercise of discretion on the part of the employee).The Will family appealed, contending (among other things) that Bambenek was not performing a discretionary task when the accident occurred. The appellate court disagreed with the Will family (concluding that the evidence that Bambenek had submitted in support of her Motion demonstrated that she personally deliberated about the manner or means of the safety protocols and invoked her own judgment), affirmed the trial court's decision to grant summary judgment based upon Bambenek's immunity, and entered Judgment in favor of FSSV's client. Partner Howard J. Klatsky represented Bambenek at the trial court level and in the appeal, and was assisted in the appeal by Senior Counsel Timothy R. George.
April 16, 2017
On April 6, 2017, FSSV partner Scott W. Self and associate Randall W. Miller obtained a defense verdict at trial in Dallas County, Texas, on behalf of FSSV’s clients—a non-profit soccer organization, its officers, and directors—in a lawsuit in which the plaintiff injured his knee while playing in an adult recreational soccer game on a field owned and operated by the association. The plaintiffs alleged premises liability and gross negligence against the non-profit organization, as well as breach of fiduciary duty and fraud against its officers and directors. FSSV successfully argued for dismissal of the breach of fiduciary duty and fraud claims before the case went to the jury, which ultimately returned a unanimous defense verdict on the premises liability and gross negligence claims.
January 4, 2017
On January 4, 2017, Partner Jeff C. Wright and the Fee, Smith, Sharp & Vitullo firm successfully defended their client, a trucking company, in a lawsuit filed by a Plaintiff who alleged that she suffered an on-the-job neck injury as a result of her one-vehicle roll-over accident. Plaintiff alleged that three retread tires on her tractor trailer suddenly blew out as she was in the process of turning at an intersection, causing her tractor trailer to overturn on its side. Plaintiff asserted various negligence claims against her employer (use of retread tires, failure to train, failure to warn, etc.) and, at the final Arbitration, sought more than $1.8 million in damages for her alleged injuries and damages. The case was tried for 2 days in front of an Arbitrator in Dallas. After the Arbitration, both parties submitted post-hearing briefing. In the end, the Arbitrator found that the scientific evidence was overwhelming that Plaintiff simply encountered a situation in which her tractor and trailer flipped on its side due to her speed, rather than anything that her employer did or did not do. The Arbitrator found no negligence on the Employer and determined that Plaintiff was the sole proximate cause.
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.
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