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April 22, 2021

FeeSmith Partners, Jennifer Lee and Tom Fee circled the wagons at the courthouse
in West Texas.

 

Fee Smith Partners, Jennifer Lee, and Tom Fee traveled to San Angelo, Texas this week and obtained a successful result for their clients, Leo Gamboa and L&M Transportation.

 

The case was tried before legendary Federal Judge, Sam Cummings, of the Northern District. The West Texas jury awarded plaintiff Brendan Smith only $75,000 in this stipulated liability case for his past and future pain, suffering, mental anguish, and impairment. Plaintiff did not seek recovery for his past medical expenses and lost wages at the time of trial. Defendants purchased his $80,000 worker’s compensation lien prior to trial. Mr. Smith sustained a fractured hip and fractured left fibula in the accident basis of the suit. He also sustained a concussion and his attorney claimed he had a TBI at the time of trial. Defendants initially offered $250,000 in an attempt to negotiate a fair and reasonable settlement since this was a clear liability case against the defendant driver Gamboa and the crash was a major impact collision that resulted in plaintiff Smith being careflighted to the ER in San Angelo. Negotiations ended at that point as plaintiff’s counsel Eric Neilsen out of Houston took the position: “The 1 mil policy limit will be paid to settle this case and if not we will be going to trial”. He even requested the court to waive any requirement that the parties attend mediation before trial since there would be no further negotiations other than his 1 mil policy limits demand. Mr. Nielsen asked the jury to award a total of $3 mil to Mr. Smith in his closing argument. Great job by Jennifer Lee as lead counsel on this one who returned to her old stomping grounds in San Angelo where she was formally an Assistant District Attorney. Special thanks and respect to Travis Ginest of CTCM for not giving in to the plaintiff counsel’s demands and allowing us the opportunity to try this case.

 

 

 

February 28, 2021

Congratulations to the newest Rising Stars Honorees.

 

Travis M. Casey, Ross A, Darville, Ryan Funderburg and Heather L. Winkles

 

Super Lawyers 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 patented selection process includes independent research, peer nominations and peer evaluations.

 

 

 

October 19, 2020

Texas Courts Restarting Jury Trials, FSSV Lawyers Among First Involved.

 

On October 19, 2020, FSSV partners Michael Sharp and Robyn Wise tried one of the first, live jury trials in the State of Texas since the Supreme Court of Texas issued Emergency Orders Regarding the COVID-19 State of Disaster.  The trial took place in the United Stated District Court, Western District of Texas, Waco Division with the Honorable Alan D. Albright presiding.  Prior to jury selection, counsel were advised that a jury of 7 would be impaneled, and a unanimous verdict would be required.  Federal courts must begin with a minimum of 6 and a maximum of 12 jurors in a civil case. The court called down a relatively small number of venire men and women in order to allow for distancing during voir dire.  Judge Albright required all parties to submit their questions in advance and conducted most of the voir dire himself, allowing each party only 15 minutes to follow up.  This, coupled with mask requirements, made for a challenging voir dire process and left limited opportunities to strike jurors for cause.  Each party was given 4 peremptory strikes.  Once impaneled, the 7 jurors were seated in the traditional jury box, again with enough space to maintain a safe distance from one another.  Once trial commenced, witnesses took the stand behind a plexiglass enclosure and screens were installed for purposes of presenting exhibits or impeachment testimony.  Counsel were not permitted to approach witnesses or the bench.  Side bar conferences were held during breaks.  Counsel were not required to wear masks while questioning witnesses or while sitting at counsel table, but were required to wear masks elsewhere in the courthouse.  Jurors were required to wear a mask at all times making it difficult to gauge their reactions to arguments, witnesses and evidence.

 

The trial involved the defense of a national motor carrier who stipulated to the negligence of their driver while challenging medical causation, the reasonableness and necessity of medical care, and non-economic damages, including alleged past and future impairment, disfigurement, pain and mental anguish.  The two Plaintiffs alleged spinal injuries with one receiving surgical intervention to the lumbar spine.  In addition to the parties, medical and biomechanical experts testified live.  The jury ultimately awarded only a portion of the damages requested by Plaintiffs at closing, and significantly less than Plaintiffs’ pre-trial demand.

 

After trial was complete, Judge Albright enthusiastically thanked the jurors, the parties, and counsel for resuming their civic duties and participating in the trial process.  We anticipate this particular court will continue to conduct live trials with the protocols referenced above.  With the Texas Supreme Court lifting the ban on jury trials, we anticipate and have reports of, other courts in certain venues resuming trials either live, virtually, or a hybrid combination.  Dallas County initially indicated that it would not resume trials until 2021.  More recently, certain Dallas County judges have announced a plan to begin jury trials sooner while expressing some concern about juror turnout and virtual accessibility.

 

We continue to monitor ever changing data on COVID-19 cases throughout Texas.  In the meantime, assume that trials will resume albeit in varying forms.

 

 

 

 

September 7, 2020

Congratulations to the newest Texas Super Lawyers Honorees.

 

Thomas W. Fee, Brian G. Cano, Daniel M. Karp, Howard J. Klatsky, Bret A. Sanders and William M. Toles

 

Super Lawyers 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 patented selection process includes independent research, peer nominations and peer evaluations.

 

 

 

May 19, 2020

Senior Partners Thomas Fee, William Toles and Jennifer Lee have been selected for inclusion

on D Magazine’s “Best Lawyers in Dallas 2020”

 

FSSV Senior Partners Thomas Fee, William Toles and Jennifer Lee have been selected for inclusion on D Magazine’s “Best Lawyers in Dallas 2020” list, in the May issue of the magazine.

 

D Magazine describes attorneys featured on the “Best Lawyers in Dallas 2020” list as “members of the legal community representing the people and institutions of Dallas with mastery and drive.”  Honorees are selected through peer-review voting, with the final selections determined by an independent panel of distinguished attorneys who work with editors at the publication.  2020 marks Ms. Lee’s second consecutive year of selection, Mr. Toles’ fifth consecutive year and Mr. Fee’s fourth year of selection.

 

 

 

May 10, 2020

Fee Smith Senior Partner William Toles Appointed to National ABOTA’s COVID-19

Task Force

 

The American Board of Trial Advocates (ABOTA) has formed a team of nine plaintiff and defense trial lawyers from around the country to address the impact of COVID-19 on the Judicial Branch.  The team is tasked with assisting judges nationally  with information for conducting hearings and non-jury trials, technology that allows for jury trials with jurors participating remotely, and constitutional issues related to the Seventh Amendment.  Founded in 1958, ABOTA is a national association of experienced trial lawyers and judges dedicated to the preservation and promotion of the civil jury trial right provided by the Seventh Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.  Membership is by invitation only and consists of lawyers – equally balanced between plaintiff and defense – and judges.

 

 

 

April 15, 2020

Partners Michael P. Sharp and Robyn M. Wise obtained another summary judgment in the United States District Court for the Northern District of Texas, Dallas Division, in favor of FSSV’s retail client.

 

Partners Michael P. Sharp and Robyn M. Wise recently obtained a favorable opinion and judgment in the Second Court of Appeals in Fort Worth, affirming a judgment entered by a Tarrant County district court in favor of FSSV’s retail client.  Plaintiff asserted claims for premises liability and gross negligence as a result of personal injuries she allegedly sustained in Defendant’s grocery store.  Plaintiff sought to recover damages in excess of $200,000.  The trial court granted Defendant’s Motion for Summary Judgment and found no evidence Defendant had knowledge of any alleged dangerous condition on its premises.  Plaintiff then attempted four separate times to have the judgment against her overturned. She first filed a Motion for Rehearing, which was denied.  Plaintiff then appealed to the Second Court of Appeals.  The Court of Appeals agreed with FSSV and affirmed the trial court’s judgment.  Plaintiff then filed a Motion for Rehearing, which was denied.  Finally, Plaintiff filed Petition for Review with the Supreme Court of Texas.  The Texas Supreme Court denied Plaintiff’s Petition for Review.

 

Partners Michael P. Sharp and Robyn M. Wise obtained another summary judgment in the United States District Court for the Northern District of Texas, Dallas Division, in favor of FSSV’s retail client.  Plaintiff asserted a general negligence cause of action; however, the court clearly recognized Plaintiff’s claims arose out of premises liability.  FSSV’s client sought summary judgment on the grounds Plaintiff had no evidence the grocery store had actual or constructive knowledge of any allegedly dangerous condition on its premises or that Defendant breached any duty to warn Plaintiff of any allegedly dangerous condition on its premises.  The court granted summary judgment in favor of Defendant.

 

These recent judgments and appellate orders further strengthen Texas retailers’ defenses in premises liability cases.  They also establish that “no notice” motions for summary judgment can be effectively used to either dispose of such cases completely or achieve very favorable settlement terms.

 

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