Senior Associate Justin Jones recent article on Name, Image, and Likeness for college student athletes is the cover story for the October 2022 Texas Bar Journal. His article highlights the new NIL law in Texas for student athletes.
The Texas Bar Journal has been in print since 1938 and serves as the publication of record for the Texas Supreme Court, a scholarly legal journal, and association magazine for the State Bar of Texas. Below is the digital link to the October 2022 Texas Bar Journal. The NIL article is also highlighted on the Texas Bar Blog and the State Bar of Texas official Twitter account @statebaroftexas.
On October 24, 2022, senior partners Michael Sharp and Adam Strange obtained a defense verdict for their client, Swift Transportation Co. of Arizona LLC and its driver, Devonte Williams in Bell County, Texas. The case arose from an accident that occurred on July 31, 2016. Swift's tractor trailer was stopped on the shoulder of I-20 due to a mechanical issue. Plaintiff, Johnny Baker, driving another tractor trailer, drove onto the improved shoulder and collided with Swift's tractor trailer.
Plaintiffs, Johnny Baker and his wife Lacrecia Baker, alleged Mr. Williams failed to place out reflective triangles within the required time frame and stopping on the shoulder is inherently dangerous for a tractor trailer. Plaintiffs' alleged these issues were a major contributing factor to the accident.
Plaintiffs' claimed significant injuries to Johnny Baker, including a serious brain injury, spinal injuries including one cervical surgery, and two lumbar surgeries, as well as loss of consortium damages for Lacrecia Baker. Plaintiffs' claimed past medical damages of roughly $500,000, future medical care in the amount of $2.8 million, lost wages in the amount of $1.25 million and general non-economic damages. The Bakers' alleged injuries were called into questions by surveillance over a four-year period.
Plaintiffs' were represented by Witherite Law Group. At trial Plaintiffs' requested $17 million for past and future damages. After a six-day trial the jury found no negligence on Defendants and also awarded Plaintiffs zero in monetary damages.
On September 2, 2022, Senior Partner Jeff C. Wright and Senior Appellate Counsel Timothy R. George prevailed against Plaintiff’s appeal to the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit. Plaintiff, a mechanic, brought various negligence claims against his employer (a Texas nonsubscriber, and one of the world’s largest equipment rental companies) after he slipped and fell on rainwater that allegedly seeped into his work bay. Plaintiff alleged that his employer failed to provide necessary instrumentalities, failed to train, failed to supervise, and committed other failures related to the workplace. Employer denied liability. Wright filed a Motion for Summary Judgment as to all claims and causes of action arguing that Plaintiff’s premises liability claims and workplace safety claims fail as a matter of law. On July 16, 2021, the district court in the Northern District of Texas granted summary judgment in favor of Defendant and dismissed the suit. Plaintiff timely appealed after the district court denied reconsideration. The US Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals reviewed the granting of summary judgment de novo. Following full briefing and oral argument, the United States Court of Appeals affirmed the district court’s granting of summary judgment in favor of Fee Smith & Sharp’s Texas nonsubscriber client.
On August 2, 2022, Senior Partner Jeff C. Wright and Senior Associate Efrain Forte, III, of the Fee, Smith & Sharp firm obtained Final Summary Judgment in favor of their national trucking client, in a nonsubscriber wrongful death and survival sction lawsuit that was pending in McAllen, Texas. Plaintiffs asserted a multimillion dollar wrongful death and survival action against our trucking client, alleging that Decedent driver was an employee of the trucking company and that the trucking company’s negligence proximately caused the death. In short, Plaintiffs alleged that defendant trucking company was negligent in allowing, permitting, enticing or ordering Decedent to drive in excess of permitted hours and while Decedent had an alleged debilitating and/or disqualifying medical condition/fatigue. On behalf of our client, we denied any negligence. After three years of litigation and completion of fact and expert discovery and depositions, Wright and Forte moved for summary judgement on all of Plaintiffs’ claims and causes of action. In a lengthy 19-page opinion, the Court granted final summary judgment in favor of Defendant as a result of finding that (1) Plaintiffs lacked medical evidence and expert testimony sufficient to sustain their claims of negligence premised under the theory that the driver suffered from a medical condition and (2) Plaintiffs’ fatigue claims faltered since there was insufficient evidence placing the element of proximate cause in genuine dispute. This ruling should prove to be helpful to all motor carriers who are Texas nonsubscribers, since the defenses to these employee-related claims are limited.
Senior Partner Howard J. Klatsky obtained a Final Judgment in Brazos County, in favor of client Knife River Corporation-South. The Plaintiff, who worked as a Sales Manager for the client, claimed that he was owed a five-figure bonus payment and sought to recover the amount, plus attorney’s fees. Knife River Corporation-South asserted a number of affirmative defenses and prevailed on the merits at trial.
After a multi-week arbitration in Galveston County, Texas, Senior Partner, Brian Cano and associate, Hugh Baker obtained a take nothing award for their client, defending against a construction defect claim.
Fee, Smith, Sharp & Vitullo prevailed in an appeal to the Court of Appeals for the Second District of Texas in Tarrant County. The trial court held that the Defendant was acting in the course and scope of his employment while driving a vehicle owned by the company and awarded the Plaintiff substantial damages. The client appealed the trial court order that the evidence was neither legally nor factually sufficient to support the jury’s verdict that the Defendant was acting in the course and scope of his employment at the time of the collision
The Court of Appeals reversed, holding that the evidence did not support the jury’s verdict on course and scope of employment, rendering that Plaintiff take nothing.
Thomas W. Fee, Brian G. Cano, Daniel M. Karp, Howard J. Klatsky, Bret A. Sanders and William M. Toles
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