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EMPLOYMENT

Jury sides with worker on retaliation claim

On Dec. 6, 2012, a jury awarded $60,000 to a woman who claimed that she was fired from her Veteran Affairs job after filing a complaint that she was sexually harassed. Tewonna Williams was a pharmaceutical assembly line worker at the VA. The VA contended that Williams was not a VA employee, so it could not have violated the Civil Rights Act. The VA contended that Williams was a contract employee who was hired by a temporary labor agency. The plaintiff argued that she was a VA employee since it told her what to do and controlled her work environment. Co-workers testified that their work was controlled by the VA. The jury found that she was an employee.

Williams v. Shinseki, No. 3:11-cv-00761-D

Court: U.S. District Court for the Northern District in Dallas

Plaintiff Attorneys: Brian P. Sanford, David B. Norris and Ashley E. Tremain, Sanford, Bethune, Richardson

Defense Attorneys: James P. Laurence and Lynette S. Wilson, U.S. Attorney’s Office, Dallas

Cop awarded $378,000 on his retaliation claim

On Dec. 6, 2012, a Houston police officer who claimed that he was transferred from a prestigious unit to night patrol because of a suit his father filed was awarded $378,000. Christopher Zamora was a party to a discrimination suit that his father, Manuel Zamora, filed with several other officers. Zamora claimed that he was transferred from the crime reduction unit and was also suspended for 10 days after he allegedly made untruthful statements during an internal investigation. Zamora claimed that he was forced to transfer out of the crime reduction unit despite an excellent performance record. He claimed that the internal charges and suspension were retaliation for his and his father’s participation in the suit.

Zamora v. City of Houston, No. 4:07-cv-04510

Court: U.S. District Court for the Southern District in Houston

Plaintiff Attorneys: Kimbra Kathryn Ogg and Randall S. Poerschke, The Ogg Law Firm, Houston

Defense Attorneys: Shani Ain Dennis and Donald J. Fleming, City of Houston Legal Department, Houston

MOTOR VEHICLE

Plaintiff awarded $15,061 for alleged back and neck injuries

On Oct. 16, 2012, a jury awarded $15,061 to a woman who claimed neck and back sprains and strains in a rear-ender. Jennifer Foster was driving a sport utility vehicle when she was struck by George Lyles. The defense argued that Foster started to proceed when the light turned green and that she then suddenly stopped again. Foster underwent eight weeks of chiropractic treatment and claimed that she was still in pain at the time of trial. The chiropractor testified that the treatment was reasonable and necessary and that the injuries were caused by the accident. The defense argued that the impact was minor. Photos of both vehicles showed little damage.

Foster v. Lyles, No. 004-03874-2011

Court: Collin County Court-at-Law No. 4

Plaintiff Attorney: W. Brett Cain, The Cain Law Firm, Fort Worth

Defense Attorney: Scott A. Whitcomb, G. Patrick Collins & Associates, Dallas

Family of man killed in worn-tire crash awarded $27.5 million

On Nov. 15, 2012, a jury awarded $27.5 million to the family of a teenage passenger who was killed when a pickup truck with worn tires crashed. The family of Justin M. Flores sued Wal-Mart, alleging its workers failed to properly inspect the tires. The plaintiff’s expert on tire forensics said one tire had tread-depth spots of less than 2/32 of an inch and another had spots of less than 4/32 of an inch when Wal-Mart inspected them. The family also sued the driver of the pickup truck, Lorena Esparza. The truck hydroplaned on the wet road. Esparza was found 12 percent negligent and Wal-Mart Stores was found 88 percent negligent.

Flores v. Wal-Mart Stores Inc., No. DC-10-109

Court: 229th District Court, Duval County

Plaintiff Attorneys: Jason P. Hoelscher and Craig M. Sico, Sico, White, Hoelscher & Braugh, Corpus Christi; Charles L. Barrera, Alice; Jaime Carrillo; Gregory L. Gowan, Gowan & Elizondo, Corpus Christi; Victor Guajardo, The Guajardo Law Firm, Corpus Christi

Defense Attorneys: Willie Ben Daw III and C. Thomas Valentine, Daw & Ray, Houston; Monte J. English, English & Clemons, Corpus Christi; Adolfo R. "J.R." Rodriguez Jr. and Wilson C. Aurbach, The Rodriguez Law Firm, Dallas; Edie Gonzalez-Lemon, Lemon & Gonzalez-Lemon, Alice; Ronald E. Mendoza, Davis, Cedillo & Mendoza, Inc., San Antonio; Stephen H. Schiwetz, Corpus Christi

Jury doesn’t buy man’s claim of fall on transit bus

On Nov. 26, 2012, a jury declined to award damages to a man who claimed that he slipped and fell on a Dallas Area Rapid Transit bus. Leroy Crawford claimed that the bus driver pulled into traffic before he could sit down. He further contended that the aisle was wet, which also contributed to his fall. Defense counsel argued that Crawford faked the fall. Defense counsel called a witness to the event, who testified via videotape that the bus had not moved before Crawford took his seat; that he placed himself on the floor; and the witness didn’t hear or see any indication of a fall.

Crawford v. Dallas Area Rapid Transit, No. CC11-06071C

Court: Dallas County Court at Law No. 3

Plaintiff Attorney: Mark Russ Ryan, Rolle, Breeland, Ryan, Landau, Wingler & Hindman, Dallas

Defense Attorney: Higinio "Gene" Gamez, Dallas Area Rapid Transit, Dallas

DART bus driver not to blame for collision, jury finds

On Nov. 28, 2012, a jury found that a Dallas Area Rapid Transit bus driver wasn’t to blame for a driver colliding with his stopped bus. Luis Miranda struck the bus that was disabled in his lane of the Dallas North Tollway. Miranda claimed that the bus driver failed to move the bus onto the shoulder. Miranda also claimed that the crest of the overpass obstructed his view. DART contended that the bus driver had his hazard lights on; that the bus could not be steered; and that Miranda had the last clear chance to avoid the accident. Also, the weather was clear and sunny with good visibility. The defense expert said the bus, which was 8 feet high by 9 feet wide, was in Miranda’s line of sight in time for him to avoid the accident.

Miranda v. Dallas Area Rapid Transit, No. DC-11-0861-A

Court: 14th District Court, Dallas County

Plaintiff Attorneys: Neal P. Flagg, Steed Flagg Lamberth, Rockwall; Aaron G. Koury, Carpenter & Schumacher, Plano

Defense Attorney: Higinio "Gene" Gamez, Dallas Area Rapid Transit, Dallas

Jury awards $4,953 to driver hit by defendant with suspended license

On Nov. 29, 2012, a jury awarded $4,953 to a man who claimed back and neck sprains and strains in a rear-ender. Pilar Del Rio Sanchez was struck by Juan Tijerina, who was driving with a suspended license for too many moving violations. Sanchez sued him for gross negligence because of the suspended license. The defense stipulated to ordinary negligence but disputed gross negligence, arguing that Tijerina’s conduct did not rise to the level of conscious indifference for the safety of others and there was no connection between his license suspension and the likelihood of an accident. The jury apparently disagreed, apportioning $1,000 of the award for gross negligence.

Del Rio Sanchez v. Tijerina, No. 2006-CCL-2067C

Court: Cameron County Court-at-Law No. 3

Plaintiff Attorneys: Albert Villegas, Villegas Law Firm, Brownsville; Noe Robles, Law Offices of Noe Robles, Brownsville

Defense Attorney: Robert L. Perez, Lawler & Associates, Brownsville

Motorcyclist loses case against truck driver

On Dec. 6, 2012, a jury found a motorcyclist mostly to blame for a collision with a tractor-trailer. Valson Calcote sued TS Acquisition, alleging its driver made a wide right turn and crossed into Calcote’s lane. Defense counsel argued that Calcote’s negligence was the sole proximate cause of the collision, claiming Martin was signaling the turn and Calcote should have known it would be dangerous to attempt to pass him. The jury found Calcote 70 percent liable and the TS Acquisition driver 30 percent liable.

Calcote v. TS Acquisition, No. 2011-30880

Court: 164th District Court, Harris County

Plaintiff Attorney: Kevin M. O’Malley, Houston

Defense Attorney: Michael W. Cramer, The Cramer Law Firm, Houston

Jury awards $66,622 to plaintiff claiming T12-L1 herniation

On Dec. 11, 2012, a court awarded $66,622 to a woman who claimed a disk herniation in a collision. Valentina Rankin claimed that she was stopped in traffic in Houston when Leonorilda Melendez exited a parking lot and hit the right front quarter of her vehicle. Rankin claimed a 6 mm herniation at T12-L1. She underwent two epidural injections and nearly five months of chiropractic treatment.

Rankin v. Melendez, No. 201204742

Court: 113th District Court, Harris County

Plaintiff Attorney: Donal McRoberts, Willumsen Law Firm, Houston

Defense Attorney: Not represented

Driver claiming cervical herniation gets $133,000

On Dec. 12, 2012, a jury awarded $133,000 to an elderly driver who claimed a cervical herniation in a collision. In 2009, Donald Crane was driving in Beaumont when he was involved in a collision with another vehicle. Crane held underinsured motorist coverage with Farmers Texas County Mutual. The plaintiff treated with pain management medication and claimed he may require fusion surgery. Defense counsel disputed the damages. The plaintiff’s treating physician testified that the collision was not the proximate cause of his injury, attributing it to age-related degeneration, the defense argued.

Crane v. Farmers Texas County Mutual Insurance Co., No. A-190-963

Court: 58th District Court, Jefferson County

Plaintiff Attorney: J. Trenton Bond, Portner Bond PLLC, Beaumont

Defense Attorney: Richard W. Hatfield, Harris, Lively, Duesler & Hatfield, Beaumont

PREMISES LIABILITY

Man shocked by door buzzer awarded $254,176

On Dec. 6, 2012, A jury awarded $254,176 to a man who was shocked by a door buzzer when he was at a Dallas Wal-Mart to service a trash compactor. Roderick Nash claimed he tore his rotator cuff when he jerked his arm after the shock. According to Nash, the buzzer had been broken by a Wal-Mart forklift, and the wires were left exposed. He underwent two months of physical therapy, and he claimed that he’ll need surgery. He said the range of motion in his shoulder is limited. Wal-Mart argued that the amount of voltage could not have caused the alleged injury.

Nash v. Wal-Mart Texas Stores LLC, No. 2649, No. 11-1100176

Court: Dallas County Court-at-Law No. 3

Plaintiff Attorney: Brian P. Lauten, Sawicki & Lauten LLP, Dallas

Defense Attorneys: Foster Reese and Jas S. Braich, Willis Law Group, Dallas

WORKER/WORKPLACE NEGLIGENCE

Driver struck by drunken driver recovers $2.05 million

On Dec. 14, 2012, a driver who lost her leg in a head-on crash with a drunken driver recovered $2.05 million. Kelley Bittler was struck by Jefrey Tillman who had a blood alcohol level of 0.34. Bittler sustained crush injuries to her right foot that were so severe doctors amputated her leg below the knee. Tillman, who allegedly had been drinking at Southside Bar & Grill that night, was killed in the crash. He was nonsuited before trial, and the case proceeded against the bar. The jury found the bar owners 75 percent liable and Tillman 25 percent liable, which reduced the $2,735,000 award.

Bittler v. Tillman, No. 11-02-20447-CV

Court: 38th District Court, Medina County

Plaintiff Attorney: Andrew Skemp, Janicek Law Firm, San Antonio

Defense Attorney: Ray Zapata, San Antonio

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