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Termination not retaliatory, judge rules

On Dec. 18, 2012, a judge sided with a school district that was sued by a former employee who claimed she was fired in retaliation. Alma Guzman-Estrada was a maintenance manager for the Southside Independent School District in San Antonio. She claimed she was terminated for complaining about receiving lower pay than men holding comparable positions. Defense counsel argued that Guzman-Estrada was terminated solely for performance concerns, specifically personal conflicts with subordinates and superiors and unprofessional behavior.

Guzman-Estrada v. Southside Independent School District, No. 5:12-cv-00009-HLH

Court: U.S. District Court for the Western District of Texas

Plaintiff Attorneys: Olga Brown, San Antonio; Gershon D. Cohen, San Antonio; Jeffrey D. Small, San Antonio

Defense Attorneys: Stacy T. Castilo, Jose A. De Los Santos, Katie E. Payne and Donald Craig Wood, Walsh, Anderson, Gallegos, Green & Treviño, San Antonio

Judge rejects woman’s claim of unequal pay

On Dec. 19, 2012, a judge dismissed a woman’s claim that she received unequal pay as a sales representative for a medical supplies company. Stephanie Hills, who was a sales rep and an area manager for MediQuip International Inc., claimed that a white male was promoted to be her supervisor even though she was more qualified. She also claimed that she and a male co-worker did equal work but received unequal pay. The court granted the defense’s summary judgment motion, ruling that Hill’s nonpromotion claim was barred by the statute of limitations; that she had failed to exhaust the available administrative remedies, so her other Title VII claims also were barred; and that she failed to establish a prima facie case under the Equal Pay Act.

Hill v. Armstrong Industries Inc., No. 4:11-cv-00251-ALM

Court: U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Texas

Plaintiff Attorney: Andrea S. Loveless, Loveless Law Firm, Fort Worth

Defense Attorneys: Ty Beard, Beard & Harris, Tyler; Jim E. Bullock and Brian Casper, Christiansen Davis Bullock, Dallas; Daniel R. McCabe, Bush Firm Arlington


Cop’s fatal shooting results in $780,000 settlement

The family of a man who was shot by Amarillo police agreed to a $780,000 settlement on Oct. 9, 2012. Claudio Trujillo was ending his night with friends at a nightclub when they came upon two gangs exchanging gunfire in a parking lot where his sport utility vehicle was parked. They quickly got in the truck, and police arrived. A witness incorrectly told officers that the gunfire had come from Trujillo’s truck. Trujillo’s friends claimed that no warning was given before the officers opened fire on the truck. They also claimed that officers forced several eyewitnesses to leave the scene without giving statements. The defense argued that several officers shouted for Trujillo to stop but he drove away suddenly as they approached.

Trujillo v. City of Amarillo, No. 2:11-CV-107-J

Court: U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas

Plaintiff Attorney: Jesse Quackenbush, Will Ferguson & Associates, Albuquerque, N.M.

Defense Attorneys: Michael H. Loftin, Underwood, Wilson, Berry, Stein & Johnson, Amarillo; Bryan McWilliams, city of Amarillo, Amarillo; Mark D. White, Sprouse Shrader Smith, Amarillo


No award for plaintiff’s alleged injuries

On Nov. 28, 2012, a jury sided with a man who was sued for a rear-ender that allegedly ended in back and ankle injuries. Michael Mandrell was stopped waiting for a green light, when he was struck by Lance Thrower. He claimed right ankle sprains and strains and lumbar spondylolisthesis. The defense argued that the impact was very minor. Thrower said he had to ask his passenger if an impact had occurred at all. The defense also emphasized the delays and gaps in Mandrell’s treatment. In addition, the records before the second accident contained just one mention of any ankle complaint, and there was no ankle diagnosis until after the second accident.

Mandrell v. Thrower, No. 2008-75327

Court: 151st District Court, Harris County

Plaintiff Attorney: Malcolm "Max" Martin, Law Offices of Malcolm "Max" Martin, Houston

Defense Attorney: Kurt T. Nelson, Kirkpatrick, White & Deas, Houston

Motorcyclist thrown from bike in crash gets $227,500

A motorcyclist who was thrown from his bike when he broadsided a car agreed to a $227,500 settlement on Nov. 29, 2012. Silvertree Jones struck Asia Gillespie after she pulled out from her driveway. Police gave her a ticket for failing to yield the right of way. When he hit the ground, he lost consciousness for an undetermined period. He was not wearing a helmet. The plaintiff was rushed by helicopter to the hospital and was admitted for a couple of days. He followed up a few times after being released. Jones’ injuries included cuts, abrasions, a dislocated left shoulder and a nasal bone fracture. He also claimed short-term memory problems.

Jones v. Gillespie, No. 25271

Court: 278th District Court, Walker County

Plaintiff Attorney: Rusty Harrison, Waltman & Grisham, College Station

Defense Attorney: Frank D. Lanter, Cooper, Jackson & Boanerges, Houston

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