EMPLOYMENT

Plaintiff wasn’t constructively discharged, jury finds

On Sept. 26, 2012, a jury rejected a woman’s claims that she was constructively discharged for taking medical leave and for raising objections to a racially discriminatory statement made by a superior. Lea Blottin was a forecasting analyst with Mary Kay. She claimed that she was repeatedly verbally reprimanded for taking three months of leave. She also received an inaccurate performance review and was unfairly demoted three levels as a result, she claimed. Defense counsel argued that all employment decisions regarding Blottin were based on legitimate business reasons. She had demonstrated poor performance prior to her FMLA leave, and she resigned voluntarily to pursue a new career path as a nurse, according to the defense.

Blottin v. Mary Kay Inc., No. 3:10-cv-01905-M

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

Plaintiff’s Attorneys: David B. Norris and Brian P. Sanford, Sanford Bethune, Richardson

Defense Attorneys: A. Shonn Brown and Michael K. Hurst, Gruber, Hurst, Johansen Hail Shank, Dallas

Jury sides with employer over worker’s discrimination claim

On. Sept. 11, 2012, a jury rejected a worker’s claim that he was a qualified individual with a disability, and it also found that his employer didn’t take any adverse action against him for engaging in a protected activity. Jeffrey Neely was a power plant operator for PSEG Texas before he was fired. He claimed he was fired for suffering from anxiety and depression. The company claimed he was fired for extreme insubordination, an anti-authority attitude toward his boss and his failure to change his behavior despite multiple opportunities. Defense counsel noted a tirade punctuated with multiple expletives directed at his boss. This led to an emergency meeting and the decision to terminate.

Neely v. PSEG Texas LP, No. 7:10-cv-00030-RAJ

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

Plaintiff’s Attorney: Holly B. Williams, Williams Law Firm, Midland

Defense Attorneys: Victor N. Corpuz and Taylor Eric White, Jackson Lewis, Dallas

MEDICAL MALPRACTICE

Jury sides with surgeon who performed cervical procedure

An orthopedic surgeon didn’t improperly place a bone graft during a cervical fusion, a jury found on Sept. 13, 2012. In 2006, Bright Star Cuevas underwent the spinal fusion with Dr. John H. Peloza. She claimed that Peloza placed a bone graft too far posterior. She also claimed that Peloza failed to timely recognize and correct the improper placement. A fluoroscopy during a follow-up second surgery showed the graft in what Peloza said was the proper position, and Peloza testified that he observed the graft in the proper position during surgery, as reflected in his operative report. According to the defense, the graft either cracked or migrated posteriorly after the second surgery.

Cuevas v. Peloza, No. 08-15499-C

Court: 68th District Court, Dallas County

Plaintiff’s Attorneys: Harold White and Steve Briley, Banner, Briley & White, Wichita Falls

Defense Attorneys: Douglas R. Lewis, Kimberly Bocell and Jeff Ryan, Chamblee, Ryan, Kershaw & Anderson, Dallas

MOTOR VEHICLE

Pedestrian struck by truck 
gets $35,000

A woman who was struck by a truck while walking her dog through a parking lot agreed to a $35,000 settlement on Sept. 28, 2012. Shawanna Holden claimed cervical and lumbar strains after she was hit by the driver of a EWCO truck. She also claimed lumbar radiculopathy. About five months after the accident she underwent an epidural steroid injection and a lumbar nerve block and began a year of chiropractic treatment.

Holden v. Green, No. 201083294

Court: 11th District Court, Harris County

Plaintiff’s Attorney: R. Todd Elias, Gordon, Elias & Seely, Houston

Defense Attorney: Tracey R. Burridge, David Klosterboer & Associates, Houston

Jury awards $10,314 to plaintiff hit by oncoming car

A driver who claimed neck and back strains and a knee contusion was awarded $10,314 on Sept. 11, 2012. Amy Jacobs claimed that Christopher Corman was driving toward her when he tried to pass another car. He didn’t have sufficient clearance and was unable to get back to his lane, she claimed. Corman then swerved onto a shoulder to avoid an oncoming car. He then lost control and struck the side of her car. Defense counsel argued that Corman swerved onto the shoulder and lost control because the oncoming vehicle did not have its headlights on.

Jacobs v. Corman, No. 2010-26174

Court: 55th District Court, Harris County

Plaintiff’s Attorney: Adam P. Criaco, Criaco & Associates, Houston

Defense Attorney: Luis A. Fabrega, Fabrega, Hood, Raynes & Fass, Houston

No award for plaintiff claiming neck and back injuries

On Sept. 13, 2012, a jury declined to award damages to a man who claimed that he sustained neck and back injuries in a rear-ender. Erick Aguirre stipulated to liability for hitting Erick Dortch but disputed the severity of the plaintiff’s injuries. Defense counsel argued that Dortch only saw the physical therapist 15 times during his treatment. Nine months after the collision, Dortch attended and graduated from the sheriff’s academy, where he underwent physical training and was able to pass physical tests, defense counsel noted.

Dortch v. Aguirre, No. CC-11-02576-A

Court: Dallas County Court-at-Law No. 1

Plaintiff’s Attorney: Thomas M. McMurray, McMurray Law Firm, Argyle

Defense Attorney: Micah P. Pardun, The Law Offices of M. Nathan Barbera, Plano

Plaintiffs get small award for back, neck, shoulder claims

A couple who claimed back, neck and shoulder injuries in a rear-ender were awarded $2,630 on Sept. 12, 2012. Lartisha Willis was driving with her husband, Anthony Wills, on Wheatland Road in Dallas, when they stopped at a yield sign. Kimberly Belcher failed to keep a proper lookout or control her speed and rear-ended them, they claimed. The plaintiffs claimed cervical and lumbar strains. Anthony Wills claimed soft-tissue injuries to his right shoulder, and Lartisha Wills claimed soft-tissue injuries to her left shoulder and wrist. Defense counsel argued that both plaintiffs have pre-existing lumbar herniations and that the submitted medical bills failed to distinguish between the treatment of these herniations and the claimed new injuries.

Wills v. Belcher, No. DC-11-01144

Court: 68th District Court, Dallas County

Plaintiffs’ Attorney: David Stone, Loncar & Associates, Dallas

Defense Attorney: Joyce M. Ondich, Herald, Farish & Hughes, Arlington

NEGLIGENT MAINTENANCE

Worker who lost arm in baler gets $3.1 million

A worker whose arm was severed while operating a baler recovered nearly $3.1 million on July 26, 2012. Michael Hartlove was a baler operator for Permian Basin Community Centers MHMR. He claimed that the baler was owned by Butts Recycling, which was responsible for maintaining it. He also claimed Butts failed to provide proper safety features in working order. Butts argued that Permian Basin was solely responsible for the accident and it was responsble for making sure the baler was safe and well maintained. Permian Basin was added as a third-party defendant. It and Butts were each found 50 percent liable, which reduced the $6.1 million award.

Hartlove v. Butts Recycling Inc., No. CV47405

Court: 238th District Court, Midland County

Plaintiff’s Attorneys: Kevin Glasheen and Jason Medina, Glasheen, Valles & Inderman, Lubbock

Defense Attorneys: James W. Grau and Scott Whisler, Grau Koen, Dallas

The verdicts and settlements above are reported and written by Verdict Search, a Texas Lawyer affiliate.

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