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Border patrol’s fatal shooting justified, court rules

On Dec. 6, 2012, a federal judge dismissed a case brought against a border patrol agent who fatally shot a Mexican person allegedly armed with a rock. Jose Alejandro Ortiz-Castillo was shot by Agent Brian Ault at the border fence in El Paso. Plaintiff’s counsel argued that Ortiz-Castillo had been holding a rock but he dropped it just before he was shot. The plaintiff’s reconstruction expert said Ortiz-Castillo’s position in the fence hole would have severely impaired his ability to throw the rock. Defense counsel argued that Ortiz-Castillo was holding a set of heavy-duty bolt cutters and had raised the rock to throw it. Ault then fired in self-defense.

Mena v. United States, No. 3:10-cv-00282-KC

Court: U.S. District Court for the Western District in El Paso

Plaintiff Attorneys: Francisco X. Dominguez and Lynn Coyle, Dominguez & Coyle, El Paso; Enrique Moreno, Law Office of Enrique Moreno, El Paso

Defense Attorneys: Harold E. Brown, Kristy K. Callahan, John J. LoCurto and John E. Murphy, U.S. Attorney’s Office, San Antonio

Man hit with Taser while handcuffed gets $425,000

A man who claimed police used a Taser on him while he was handcuffed agreed to a $425,000 settlement on Nov. 26, 2012. Robert Campbell, a federal court security officer, was in his Lubbock home with his family when he was arrested by two city police officers. The police arrived in response to a call that Campbell was having a dispute with his neighbors. He refused to let the officers into his home. The officers then pushed his fiancé aside, struck Campbell in the head, pushed both him and his fiance to the floor, and used a Taser on Campbell after he had been handcuffed, he claimed. Police claimed that he was intoxicated and they noticed his handgun in the house.

Campbell v. Lewis, No. 5:11-cv-00116-C

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

Plaintiff Attorneys: Kervyn B. Altaffer Jr., Law Office of Kervyn Altaffer Jr., Dallas; William Demond, Demond & Hassan, Houston; Megan Hassan, Demond & Hassan, Houston

Defense Attorneys: Jeffry Hartsell, City Attorney’s Office, Lubbock; George L. Thompson, Thompson & Kerby, Lubbock


Repair shop not to blame for motorcyclist’s crash, jury finds

On Oct. 24, 2012, a motorcyclist who had to dump his bike lost his claim that a repair shop was to blame. Bruce Hall sued STX Cycle Accessories in Houston, alleging that it failed to replace a spacer in his front wheel axle, which caused his brakes to lock up. STX claimed the spacer was installed. The defense argued that Hall accelerated rapidly onto the freeway and attempted to merge but could not do so because of freeway traffic. According to the defense, traffic ahead was moving slower than Hall had thought, and there was no room for him in the other lanes. The defense said he panicked, overbraked, locked the front wheel and laid the motorcycle down.

Hall v. Castaneda Ventures LLC, No. 201066826

Court: 152nd District Court, Harris County

Plaintiff Attorney: Wade D. Moriarty, Moriarty Law Firm, Houston

Defense Attorneys: Michael Reviere, Benckenstein, Norvell & Nathan, Houston; Benjamin Reviere, Benckenstein, Norvell & Nathan, Houston

Motorcyclist thrown from bike settles for $227,000

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. He was not wearing a helmet. The plaintiff was rushed by helicopter to a 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

Driver gets $1.25 million for back, neck and shoulder injuries

The driver of a dump truck who claimed back, neck and shoulder injuries agreed to a $1.25 million settlement on Dec. 3, 2012. In 2008, Curtis Onic was on Highway 43 in Harrison County when Linn Benjamin George, who was driving a propane truck for Amerigas Propane, struck his left side. Onic sued George for crossing the center line and sued Amerigas for negligent hiring and training. He claimed a cervical disk bulge, right shoulder pain, and back sprains and strains. After an 18-month gap in treatment, Onic returned to the pain management doctor with complaints of lower back pain and lower extremity radiculopathy and underwent two lumbar epidural steroid injections and one lumbar facet injection.

Onic v. George, No. 10-0562

Court: 71st District Court, Harrison County

Plaintiff Attorney: Brent Goudarzi, Goudarzi & Young, Gilmer

Defense Attorneys: Drew R. Ballina and Warren Horn, Heller, Draper, Hayden, Patrick & Horn, New Orleans; Victor Hlavinka, Atchley, Russell, Waldrop & Hlavinka, Texarkana

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