Employment

Judge sides with employer accused of discrimination

On Jan. 30, a judge threw out the discrimination and retaliation claims of a research scientist who said he was forced from his position. George Wall took early retirement from his position at Alcon Laboratories in Dallas. He claimed he was issued an unfair and arbitrary performance evaluation and subsequently was demoted in an attempt to force him to leave due to his age. As a result, he received significantly smaller retirement benefits. Defense counsel maintained that all decisions regarding his position were made for legitimate, nondiscriminatory business reasons. Defense counsel argued that he was denied the benefits because he failed to comply with the retirement plan’s rules for early retirement.

Wall v. Alcon Laboratories Inc., No. 4:11-cv-00883

Court: U.S. District Court for the Northern District in Fort Worth

Plaintiff Attorneys: R. Brent Cooper, Timothy Micah Dortch and Alex J. Pilawski, Cooper & Scully, Dallas

Defense Attorneys: Jeremy W. Hawpe, John F. McCarthy Jr. and Russell R. Zimmerer, Littler Mendelson, Dallas

Woman claiming gender discrimination gets $90,000

A employee who claimed that the company’s president was biased against women agreed to a $90,000 settlement on Dec. 7, 2012. Sabrina Sumsion was fired from her office position at Caprock Manufacturing. She and other female employees claimed that the president believed that females were less smart than males. The plaintiff claimed that her termination occurred three weeks after she complained of gender discrimination. According to the employer, the termination was for economic reasons, but Sumsion alleged that those reasons were a pretext and Caprock had had record sales in the preceding six months.

Sumsion v. Caprock Manufacturing Inc., No. 5:11-cv-00177-C

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

Plaintiff Attorneys: Fernando M. Bustos and Dustin N. Slade, Bustos Law Firm, Lubbock

Defense Attorneys: John P. LeVick, Lubbock

Motor Vehicle

Both parties equally to blame for collision

A driver who claimed neck, back, ankle and knee injuries in a parking lot crash recovered $188 on Dec. 17, 2012. Daniel Goldberg was driving a sport utility vehicle when Lana To backed out of a parking space, and the right side of Goldberg’s vehicle scraped along the back of To’s minivan. To denied negligence and said she looked before backing but did not see Goldberg. The defense argued that Goldberg was not keeping a proper lookout and was going too fast. The jury found 50 percent negligence on each driver and awarded Goldberg $276.

Goldberg v. To, No. 001-00566-2012

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

Plaintiff Attorney: R. Lane Addison, Henley & Henley, Dallas

Defense Attorney: Robert Yates, Gallerson & Yates, Irving

Fatal collision results in $100,000 settlement

The family of a woman who was killed in a collision with a flatbed tow truck agreed to a $100,000 settlement on Jan. 11. Kathryn McDermott was a passenger in a pickup truck that struck the parked tow truck that was straddling the road’s shoulder and the right lane. McDermott’s family sued the truck driver for parking in a lane of traffic and sued Corporate Auto Services and Miller’s Auto Body & Repair under respondeat superior. The parties disputed whether the tow truck’s headlights and tail lights were on. The truck driver did not set out flares. The settlement was the policy limit.

McDermott v. Corporate Auto Services Inc., No. 201133830

Court: 270th District Court, Harris County

Plaintiff Attorneys: Benny Agosto Jr., Abraham, Watkins, Nichols, Sorrels, Agosto & Friend, Houston, Sophia Mafrige, guardian ad litem, Houston

Defense Attorney: Jeff A. Fanaff, Soule, Baldwin & Fanaff, Houston

Products Liability

Plaintiff claimed design of seat cushion was defective

Toyota Motor Corp. wasn’t liable for a woman’s back injury that she blamed on the the foam in her seat, a jury found on Jan. 17. Joyce Owen veered off road in her 2008 Toyota Highlander and crashed in a ditch. The vertical drop into the ditch was 18 to 24 inches, and Owen sustained a burst fracture in her lumbar spine. According to Owen’s expert in seat design, a more "rate-sensitive" type of foam should have been used for the seat bottom cushion. The defense argued that Owen was speeding and didn’t have control of her vehicle. The defense’s expert in seat design testified that the seats were state of the art and were properly designed to attenuate vertical forces.

Owen v. Toyota Motor Corp., No. 2:10-cv-00504

Court: U.S. District Court for the Eastern District in Marshall

Plaintiff Attorneys: Geoffrey Patton Culbertson, Patton, Tidwell & Schroeder, Texarkana; Patricia L. Peden, Law Offices of Patricia L. Peden, Emeryville

Defense Attorneys: Kurt C. Kern, Mark E. Killingsworth and Suzanne H. Swaner, Bowman & Brooke, Dallas