Dram Shop

Restaurant settles with family of its worker killed in crash

The family of a man who died in a car crash after he had been drinking at work agreed to a $742,000 settlement on Jan. 22. Victor Renaud was a server at the Guri Do Sol Steakhouse. His family claimed that management gave him and others a champagne toast and then continued to let them drink for a couple hours at the end of the night. Plaintiffs’ counsel argued that there was evidence of drug use and frequent intoxication on the part of managers. Plaintiffs’ counsel filed a spoliation motion, claiming the defendant hired a third party to erase video surveillance records and altered inventory records to conceal the amount of alcohol consumed by employees that evening. Renaud had a blood-alcohol level of 0.20.

Anderson v. Brazilian Ventures LP, No. 201140078

Court: 129th District Court, Harris County

Plaintiff Attorneys: E. Michael Grossman, Keith C. Purdue and G. Jerrell Wise, Grossman Law Offices, Dallas

Defense Attorneys: Robert H. Bateman and Adam B. Chambers, Bateman & Pugh, Houston; Jeff A. Fanaff, Soule, Baldwin & Fanaff, Houston

Motor Vehicle

Plaintiff awarded $500 for medical bills only

On Jan. 30, a jury awarded $500 to a woman claiming lower back sprains and strains in a rear-ender. Jilian Ariate was struck by Pierce Dunlap. She stopped at a red light, intending to make a right turn. She pulled forward and then stopped again, and Dunlap hit her. The defense argued that Ariate stopped suddenly for no apparent reason. Ariate said she pulled out to see around a pillar that was blocking her view of traffic coming from her left.

Ariate v. Dunlap, No. DC-11-12143

Court: 68th District Court, Dallas County

Plaintiff Attorneys: Chad E. Pryor and Jeremy R. Wilson, Wilson, Trosclair & Lovins, Dallas

Defense Attorneys: Young Christian Jenkins, G. Patrick Collins & Associates, Dallas

Jury awards $17,941 to bus passenger who claims injuries

On Feb. 22, a jury awarded $17,941 to a passenger on a city bus who claimed neck and back injuries in a collision. Joshua Haley was sitting on the left aisle on the bus that was stopped. Melissa Pope was driving a sport utility vehicle when she struck a tractor-trailer truck and then struck the bus. Right before impact, the driver warned passengers to "hold on," and Haley said he grabbed the rails to brace himself. Haley testified that the impact jerked his back, causing injury.

Haley v. Pope, No. 190485

Court: 172nd District Court, Jefferson County

Plaintiff Attorney: Malachi Daws, Clay Dugas & Associates, Beaumont

Defense Attorney: A. Scot Chase, Burck, Lapidus, Jackson & Chase, Houston

Neither driver to blame for accident, jury finds

On Feb. 27, a jury declined to award damages to a woman who claimed multiple injuries in a collision on a freeway with dark and rainy conditions. Maria Otero slowed down for an accident in front of her when Ada Merino hit her rear fender, which caused Otero to spin out of control. While spinning, she and Merino collided a second time. Defense counsel argued that both drivers were reacting to a prior accident on a rainy night and that neither driver was negligent. The jury found no negligence by either party.

Otero v. Merino, No. 2011-10742

Court: 80th District Court, Harris County

Plaintiff Attorney: David K. Mestemaker, Mestemaker & Straub, Houston

Defense Attorney: R. J. Blue, Soule, Baldwin & Fanaff, Houston

Plaintiff recovers $2.7 million for neck injury resulting in surgery

A driver who sustained a cervical herniation that required surgery following a rear-ender recovered $2.7 million on March 1. In 2009, George Barnhill stopped abruptly to avoid hitting a sport utility vehicle that had hit a retaining wall and was driven by Derek Molina. Barnhill was then hit by Felipe Rodriguez. Barnhill underwent an anterior cervical diskectomy and cervical fusion about eight months after the accident. Barnhill sued Rodriguez, and the defense designated Molina as a responsible third party, alleging that Molina should not have lost control of his SUV. The jury found Rodriguez and Molina each 50 percent negligent, which reduced the $5.4 million award.

Barnhill v. King-Isles Inc., No. 10-60602-2

Court: Nueces County Court-at-Law No. 2

Plaintiff Attorneys: Thomas J. Henry, Omar Rivero and Greggory A. Teeter, Thomas J. Henry Injury Attorneys, Corpus Christi

Defense Attorneys: Foster Reese and Julie Shehane, Willis Law Group, Dallas


Horse owner not liable for woman’s fall

On Feb. 12, a judge rejected a woman’s claim that a horse owner was liable for her fall that left her with neck and back injuries. Melinda Hanks fell off a horse owned by Josh Williams, which was regularly fed by a teenage boy that Williams knew. He denied that the boy was his agent or employee. He also asserted the Texas Equine Liability Act. The statute is generally interpreted to protect the owner of a horse from liability for injuries sustained by someone riding it. At the close of Hanks’ evidence, the defense moved for a directed verdict, arguing she failed to prove that Williams owed her a legal duty and that her claim was barred by statute.

Hanks v. Williams, No. 10-CV-4271

Court: 405th District Court, Galveston County

Plaintiff Attorney: Christopher D. Bertini, Bertini Law Firm, Galveston

Defense Attorneys: Sam Baldwin and Javier S. Martinez, Soule, Baldwin & Fanaff, Houston

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

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