Fifth Circuit Affirms M&S Verdict in Fraud Case

By Feb 5, 2018 Posted in Firm News

Last year, M&S won a unanimous jury verdict in a federal court fraud case. The victory was a “featured verdict” in Texas Verdict Search. Our client, a widow with two children, claimed her childhood sweetheart had taken advantage of her and coaxed her into signing away life insurance proceeds left by her deceased husband. The Defendant claimed that the money was a gift, as documented by numerous “gift letters.” The jury unanimously found in favor of our client and awarded punitive damages. Following the trial, the Defendant appealed to the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, claiming legal issues required the verdict to be set aside. The Defendant argued that its affirmative defense of “gift” barred our client’s claims. On December 15, 2017, the Fifth Circuit affirmed our client’s jury verdict, holding that the Defendant was required to prove the money was a “gift” by clear and convincing burden, and that the jury was in its discretion to find that the Defendant had not met its burden. The case is Julieta Alejandra Gomez Olvera v. Juan Mauricio Nelligan, No. 17-20077, In the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit (Dec. 15, 2017). The opinion can be found here.

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By Jan 30, 2018 Posted in Articles

  On January 26, 2018 and after a jury trial spanning three weeks, the Offshore Injury Lawyers of Morrow & Sheppard LLP won a unanimous $1.6 million verdict in federal court in Galveston, Texas for our client, who had slipped and fallen on an offshore platform in the Gulf of Mexico owned by Defendant Fieldwood Energy LLC (“Fieldwood”). Our client slipped and fell twice on oil and liquid that had been leaking for months while responding to an alarm in the middle of the night.  Our client sustained significant hip and back injuries as a result of the incident.  He has been unable to work since and needs additional back surgery.  Our client was a mechanic for third-party Waukesha-Pearce, a large construction and mechanical contractor with offices in at least 11 states.  He had worked for Waukesha-Pearce since 2008. Prior to the incident, our client had reported the leaks to platform owner Fieldwood. Although our client was an independent contractor and although he controlled the details of his work, Fieldwood had to approve any platform shutdowns.  Repairing the leaks would require the platform to be shut down, and would require the replacement of expensive parts, which would cut into Fieldwood’s profits.  Fieldwood would not authorize those measures despite the persistence of dangerous leaks. In its defense, Fieldwood claimed that our client (a) had not fallen and had fabricated the entire incident, (b) did not report that he had fallen, (c) had pre-existing back injuries and no new injuries from any […]

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When Is a Vessel Unseaworthy?

By Dec 29, 2017 Posted in Jones Act

If a loved one died at work aboard an offshore vessel in Texas, a few maritime laws may affect your wrongful death claim. Unlike land-based workers, fatally injured workers at sea do not qualify for workers’ compensation under state or federal laws. Instead, surviving family members must seek compensation through the Jones Act and maritime laws. Recovery often depends on proving negligence so retaining the services of an experienced Houston Jones Act lawyer is crucial. In the event that an investigation shows an unseaworthy vessel, surviving family may be able to recover damages from the owner of the vessel for negligence. An “unseaworthy” vessel is one that does not provide seamen with a safe and suitable environment to perform his/her work. A vessel is seaworthy if its “hull, equipment, and crew are reasonably adequate” in terms of vessel design and maintenance. An unseaworthy vessel may still be able to sail and navigate. It doesn’t have to be at risk of sinking to be unseaworthy. Under maritime law, unseaworthy simply means the vessel does not provide seamen with a safe place to work. Any health or safety hazards onboard can make a vessel unseaworthy in terms of workers. To win a wrongful death claim on the grounds of an unseaworthy vessel, the plaintiff would have to prove that some condition of the vessel or its equipment or crew was not in reasonable condition to serve its intended purpose. The plaintiff would then have to show causation between the unseaworthiness of the […]

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Washington State Train Derailment

By Dec 18, 2017 Posted in Uncategorized

LAST UPDATED: December 19, 2017 Emergency crews responded today to a train derailment on Interstate 5 near Dupont, Washington that has resulted in multiple deaths.  The train was carrying seventy-seven passengers and seven crew members.  Additionally, five cars and two semi-trucks were involved in the derailment.  Three people have died as a result of the derailment and nearly one-hundred passengers have been injured. Thirteen freight train cars have derailed.  This is reported as the first day the Amtrak 501’s were running between Seattle and Portland.  The train was running on line used for military transport and occasional freight.   The cause of the derailment is under investigation, but questions about the train’s speed have been raised and it has been reported that the train was travelling at 80 miles per hour in a 30 mile per hour zone. The main causes of a derailment are failed safety measures, like “Positive Train Control,” which automatically slows down and eventually stops runaway trains, broken or misaligned rails, excessive speed, obstructions on tracks, and excessive speed. If you have been injured by the railroad or while working for the railroad, please contact the experienced train accident and FELA attorneys at Morrow & Sheppard LLP.  Call us at 1-800-489-2216 for a free and confidential case evaluation.

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Punitive Damages Available In Martime Injury Cases, Louisiana Supreme Court Holds

By Nov 14, 2017 Posted in Maritime Injuries

On October 18, 2017, the Louisiana Supreme Court held punitive damages are recoverable in personal injury cases brought under general maritime law. Below, our Jones Act attorneys review the Louisiana Supreme Court’s opinion in Warren v. Shelter Mutual Insurance Co. The Case In 2005, Derek Hebert was killed when he was ejected from a 1998 Champion boat.  At the time, the vessel was operating in the navigable channels of the Calcasieu River in Louisiana. The incident occurred when the vessel’s hydraulic steering system failed.  This caused the boat to turn violently on its axis, kicking to the side.  In the maritime world, this phenomenon is referred to as a “J-hook” or “kill spin.” In this case, the J-hook ejected five passengers.  One of them, Mr. Hebert, was struck 19 times by the vessel’s propeller.  As a result of the incident, Mr. Hebert suffered severe trauma, sunk to the bottom of the lake, and died. The Claim Mr. Hebert’s father and mother brought wrongful death claims against the steering system’s manufacturer, Teleflex.  The mother ultimately settled her claims. After several years of litigation, in 2014, the claims brought by Mr. Hebert’s father were tried to a jury. Mr. Hebert’s father alleged Teleflex failed to warn of inherent dangers in the product, namely that even a very small amount of hydraulic fluid loss could lead to J-hook, ejection, and death. The evidence showed that 3.2 teaspoons of hydraulic fluid could make the difference between normal operation of the Teleflex system, and catastrophe.  The evidence also revealed […]

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Top 6 Most Dangerous Jobs in the U.S.

By Nov 13, 2017 Posted in Articles

  There were 4,836 fatal work injuries in the United States in 2015.  Here are the 6 most dangerous jobs in the United States, according to government data: Structural iron and steel workers (30 deaths per 100,000) Refuse and recyclable material collectors (39 deaths per 100,000) Roofers (40 deaths per 100,000) Aircraft pilots and flight engineers (40 deaths per 100,000) Fishers and fishing workers (55 deaths per 100,000) Logging workers (132 deaths per 100,000) Structural and Steel Workers Iron and steel workers play an important role—they are responsible for erecting those towering buildings that so many people live and work.  Injuries can be prevented when workers use the proper safety equipment, such as goggles, steel-toed boots, hardhats, fall arrest systems, and the like.  However, Structural and steel workers work in a dangerous field and use dangerous equipment that can cause injury and death.  Common life-threatening injuries include: Falls from structures Lacerations and cuts Burns Refuse and Recyclable Material Collectors Sanitation workers are exposed to a variety of hazards on the job—the machinery they operate, other motorists, and the negligence of coworkers.  The following are some of the most common accidents that result in injury to refuse and recyclable material collectors: Being struck by a backing truck Being struck by a negligent, inattentive, reckless driver Being struck by garbage or debris launched by the compactor Equipment malfunction Inadequately trained employees Roofers Like the other professions listed here, roofers safety is often overlooked by employers and the precautions that could prevent an […]

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America’s Deep Fried Turkey Accidents

By Nov 9, 2017 Posted in Products Liability

We are approaching Thanksgiving—a time where families gather around large tables, overindulge on turkey and take a nap.  There are more cooking fires on Thanksgiving Day than any other day of the year.  According by a story published by The Atlantic more than a third of the fires start in a garage or patio.  Each year, fire departments respond to more than 1,000 fires related to deep fryers.  Those fires cause serious burn injuries and more than $15 million in property damage. Many Cooking Fires are Caused by Deep Fryers How is it that many cooking fires are caused by deep fryers?  If you’re asking that question, you must have not had one of the tastiest Thanksgiving delicacies.  Some of you purists out there will spend hours roasting and basting that fowl until its skin reaches a beautiful golden brown color.  However, others of you will thaw that bird and drop it into gallons of piping hot oil in a deep fryer.  The deep fried turkey is a delicious way to cook a turkey.  However, it can be risky—there are numerous hazards that come along with cooking a turkey in a deep fryer.  Truly, even the National Fire Protection Agency (NFPA) has warned against the practice of deep frying turkeys. Avoiding Deep Fryer Injuries Per Fox News, every year, deep fryer fires are responsible for five deaths, 60 injuries, and the destruction of 900 homes.  However, if you choose to deep fry your turkey this Thanksgiving, there are a few […]

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$7M settlement awarded to local family after WestWind, CenterPoint found negligent in exploding home

By Nov 3, 2017 Posted in Articles

  Jurors have awarded a local couple millions of dollars after they found that an energy company and a home builder were negligent when they failed to plug and seal a gas valve. Fernando Ramirez and his wife, Minerva Ramirez, were injured in 2015 when a gas leak in their home caused an explosion. They later filed a lawsuit in the 406th District Court against CenterPoint Energy, WestWind Homes and the plumber who installed the valve. On Tuesday, after six days of trial, the jurors found each defendant negligent. Jurors ordered that the couple receive $7 million in compensation. “Because of the defendants’ wrongful conduct, acts and omissions, on Feb. 17, 2015, the home located in the 200 block of Michoacan Loop … exploded and severely injured … Fernando and Minerva Ramirez,” the lawsuit states. The defendants denied the allegations against them. [WestWind’s attorney] said the case will be appealed as his party believes several errors were made in the verdict. Oubre said this is the first case of its kind that WestWind has dealt with. “WestWind has been part of the community for 24 years,” [WestWind’s attorney] said. “They do the best to make sure that homes are safe and we’ve taken steps to make sure that homes are safe. We feel sorry for the family and wish there had been different results.” [CenterPoint Energy’s attorney] was not unavailable for comment Friday. According to Nicholas Morrow, the plaintiffs’ attorney, a gas valve in the home was inadvertently opened, “causing […]

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Media Continues Coverage Of M&S $6.9M Trial Victory Due To Public Safety Issues

By Nov 1, 2017 Posted in Firm News

South TX Jury Slaps $6.9M on CenterPoint, Westwind in Gas Leak Case © 2017 The Texas Lawbook. By Natalie Posgate (Nov. 1) – A Laredo jury last Wednesday awarded nearly $7 million to a local elderly man and his family for a 2015 house gas explosion that left him with severe, lifelong injuries and put him out of work forever as a mechanic. Jurors determined after a two-week trial that Houston-based CenterPoint Energy, the natural gas provider, and Laredo-based Westwind Homes, the homebuilder, were responsible for the accident after failing multiple times to cap and seal a gas valve in the house. The incident occurred in February 2015, when Fernando Ramirez was repairing an electric dryer in the utility room of his daughter and son-in-law’s house. Ramirez and his wife, Minerva, were at the house babysitting their granddaughter while their daughter and son-in-law were out of town. They had asked Mr. Ramirez to take a look at the dryer while he was there. The gas valve was located directly behind the dryer, and gas began to leak after Ramirez, who “didn’t even know the valve was there,” inadvertently knocked it open while attempting to repair the dryer, said John Sheppard, who represented the family at trial. “There was a huge explosion that the neighbors described sounded like a sonic boom,” said Sheppard, founding partner of Morrow & Sheppard in Houston. “It moved the house off its foundation and had to be totally rebuilt.” Many of Ramirez’s injuries, on the other hand, cannot be reversed. Sheppard says […]

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Litigator of the Week: Houston Lawyer Wins $7 Million in Home Gas Explosion Case

By Oct 30, 2017 Posted in Uncategorized

  Houston attorney Nick Morrow recently convinced a South Texas jury that both a homebuilder and a utility company were negligent for their part in failing to seal a gas utility valve that eventually caused a Laredo home to explode, injuring his clients. But in winning $7 million in damages from the Laredo jury, Morrow also had them convinced that the problems that caused the explosion in his clients’ case might not be an isolated event. “This is a case that everyone can relate to because a lot of people have these valves in their house,’’ said Morrow, a partner in Houston’s Morrow & Sheppard, of the Oct. 25 verdict in Ramirez v. Westwind Development. “We made a big deal, and rightly so, that this is a big public safety issue.’’ Morrow’s clients, Fernando and Minerva Ramirez, sued Westwind Development and Centerpoint Energy alleging the builder and the gas utility failed to seal a gas valve in the utility closet of their daughter-in-law’s home. In their petition, the couple alleged the explosion happened in 2015 when Fernando moved an electric power cord for an electric dryer in the room. Fernando Ramirez alleged he was knocked over by the explosion and suffered second and third degree burns to his face and arms and that he and his wife both suffered emotion trauma and post-traumatic stress from the incident. At trial, both Westwind and Centerpoint denied negligence and alleged that the plaintiffs were partly responsible for the explosion because the failed to pay attention to the smell and sound of leaking […]

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