Texas Trial Lawyers Association

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  June 23, 2014

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Upcoming Online CLE


The Top 10 Rules of Jury Selection


Effective Use of Powerpoint Presentations in Trial


Da Vinci Robot Litigation


Private Outside Counsel for State Attorney Generals in Major Civil Litigation Cases


Preparation of Plaintiff's Expert Witnesses


Power Tips and Tricks for Using Your List Server


Litigating an Auto Case: From Investigation to Trial


Hip Settlements: Past, Present and Future




Texas Worker Safety Hotline Falters

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Texas employers are required to post notices about the “24-hour” toll-free hotline that employees can use to report unsafe working conditions. “The Safety Violations Hotline Program is a bilingual, 24-hour, toll-free telephone line for employees to report unsafe working conditions,” according to the website of the Division of Workers’ Compensation. At around midnight Thursday, a recorded message urged callers to call back during “regular business hours” and didn’t allow people to leave a message. On Friday, a spokesman for the division, John Greeley, said the calls were mistakenly forwarded to the agency switchboard. He said there was no way to tell how long workers have been unable to access the safety hotline after hours. Greeley said the agency wasn’t aware of the snafu until The Texas Tribune inquired about it. In an email sent a little after 5 p.m. Friday, Greeley said officials corrected the problem. Texas led the nation in worker fatalities in 2012, jumping more than 20 percent at a time when they fell in much of the nation.
Jay Root, Texas Tribune 06/23/2014   Facebook iconTwitter iconLinkedIn Icon

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American Bar Association Gives Lawyers Green Light To Scan Jurors' Social Media Sites

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The ABA says it's ethical for lawyers to scour online for publicly available musings of citizens called for jury service — and even jurors in deliberations. But the ABA does warn lawyers against actively "following" or "friending" jurors or otherwise invading their private Internet areas. Though judges now universally admonish jurors to refrain from discussing trials on social media, the ABA for the first time is addressing how deeply attorneys, their investigators and their consultants can probe for information that might signal leanings of potential jurors, or unearth juror misconduct during trials.
PAUL ELIAS, AP, The Huffington Post 06/23/2014   Facebook iconTwitter iconLinkedIn Icon

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Suing a Social Media Company May Be Harder Than You Think

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Plaintiffs are finding that going after the deep corporate pockets of Facebook Inc., Yelp Inc. or other social media companies because of the actions taken by their users is tough, maybe impossible, because of immunity granted by Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act. The law says that no provider of an "interactive computer service shall be treated as the publisher or speaker of any information provided by another information content provider." Cases have held that the law means social media companies cannot be held liable for content added by its members.
Blog, Bloomberg 06/23/2014   Facebook iconTwitter iconLinkedIn Icon

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Parents of Abused Special Needs Students File Suit

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Four parents of special needs children have filed a lawsuit against a Kentucky school district over the alleged abuse and neglect of their three children by a teacher. The lawsuit, filed June 12 in Marion Circuit Court, alleges that the children's teacher at Marion County High School subjected them to abuse including leaving them unattended, placing them in a dark room for hours, and verbally and physically abusing them. The lawsuit names as defendants the superintendent, special education teacher, current Marion High School principal, assistant principal, former special education director, and special education and pre-school director. The parents are seeking compensatory and punitive damages, and a trial by jury.
Jim Warren, Lexington Herald-Leader 06/21/2014   Facebook iconTwitter iconLinkedIn Icon

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Lawsuit Filed Suit Over Brain Damage Caused By Man's Beating

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A South Dakota man who was left bleeding on the floor of a house after a pub crawl in 2013 has filed a lawsuit over the incident in which he sustained permanent brain damage. The 24-year-old has filed suit against the man who punched him, the men who helped drag him into the house and the roommates who failed to call for help. According to authorities, the plaintiff wandered into the home of three South Dakota State University students while drunk and fell asleep in the entryway. After the students kicked him out of the house, the plaintiff started an altercation in which he was punched and hit his head on the concrete. Rather than calling the police, the students dragged the plaintiff back into the house and left him there. The lawsuit contends that the three students are liable for not calling the authorities.
Wire Report, Washington Times 06/23/2014   Facebook iconTwitter iconLinkedIn Icon

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Texas High Court Limits the Rights of Minority Shareholders

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The Texas Supreme Court issued a landmark decision Friday that limits the legal rights of minority investors in hundreds of privately owned Texas companies. The ruling could cause venture capitalists to think twice before investing in Texas-based business startups in technology, health care and energy companies, some legal experts predict. The court ruled 6-3 that minority shareholders in closely held Texas companies can no longer file suit to claim “fair market value” for their shares when managements take positions designed to dilute their interests. The justices also declared that majority shareholders aren’t required to meet with prospective purchasers of the minority’s stock to discuss future business strategies — even if the refusal means the minority will be unable to sell their interests or will be forced to sell at a drastically reduced price. The ruling, which stunned many in the corporate law community, overturns 25 years of legal precedents and is a major blow to legal protections that have long been afforded to minority shareholders.
Mark Curriden, Texas Lawbook, The Dallas Morning News 06/23/2014   Facebook iconTwitter iconLinkedIn Icon

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Wells Fargo Settles Commission Lawsuit

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Wells Fargo Bank has agreed to settle a lawsuit from mortgage brokers who allege they were shorted on commissions for writing loans for government-sponsored refinancing programs. The lawsuit, filed a year ago, was initiated by a former mortgage broker for Wells Fargo, who alleged she was not paid the commission she earned by working on the refinancing programs. The lawsuit was settled for $14.7 million and the payout will be split among 7,800 Wells Fargo mortgage brokers across the United States who wrote the refinancing loans between April 1, 2011, and Jan. 1, 2013.
Ilana Kowarski, Florida Today 06/23/2014   Facebook iconTwitter iconLinkedIn Icon

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U.S. Top Court Sets New Limit on Securities Class Actions

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The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday imposed new curbs on securities class action lawsuits filed by investors against publicly traded companies while declining to overturn a key precedent that favors plaintiffs in such cases. The court held on a 9-0 vote in a case brought by Halliburton Co that defendants can, at the preliminary class certification stage, rebut the plaintiffs' presumption of reliance on an efficient market if they can show that an alleged misrepresentation did not affect the stock price. Halliburton shareholders, led by the Erica P. John Fund Inc, sued the company in 2002, saying the company understated its asbestos liabilities while overstating revenues in its engineering and construction business and the benefits of its merger with Dresser Industries.
Lawrence Hurley, Reuters 06/23/2014   Facebook iconTwitter iconLinkedIn Icon

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Maker of GM Ignition Switches Stymies Investigation

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One of General Motors' most critical suppliers, Delphi Automotive, refused to cooperate with an investigation into the matter, the man who led the inquiry told Congress last week. The co. refused full access to its employees, former U.S. prosecutor Anton Valukas told a House subcommittee.
Nathan Bomey, Detroit Free Press , USA Today 06/23/2014   Facebook iconTwitter iconLinkedIn Icon

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General Motors Recall: A Burden of Proof

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When GM issued a recall for 1.3 million cars with power-steering systems that could conk out suddenly, it ended a defect case that got its start a decade ago. One reason why it took so long is that GM for years said a loss of power steering doesn't pose a serious safety risk. That meant government regulators had to prove that it did—a process that for 2004-2007 Saturn Ions took 10 years. GM's power-steering recall is an example of what happens when car makers resist regulators' recall efforts. In such instances, NHTSA officials and outside safety experts say, the agency faces obstacles to fast action that have roots in another GM recall three decades ago. In the 1970s, car companies challenged safety recalls six times in court, and NHTSA won them all. Then, in the early '80s, the agency ordered GM to recall its then-new generation of front-wheel drive cars, after receiving hundreds of complaints about rear brakes locking up. GM sued and won. The result was that customer complaints, even thousands of them, no longer constituted proof that a defect existed.
Neal E. Boudette and Andrea Fuller , Wall Street Journal - $$ Subscription Required 06/23/2014   Facebook iconTwitter iconLinkedIn Icon

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Honda, Nissan, Mazda Expand Takata Airbag Recall


Honda, Mazda and Nissan combined are recalling another almost three million vehicles worldwide as the recalls continue to spread over Takata airbag inflators that can explode and send metal bits flying. The bags were made in the early 2000s and it is now believed that the propellant was degraded by improper storage and exposure to moisture. The company says it also now is investigating whether vehicles in high humidity areas might had additional risk. A major factor in the size and expansion of the recalls has been bad recordkeeping by Takata that has made it difficult to identify the vehicles that might have the suspect inflators.
Fred Meier, USA Today  06/23/2014  Facebook iconTwitter iconLinkedIn icon

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How Safe is Your Hospital? Chance of Serious Complications Varies Widely


The DMN analyzed nearly 6 million records from the two most recent full years of data available from 320 short-term, acute-care hospitals in Texas. Hospitals provide patient information annually to the Texas Department of State Health Services, which makes it public upon request. The records include details such as diagnoses and types of treatment for each patient, drawn from the hospitals’ administrative, or billing, records. Using methodology and software developed by the federal government, the paper examined patient outcomes across a series of complications that medical researchers have deemed preventable. It calculated the performance of the top 100 hospitals — those with the highest volume of patients — on each of those measures, known as Patient Safety Indicators.
By DANIEL LATHROP, The Dallas Morning News  06/23/2014  Facebook iconTwitter iconLinkedIn icon

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An Employee Dies, and the Company Collects the Insurance

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A common but little-known practice in corporate America: Companies are taking out life insurance policies on their employees, and collecting the benefits when they die. Because so-called company-owned life insurance offers employers generous tax breaks, the market is enormous; hundreds of corporations have taken out policies on thousands of employees. Critics say it is immoral for companies to profit from the death of employees, while employees themselves do not directly benefit. And despite a law enacted in 2006 that sought to curb the practice — companies now are restricted to insuring only the highest-paid 35 percent of employees, who must give their consent — it remains a growing, opaque and legal source of corporate profit.
DAVID GELLES , The New York Times 06/23/2014   Facebook iconTwitter iconLinkedIn Icon

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