Cases Reported by Verdict Search

17-year-old was fatally shot at after-hours BYOB night club

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12th Largest settlement in Texas as reported by Verdict Search in 2014

Settlement: $1,000,000

Case: Martin Blea, Sr., and Angelita Blea, individually and in their capacity as all of the heirs at law of Martin Blea, Jr. v. TI Club, LLC, JGC Management, LLC, and Bryan Scott Foster, No. DC-12-15045

Court: Dallas County District Court, 95th, TX

Judge: Ken Molberg

Date: 6/10/2014

Plaintiff Attorney(s): Guy I. Wade, III (lead), Derryberry Zips Wade Lawhorn, P.L.L.C., Waxahachie, TX; Daryl L. Derryberry, Derryberry Zips Wade Lawhorn, P.L.L.C., Tyler, TX

Defense Attorney(s): John Howell House (lead), Burt Barr & Associates, LLP, Dallas, TX; John Holman Barr, Burt Barr & Associates, LLP, Dallas, TX

Facts & Allegations: On May 21, 2011, plaintiffs’ decedent Martin Blea Jr., 17, his sister, age 32, and their brother, age 35, were invitees on the premises of The Pussycat Lounge, an after-hours BYOB nightclub at 101 Solo Road in Odessa. At about 3 a.m., Martin’s sister was walking from the ladies’ room toward her brothers, when an unidentified man grabbed ¬∑her in a sexually provocative manner. When she resisted, the man punched her in the fac¬∑e, knocking her down, and proceeded to assault her on the ground. Martin saw her from the dance floor and came over to intervene, and a fight ensued. Another customer, Steve Uresti, pulled out a 9-millimeter handgun and fired several shots into the air. He then fired several more shots, one of which hit Martin in the face, fatally injuring him.

In November 2012, Uresti was convicted of manslaughter in connection with Martin’s death and was sentenced to 20 years in prison.

Before the assault on Martin’s sister, the man who assaulted her had been conversing with Uresti and other patrons.
The Blea family alleged that the owners and operators of The Pussycat Lounge were TI Club LLC, JGC Management LLC, and Bryan Scott Foster.

Blea’s parents sued TI Club, JGC and Foster for premises liability. They alleged that . the security at the club was inadequate and the club’s operators failed to enforce their policy of patting down patrons and using a hand-held metal detector wand to check for weapons as patrons entered.

The plaintiffs alleged that, on the date of the incident and for several years before, the defendants owned . and operated The Pussycat Lounge (or its predecessors on the same premises) and another club, Jaguars Gold Club, at 6824 Cargo Road, less than a mile away. According to the plaintiffs, the defendants knew or should have known of the risk that “persons in the immediate vicinity” who patronized these clubs might foreseeably injure other patrons.
The plaintiffs alleged that, in the three years before the incident, police officers and sheriff’s deputies had been called repeatedly and often to 101 Solo Road and 6824 Cargo Road to investigate violent criminal conduct, including armed robbery, deadly conduct, gunfire, aggravated assault with a deadly weapon and sexual assault.

The defendants denied that they were in control of the premises. They maintained that the premises had been orally leased to someone else, an individual, who ran the club and was responsible for security.

The defendants also denied that the operators’ negligence, if any, was a proximate cause of Martin’s death. They argued that the shooting was gang-related, and they pointed to the shooting as either the sole proximate cause or a superseding cause of Martin’s injury and death.

The defendants further argued that Martin was contributorily negligent and that no responsible 17-year­old would have been at a club at 3 a.m. where people drink alcohol and where violent gang members were known to congregate.

In addition, the defense contended that the club’s security policies were followed and that, no matter what precautions are ¬≠taken, some people will find a way to get around them. “Guns don’t kill people. People kill people” was a theme of the defense.

Injuries/Damages: death; face; gunshot wound

Martin was shot below the eye with a 9-millimeter handgun. He fell to the floor and struggled to breathe until an ambulance arrived. The ambulance arrived and transported him to the hospital, where he was pronounced dead.

The paid or incurred funeral and burial expenses were $11,423.06, and the paid or incurred medical bills were $1,193.50.

The estate also claimed conscious pain and suffering for the time between the shooting and when he was pronounced dead.

Martin’s parents sought damages for past and future loss of Martin’s affection, solace, comfort, companionship, society, assistance, emotional support, and love; past and future mental anguish, grief, and sorrow; and past and future loss of the pecuniary value of Martin’s services. He was their youngest child.

Martin was a week away from graduating a year early from high school and had recently purchased a mobile car wash business from his brother. He had also taken college classes in welding. His father said he and Martin enjoyed many outdoor activities together and that Martin was a big help around the house.

Result: The case settled for the policy limit of $1 million.

Insurer(s): Scottsdale Insurance Co. for all defendants

Plaintiff Expert(s): Karim H. Vellani, security premises liability, Sugar Land, TX

Defense Expert(s): Robert L. Jackson, Jr., security/premises liability, DeSoto, TX; Robert D. Johnson, Ph.D., toxicology, Haslet, TX; Billy Koontz, gangs, Lubbock, TX

Editor’s Note: This report is based on information that was provided by plaintiff’s counsel. Defense counsel did not respond to the reporter’s phone calls.

Oilfield Accident – Workplace Safety

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The jury verdict in this case was the 6th largest verdict in Texas for a workplace safety case in 2009 as reported by Verdict Search

We obtained a significant jury verdict after a 6 day trial for the 9 year old son of an oilfield worker who was killed. Additionally, we negotiated an additional substantial settlement with the deceased’s employer based on claims of gross negligence.

We were hired to represent the boy long after the case had been filed. At the time we began representing the boy, the total offer from both Defendants (which were the deceased’s employer and the drilling operator) to resolve the boy’s claims was a little over 10% of the gross amounts ultimately received on the verdict and in settlement.

Defendant truck driver had several prior moving violations

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Settlement: $1,000,000

Case: Stacy Lee Scott and Myka Scott v. Watergator, Inc., and Brittany Nicole Robinett, No. 14-0681-CV

Court: Harrison County District Court, 71st, TX

Judge: Brad Morin

Date: 10/20/2015

Plaintiff Attorney(s): Daryl L. Derryberry {lead), Derryberry Zips Wade Lawhorn, P.L.L.C., Tyler, TX; Tab E. Lawhorn, Derryberry Zips Wade Lawhorn, P.L.L.C., Tyler, TX

Defense Attorney(s): Ronald W. Johnson (co-lead), Touchstone, Bernays, Johnston, Beall, Smith & Stollenwerck, Dallas, TX
(Brittany Nicole Robinett); Marc A. Sheiness (co-lead), Sheiness, Glover & Grossman LLP, Houston, TX
(Watergator Inc.); Will Conine, Touchstone, Bernays, Johnston, Beall, Smith & Stollenwerck, Dallas, TX (Brittany Nicole Robinett); Kamy M. Schiffman, Sheiness, Glover & Grossman LLP, Houston, TX (Watergator Inc.)

Facts & Allegations: On July 2, 2014, plaintiff Stacy Lee Scott, 46, a truck driver, was operating a 10-wheeler commercial truck on Interstate 20 West in Harrison County. Brittany Nicole Robinett was in a Ford F-350 pickup truck, hauling some drill pipe on a flatbed trailer. Robinett rear­ended Scott, whose in-cab video camera recorded the violent jarring of the impact. Scott claimed neck and back injuries.

The Robinett truck and trailer were owned by or leased to Watergator Inc.

Scott sued Robinett for negligently failing to keep a proper lookout, driving too fast and following too closely. He sued Watergator Inc. under respondeat superior and for negligently violating its policies by failing to conduct a post-accident drug test of Robinett; by failing to investigate the wreck; and by providing Robinett a company truck even though she had five prior convictions for moving violations. Scott claimed that Watergator’s policies prohibited giving a company vehicle to anyone convicted of more than three moving violations.

Scott also alleged that Robinett was using her cell phone constantly for 44 minutes before the accident and at the time of the accident. During that period, her cell phone records showed 194 calls or text messages to or from a single number.
Robinett testified that she accepted responsibility for failing to control her speed and rear-ending Scott. However, she denied using her cell phone in any manner at the time of the wreck. Plaintiff’s counsel argued that the cell phone records showed unequivocally that Robinett was using her cell phone at the time of the accident, but Robinett’s counsel argued that the cell phone records were inaccurate.

Robinett’s counsel also noted that two of Robinett’s prior moving-violation convictions were for a child not wearing a seat belt, which counsel argued did not reflect on Robinett’s driving skills.

Watergator’s counsel noted that Scott violated his company’s rules by not undergoing a drug test after the accident.

Injuries/Damages: back and neck; epidural injections; fusion, lumbar; herniated disc at C3-4; herniated disc at C4-5; herniated disc at L3-4; herniated disc at L4-5; lower back; pins/rods/screws; steroid injection

Scott claimed herniated discs and facet tears at C3-4, C4-5, L3-4 and L4-5, as well as post-traumatic stress disorder.

The accident was in the afternoon, and he sought treatment the next morning. He initially treated through workers’ compensation, but he felt that he was not receiving adequate care, and he switched to other doctors, including a neurosurgeon. He tried physical therapy, but found it too painful. He underwent lumbar epidural steroid injections and, in April 2015, a discogram.

On June 19, 2015, he underwent a posterolateral fusion at L3-4 and L4-5 with placement of pedicle screws on the left and harvesting of autologous bone from the iliac crest. The neurosurgeon opined that Scott’s neck and back injuries were caused by the accident and that he would need an anterior cervical microdiscectomy and arthroplasty at C3-4 and C4-5. He further opined that Scott would develop adjacent segment disease in both the lumbar and, after the neck surgery, the cervical spine, and that he would therefore require a second lumbar procedure and a second cervical procedure, at either the level above or the level below. Each of the three future surgeries would cost about $100,000, he testified.

Scott also claimed that he developed PTSD, as a result of risking his life trying to extricate Robinett from her vehicle, which had burst into flames after the impact. Robinett ultimately was able to extricate herself, and Scott helped her move away from the burning vehicle.

Scott claimed that, because of PTSD, he would be unable to drive a commercial truck for a living for at least several years, even if he fully recovered from his neck and back injuries. He treated with a psychiatrist and a counselor for PTSD and claimed that he would continue to need such treatment.

Scott had been in one or two prior accidents, for which he treated with a chiropractor. He described them as minor accidents with minor injuries that resolved.

Scott’s paid or incurred medical bills were $161,925.47. He also sought $385,811.81 for future treatment, $1,004,266 for past and future lost earning capacity and lost household services; and unspecified damages for past and future physical pain and mental anguish, physical impairment and disfigurement.

The plaintiff’s wife sought damages for past and future loss of household services and consortium.

The defense medical billing expert opined that paid or incurred bills of the neurosurgeon and the surgical facility, including the bills for the surgery and injections, were significantly more than he would consider reasonable. These bills totaled a little less than $150,000.

Also, the defense noted that the treating neurosurgeon had a letter of protection from plaintiff’s counsel, and that Scott’s workers’ compensation doctor’s opinion was that the surgeries were not medically necessary.

Insurer(s): Stratford Insurance Co. for both defendants

Plaintiff Expert(s): Paula Bradley, LPC, LMFT, psychology/ counseling, Longview, TX (treater); Richard L. Fulbright, Ph.D., neuropsychology, Dallas, TX; Charles Gordon, M.D., neurosurgery, Tyler, TX (treater); Rodney Isom, Ph.D., vocational rehabilitation, Irving, TX; Catherin Ann Roberts, M.D., psychiatry, Dallas, TX (treater); John Swiger, Ph.D., economics, San Antonio, TX

Defense Expert(s): Marc Chapman, coding & billing (medical), Austin, TX

Editor’s Note: This report is based on information that was provided by plaintiffs’, Watergator’s and Robinett’s counsel.

Driver of 18-wheeler made left turn in front of plaintiff’s pickup

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Settlement: $550,000

Case: Lisa M. Brewer v. Downing Transportation, Inc., G&D Trucking, Inc. and Gerardo Sandoval, No. 14-1958-CV

Court: Guadalupe County District Court, 25th, TX

Judge: William D. Old, III

Date: 4/14/2015

Plaintiff Attorney(s): Daryl L. Derryberry, Derryberry Zips Wade Lawhorn, P.L.L.C., Tyler, TX

Defense Attorney(s): George C. “Bubba” Burns, Adami, Shuffield, Scheihing & Burns, San Antonio, TX

Facts & Allegations: On May 18, 2014, plaintiff Lisa M. Brewer, 52, an employee in accounts payable for an oilfield services company, was driving north on State Highway 80 in Luling. She was in a 2005 Chevrolet 1500 pickup. Gerardo Sandoval was southbound in a 2007 Freightliner 18-wheeler owned by Downing Transportation Inc. Sandoval suddenly and unexpectedly attempted a left turn in front of Brewer, and the vehicles collided. Sandoval was cited for failing to yield the right of way in connection with the wreck. Brewer was not issued any citations. Brewer claimed multiple injuries.

Sandoval’s employer was Downing or a related company, G&D Trucking Inc., or both, and he was driving the truck in the course and scope of his employment.

Brewer sued Sandoval for failure to yield the right of way and making an unsafe left turn. She sued Downing and G&D on a theory of respondeat superior.

The electronic control module download from Brewer’s vehicle showed that she was traveling at an appropriate speed at the time of the wreck.

A settlement conference was held, at which the defense did not contest liability.

Injuries/Damages: arm; back and neck; epidural injections; headaches; herniated disc at CS-6; herniated disc at C6-7; herniated disc at L4-5; herniated disc at LS-S1; lower back; physical therapy; shoulder; steroid injection

Brewer was taken by ambulance to an emergency room in Austin. She claimed herniated discs at CS-6, C6-7, L4-5 and L5-Sl, as well as headaches and shoulder and arm pain.

The plaintiff started physical therapy, but it was painful, and her pain management doctor told her to stop. She underwent a series of epidural steroid injections, followed by lumbar and cervical MR.Is. Her pain management doctor referred her for a surgical consultation with a neurosurgeon. The neurosurgeon, who testified for Brewer, recommended an anterior cervical discectomy and cage interbody fusion with allograft and anterior plating at CS-6 and C6-7.

She earned about $16.50 an hour at the time of the accident. She claimed that the pain prevented her from working full time. She eventually began working part time from home.

Brewer’s paid medical bills were $116,478.73. She also sought about $100,000 as the cost of the surgery recommended by her neurosurgeon. She also sought damages for past and future loss of earning capacity, loss of household services, physical pain and mental anguish1 disfigurement and physical impairment.

At the settlement conference, the defendants contended that Brewer was not likely to undergo the recommended surgery. They also argued that the claimed economic damages were exorbitant and not justified by the evidence that had been developed thus far.

Result: The parties settled for $550,000 at the settlement conference. The policy limit was $1 million.

On May 13, about a month after the settlement, Brewer’s treating neurosurgeon performed the surgery he recommended.

Insurer(s): Carolina Casualty Insurance Co. for all defendants

Plaintiff Expert(s): Karl Swann, M.D., neurosurgery, San Antonio, TX (treater); John Swiger, Ph.D., economics, San Antonio, TX

Defense Expert(s): None Reported

Editor’s Note: This report is based on information that was provided by plaintiff’s and defense counsel.

Vehicles collide while defendant was passing on right

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Settlement: $400,000

Case: Rhonda Butcher v. LCR-M Limited Partnership (a Delaware Limited Partnership} and Austin Gray, No. 87-11557

Court: Anderson County District Court, 87th, TX

Judge: Jerry Calhoun

Neutral(s): Mike Patterson

Date: 7/24/2013

Plaintiff Attorney(s): Daryl L. Derryberry, Derryberry Zips Wade Lawhorn PLLC, Tyler, TX

Defense Attorney(s): Margaret M. Knott, Knott & Doyle, Dallas, TX

Facts & Allegations: On Aug. 27, 2010, plaintiff Rhonda Butcher, 52, an inventory specialist, claimed that she was turning into her employer’s parking lot from a two-lane road in Tyler. Austin Gray, in a Ford F-350 pickup truck, attempted to pass her on the right, and they collided. Butcher was in a mid-size sedan. Gray was in the course and scope of his employment with LCR-M L.P. He received a ticket for passing unsafely on the right and did not contest the ticket.

Butcher sued Gray for passing unsafely on the right and sued LCR-M under respondeat superior. Butcher claimed that Gray actually entered the parking lot to pass her and that the impact occurred in the parking lot.

The defense contended that Butcher was stopped in the middle of the road without her turn signal on. Defense counsel argued that Gray did not enter the parking lot and that the accident occurred in the road.

Plaintiff’s counsel argued that Gray and the LCR-M corporate representative acknowledged on cross-examination. that Gray was negligent. Defense counsel argued that the witnesses made no such acknowledgment.

Injuries/Damages: fusion, lumbar; lower back; lumbar disc, damage (non-herniation}; physical therapy

Butcher went to the emergency room later that night and again the next morning. She claimed an internal disc disruption at L4-5. She tried physical therapy, but said it did not help. She underwent pain management with injections and then, on April 16, 2013, an anter’ior lumbar fusion and posterolateral lumbar fusion at L3-4 and L4-5. The treating neurosurgeon testified that Butcher would need an additional surgery in th? future, either above or below the level of the existing fusion.

The plaintiff’s paid medical bills were about $90,000. She also claimed past and future loss of household services, past and future loss of earning capacity, past and future disfigurement, past and future physical impairment, and past and future physical pain and mental anguish.

Butcher had b_een working full time and making $13 an hour. The Social Security Administration declared her completely disabled as a result of the wreck.

The defense contended that the impact was minor and that it could not have proximately caused Butcher’s internal disc disruption. Vehicle photos showed little to no damage.

The defense also contended that Butcher’s lower back problems were related to injuries sustained in a rollover accident around 1989. In that accident, she sustained compression fractures at L3 and L4, and the defense argued that this injury necessitated her surgery.

The defense further argued that Butcher’s lower back pain had existed since at least 2005 and that she was taking narcotic pain medication for eight months before the Gray wreck. The defense further argued that Butcher’s earnings history was insufficient to support her claim for future lost earning capacity. In addition, the defense disputed the need for any future surgery or other future treatment.

Also, the defense noted, Butcher’s workers’ compensation carrier determined that the plaintiff’s lower back injury was a pre-existing injury related to the 1989 rollover and not related to the Gray collision.

There were multiple layers of insurance coverage, with very high limits (exact amount unavailable).

Result: Case settled in mediation for $400,000 on July 24, 2013, about two months before the trial setting.

Insurer(s): Chubb for both defendants

Plaintiff Expert(s): Joe Gonzalez, M.D., life care planning, San Antonio, TX; Charles Gordon, M.D., neurosurgery,
Tyler, TX (treater); Carl E. Hansen, Ed.D., vocational rehabilitation, Austin, TX; Thomas Mayor, Ph.D., economics,
Houston, TX; John Smith, P.E., biomechanical

Defense Expert(s): David Gushue, Ph.D., biomechanical, Penns Park, PA; Marvin Van Hal, M.D., orthopedic surgery, Hurst, TX

Editor’s Note: This report is based on information that was provided by plaintiff’s counsel and defense counsel.