Fee, Smith, Sharp & Vitullo LLP is proud to announce that senior partner Tom Fee has recently been voted one of D Magazine's 2013 Best Lawyers in Dallas in the areas of Tort and Products Liability law. Tom represents companies and individuals in high-exposure and high-profile disputes in federal and state courts throughout Texas and the U.S. He has been lead trial counsel for clients in personal injury torts involving catastrophic injury or death, professional liability, and commercial business litigation disputes. Mr. Fee is board certified in personal injury trial law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization, is recognized by Martindale-Hubbell as an AV Preeminent®-rated attorney, and was selected as a Super Lawyer from 2005 through 2012. He is also a member of the American Board of Trial Advocates.
FSSV congratulates Partners Mike Sharp and Clint Cox, of the firm's Dallas office, for winning a trucking defense verdict in Dallas' 44th Civil District Court. Plaintiffs Robert and Rebecca Fuller sought over $9MM in past/future damages against Defendants Genuine Parts Company (NAPA Auto Parts) and their driver Carmen Mooreman. Plaintiffs argued the Defendants were grossly negligent in the operation of an 18-wheeler that struck Plaintiff Rebecca Fuller in February 2008, causing catastrophic brain and bodily injury. Plaintiffs presented testimony as to liability and damages, through five experts, seeking a life care plan in excess of $2.4MM. With only one dissenting juror, the verdict placed 100% of the negligence on Plaintiff Rebecca Fuller, thereby denying the Plaintiffs any recovery.
Recent Appellate Decision on the Stowers Duty Protects the Insurer
Fee, Smith, Sharp & Vitullo, L.L.P. congratulates partners Rebecca Bell and Tom Fee for the result in McDonald v. Home State County Mutual, Paragon, et. al., an appeal involving an alleged Stowers demand. In the underlying suit, McDonald's attorney sent Paragon a settlement demand letter stating that full and final settlement of McDonald's claims could be made in exchange for payment to McDonald of the total amount of liability insurance available, and gave a deadline of seven working days for receipt of payment in counsel's office. The demand letter made no reference to a recorded hospital lien, and by its terms stated that any negotiation other than the scope of the correspondence would be considered a rejection of the offer. Although Paragon attempted to reach counsel to discuss the demand, the call was not returned. Suit was filed against the insured and resulted in over $1.3 million in damages awarded. McDonald obtained an order turning over the insured's right to sue his insurers for failure to settle with McDonald, including any Stowers claim, and sued Paragon and Home State for bad faith.
Competing motions for summary judgment were filed by all parties. McDonald argued that the insurers did not act as a reasonably prudent insurer when faced with clear liability and damages well in excess of policy limits. Rebecca Bell argued on behalf of all of the insurers, asserting that the demand letter failed to trigger the Stowers duty or any statutory duty due to the short fuse of the demand letter, the absence of an independent duty by an insurer to verify the enforceability of a hospital lien, and reaffirming the need to explicitly address a hospital lien in a demand letter in order to trigger bad faith claims. The First District Court of Appeals affirmed the summary judgments in favor of the insurers.
< Please click here to read a full copy of the Opinion.
Senior partner, Tom Fee, discusses commercial injury matters with John Criswell, during the Texas Business Update on KLIF 570 AM.
< Click here to listen.
Seven Deadly Sins To Avoid In Collective Bargaining; an article prepared by Partner, Darrell G-M Noga and Associate, Robert M. Rosen.
< Click here to download article.
Defense Verdict in Serious Brain Injury Case
In Murphree, et. al v. Site Concrete, et. al, the final live pleading of the lawsuit asserts that the Site Concrete Defendants, as the general contractor, was responsible for a duty to exercise ordinary care in the operation and maintenance to the construction zone (Highway 380 Widening Project) in question. Plaintiffs generally alleged the duties to provide for the safe passage of traffic, the safe ingress and egress of traffic, proper implementation of reasonable and appropriate traffic control devices, and timely completion of the project were violated by these Defendants. The pleadings asserted that at the time of the collision, Site Concrete breached these duties by failing to be in compliance with contract documents regarding the timing of phases relating to the underlying construction contract as well as compliance with the relevant traffic control plan. The scope of these allegations generally allege that the combined course of action and non-compliance led to the existence of an uncontrolled intersection at Highway 380 and County Road 1110 on August 17, 2007, with no barricades, no STOP signs, and what was alleged to be improper traffic control devices.
Plaintiffs also alleged that Betty Monroe breached her duty to exercise ordinary care in the operation of her vehicle on public roadways, including but not limited to the duty to keep proper lookout; the allegations against Monroe, however, were extremely brief. Plaintiffs' pleadings made no mention of her breach of duty in complying with traffic control warning signage, road closure signage, rate of speed, or high level of intoxication at the time of the collision. It was determined after the accident that Betty Monroe had a 0.36 blood alcohol content at the time of the blood draw. Despite these facts, the Plaintiffs' focus was instead upon Site Concrete as the prime contractor, and Austin Bridge & Road, L.P., one of the subcontractors that had worked on the Highway 380 project.
Plaintiffs' asserted that the Austin Bridge Defendants had a duty to exercise ordinary care with respect to the responsibilities retained and undertaken pursuant to its role as a sub-contractor for the project in question. Plaintiffs' asserted that under the terms of its contract with Defendant Site Concrete, Austin retained responsibility to ensure that traffic control devices in place complied with the traffic control plan during the performance of its work, and indeed continuing after completing its work. It is undisputed that Defendant Austin performed certain work at or near the intersection of County Road 1110 and U.S. Highway 380 prior to August 17, 2007. Plaintiffs therefore alleged that Austin held a continuing duty to ensure traffic control devices in place at the conclusion of its work complied with the traffic control plan. Plaintiffs generally allege that Austin breached a duty to the traveling public in not ensuring traffic control devices were in place that were reasonable, proper and in compliance with the traffic control plan. Plaintiffs further asserted that Austin was negligent in not ensuring the safety of the traveling public by placing or otherwise requiring a continuing traffic control plan after the conclusion of its work. To the extent necessary, Plaintiffs invoked the Doctrine of Voluntary Undertaking as set forth in the Restatement (Second) of Torts ¤ 323. Plaintiffs further alleged that Austin "contractually retained responsibility for ensuring that traffic control devices complied with the traffic control plan and/or the MUTCD." Plaintiffs further alleged that Defendant Site Concrete and Defendant Austin Bridge should be held jointly liable under the doctrine of joint enterprise.
The Texas Department of Transportation was originally added as a Responsible Third Party pursuant to Motions for Leave filed by both Site Concrete and Austin Bridge. Plaintiffs then filed suit directly against the governmental agency. However, after multiple dispositive motions filed by TxDOT, the Plaintiffs dismissed the claims against TxDOT with prejudice, and requested that the Court grant summary judgment as to the responsible third party claims asserted by the Defendants. The Court denied Plaintiffs' request.
Plaintiffs alleged that a collective result of the occurrence in question is that Jackie Murphree sustained severe, permanent and disabling injuries, inclusive of a severe brain injury that would result in extensive care for the remainder of her life. The final pleadings upon which the case went to trial included a specific pleading for approximately $66,000,000.00 from the fact-finder at the time of trial. According to the expert testimony prior to and at the time of trial, the life care plan alone totaled in excess of $12,000,000.00.
The defense of Austin Bridge & Road, L.P. was the cooperative effort of trial counsel Thomas Fee (Fee, Smith, Sharp & Vitullo, L.L.P.) and Ed Wright (Stradley & Wright), and appellate counsel, Rebecca Bell (Fee, Smith, Sharp & Vitullo, L.L.P.). After a two-week trial, the jury brought back a verdict in favor of the Plaintiff in an amount that totaled approximately $23,500,000.00. The jury determined that Defendant Monroe was 70% responsible for the accident. The jury also determined that Site Concrete and the Texas Department of Transportation each held 15% liability. The jury found in favor of Austin Bridge & Road, answering "NO" to the initial liability question as to its alleged negligence.
For media coverage of the accident and trial, feel free to visit the following additional links/websites:
Murphree civil trial begins
Jury awards $23.5 million to Murphree
Jury: TxDOT and contractor also share blame for DWI tragedy
The attorneys you chose to represent me did an excellent job. I don't know if this was a hard case or an easy case since this was the only time I have been involved in this type of action. Easy or hard Mr. Fee and Mr. Garner met the challenge with what appeared to be very little effort. Read more.
FSSV wish to congratulate Brian D. Garner, Rebecca Bell and Scott W. Self of their selection as Texas Rising Stars by Texas Monthly Magazine. Rising Stars names the state's top up-and-coming attorneys. Rising Stars is published in 48 states and reaches more than 10 million readers annually.
Tom Fee has been selected in Texas Super Lawyers magazine from 2005-2009
FSSV wish to congratulate Thomas W. Fee and Steve Springer of their selection as Texas Super Lawyers by Texas Monthly Magazine. Super Lawyers identifies the top 5 percent of attorneys in each state, as chosen by their peers and through the independent research of Law & Politics. Tom Fee is Board Certified in Personal Injury Trial Law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization.
Head of the Class
A Letter of Appreciation
Mr. Self,It was a pleasure to have you come and share about the judicial system and your profession with my class. It was obvious that you care a great deal for children based on your demeanor with the students. My students were able to verbalize lots of the things that they had learned about the legal system and the field of law from your visit. It is my hope that your visit helped to spark a fire in my students to dream big and to work towards their goals.
Thanks for caring about the students in DallasISD and for putting that caring concern into action.
6th Grade Social Studies
E.H.Cary Middle School
FSSV wish to congratulate Clinton V. Cox, IV, Scott W. Self, Brian D. Garner and Rebecca Bell of their selection as Texas Rising Stars by Texas Monthly Magazine. Rising Stars names the state's top up-and-coming attorneys. Rising Stars is published in 48 states and reaches more than 10 million readers annually.
Super Lawyers and Rising Stars
FSSV wish to congratulate Thomas W. Fee and Michael P. Sharp of their selection as Texas Super Lawyers by Texas Monthly Magazine And Scott W. Self, Brian D. Garner and Clinton V. Cox, IV of their selection as Texas Rising Stars by Texas Monthly Magazine Super Lawyers identifies the top 5 percent of attorneys in each state, as chosen by their peers and through the independent research of Law & Politics. Rising Stars names the state's top up-and-coming attorneys. Super Lawyers is published in 48 states and reaches more than 10 million readers annually.