Board of directors member Y.I. Gnough, who is also president of Algae Company, is in a pickle. Although denying any knowledge of sexual harassment and misconduct by the company founder and deal-maker Iam Algae, three co-board members resigned fearing for their reputational and financial survival. Employees are fueling the rumors of women who complained of unwanted touching, sexual harassment and other over-the-line behavior. Even Algae’s former counsel discloses that several years ago the board and the company were told of three or four confidential settlements with women. Company investors suggest that Y.I. and fellow officers and directors breached their fiduciary duty. Should Y.I. be concerned about his pocketbook and his reputation?

Continue Reading Am I My Director’s Keeper?

Co-authors: JP Vogel and Tim Fandrey

Bill Deron bought a 100-acre tract next to a creek outside the City of Houston.  Deron planned to build a subdivision where some of the homes abut a creek.  The other homes would sit about 15 feet higher than the creekside homes.  Deron disclosed to the creekside buyers that they needed flood insurance.  But he did not tell any other home buyers to purchase flood insurance.  Hurricane Harvey dumped so much rain on the neighborhood that all of the homes in Deron’s neighborhood flooded.  Homeowners soon learned that the entire neighborhood sat in a floodplain.  Did Deron have a duty to disclose whether the development or any part thereof is in a floodplain or even do something more? What about the government entity who approves the development? Continue Reading Washed Away: What Rights Do You Have When Your Home is Flooded?

Vlad “Dracula” Smith was looking for some new digs big enough to accommodate his growing family. While searching the MLS listings, Dracula stumbled across a castle belonging to Victor “Frankenstein” Jones.  Little did Dracula know, but the castle was widely reported to be haunted.  “Frankenstein” had even made the front page of the local paper when he reported the haunting to the local paper and Reader’s Digest last Halloween.  However, in negotiations for the sale of his castle, Frankenstein, and his broker, failed to tell Dracula about the newspaper and magazine articles.  When Dracula later learned of the stories, he sued Frankenstein for rescission and damages. Did Frankenstein have a duty to disclose the haunting to Dracula? Continue Reading Duty to Disclose that a House for Sale is Haunted?

Because of Hurricane Harvey, oil and gas production company Gonzales Energy and its owner Paunscho are treading water. Rising hurricane flood waters destroyed his files, water-logged his computers and ruined office equipment in their downtown leased offices preventing Gonzales Energy from servicing its wells, pipelines and royalty owners. As flood waters recede, Paunscho wants to know what rent relief he gets for premises so severely damaged he can’t use them. Landlord Lester “Les” Orr is trying to figure out if he can collect rent anyway and, if not, how he will make his mortgage payments. Who has the upper hand?

Continue Reading Commercial Leases Underwater from Harvey

Co-author: Skyler Stuckey

After finishing his weekly rehearsal for an upcoming Robin Hood performance at his local theatre, Wiley Enferee walked into his local Mega-Mart at his wife’s behest to buy a gallon of milk.  Not thinking, Wiley walked into the store still carrying his sword on his hip.  Wiley quickly found the milk and paid in the self-checkout line, but not before concerned shoppers notified store employees, who quickly called the police.  One store employee, Sam Aritan followed Wiley into the parking lot.  Wiley left before the police arrived, but Sam jotted down his license plate and told officers which way Wiley went.  Officers quickly found Wiley in his car, and noticed he was swerving and looking down.  The officers pulled Wiley over and placed him under arrest.  Wiley explained that the sword was just a prop and he’d forgotten to take it off.  The officers let him go but wrote him a ticket for texting while driving.  Wiley is upset that he ended up with a ticket when he was just minding his business.  Should Wiley put up a legal fight?

Continue Reading Put Down Your Phone But Keep Your Sword in Your Hand

“Big” Bob Brothers is concerned that his company, Big Brothers Security Systems, is losing out on customers because his salesmen and installation teams are slacking when they are out of the office.  Brothers reads a newspaper article about another company that is putting microchip implants containing radio-frequency identification tags (RFID) into his employees in order to make sure they aren’t doing “off the clock” stuff while on the clock.  Brothers sends a memo to employees explaining that they will all be chipped the next month, and anyone refusing to chip will be terminated.  Can Brothers “big brother” his employees like that?   

Continue Reading Can I “Chip” Away at my Employees’ Privacy?

A number of years ago John Drane, owner of Drane Plumbing & Supply, executed a Power of Attorney (POA) naming his eldest daughter LaTrina Drane as his attorney in fact. John’s debilitating stroke last weekend risks placing him in rehabilitation for months. Determined to continue the family business that offers its customers “Let Us Drain Your Swamp,” LaTrina dusts off John’s POA. Will Latrina have any problems? Continue Reading Returning “Power” to the Power of Attorney

For over a decade On the Skware Toy Soldiers and its owners, Boo & Woo, the Skware brothers, have enjoyed the shopping traffic brought to their retail store that’s located in the same shopping center as Athletics Authoritiez, a popular sporting goods retailer. However, over the last couple of years the Skware brothers have seen their overall numbers of shoppers go down and, with slowing traffic, their gross sales revenue has dropped by over 15% – straight off the bottom line. Now, blaming E-Commerce woes, the news media (supported by local scuttlebutt) is suggesting that Authoritiez is on the ropes and may close its store. Can Boo & Woo do anything to save On the Skware? Continue Reading E-Commerce Disruption – Tenant’s Tizzy

This will likely be the last piece I write on last month’s trial.  We are scheduled to start another trial in January 2018, with additional trials in April and May, and they may gin up some additional insights that I think are useful to pass along.  Today I have some quick thoughts about opening statements and closing arguments, as well as jury deliberations. Continue Reading Some Quick Thoughts on Opening Statements, Closing Arguments and Jury Deliberations

TV production studio showing man talking to cameraAlthough our judicial system historically prefers live witness testimony over testimony of witnesses through a deposition, today’s technology allows even seasoned trial lawyers the ability to present witnesses through videotaped deposition testimony that can be even more effective than having the witness appear live.  I know because I just finished a 3-week trial where 75% of the witnesses we called in our case appeared by videotaped deposition. The defense also called approximately 75% of their witnesses by deposition, The result: after a half-day of deliberations the jury found the defendants negligent and awarded our clients $217.7 million.

Federal courts and most state courts have rules that govern the use of deposition testimony at trial.  The instances when parties may introduce deposition testimony are limited: Continue Reading Why Videotaped Deposition Testimony can be More Powerful than Live Witnesses