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

Young friends celebrating with sparklersWe covered firework laws several times in the past but it’s always a good reminder as we approach the Fourth of July weekend where fireworks are more than likely in your plans. Below are Texas’ top 10 firework laws you should consider before lighting the fuse. Remember though, laws may vary county to county.

And, don’t forget that any County Commissioners Court in Texas can issue a burn ban prohibiting burning of any kind – including fireworks anywhere in that county, whether within the incorporated city limits or not. Because sparklers burn at approximately 2000 degrees Fahrenheit, they count as fireworks / fire as well.

Continue Reading An Oldie but a Goodie: A Friendly Reminder About Firework Laws in Texas

judge hand with gavelFor nine years, Tilting the Scales has brought legal issues with a business slant –practical and conversation points. Many who we represent are entrepreneurs who prefer to avoid lawyers and, certainly, the courthouse. Few of our Tilting issues focus upon third party resolution of disputes.

This post discusses my arbitration that dodged the “Top 8 Pitfalls of Arbitration” discussed in Tilting’s January 2016 article and attorney insight on the steps of a trial.  Continue Reading Personal Insights into Arbitration and Trial

Bench in bluebell fieldA huge fan of the Hill Country, Skare D. Katz buys a large piece of undeveloped land from the Solable Family outside of Austin.  Skare D. plans to build a ranch for retirement. One Saturday while Skare D. is visiting the property to visualize his plans, a woman shows up and stands underneath a large oak tree, staring at the ground.  Skare D. approaches the woman and asks her for her name.  The woman responds, “Inka Solable.”  When Scare D. asks Inka what she’s doing there, Inka responds, “This is where my great-grandfather is buried.  I come pay my respects every Saturday.”  Dumbfounded, Skare D. responds, “Ma’am, I appreciate that, but I own this property now.  I don’t want you coming by every Saturday.”  Inka replies, “I have a right under the law to access this property when I want.  I’ll see you in Court!”  Is Inka right? Continue Reading The Grave Reality of a Cemetery on Your Property