1 denton county l a w y e r Volume 117, Issue 4 September 2007 GDCYLA Wins Award From State Bar of Texas The Greater Denton County Young Lawyers Association (GDCYLA) received the First Place Award of Achievement for Single Project/Service to the Public at the annual State Bar of Texas Bar Leaders Conference in Houston on July 28, 2007 for their Kinship Fair which was conducted for the first time in The Kinship Fair, held on National Make a Difference Day, with the help of other sponsors Denton County Child Protective Services, CASA and other organizations provided children in thirty-six local foster families with much-needed school supplies, toys, and clothes. Originally a school supply drive, the project blossomed into an event that has garnered state-wide recognition and serves as a model for other CPS agencies all over the state as a way to help this target group in their communities. As the organizing sponsor of the event, GDCYLA set the tone of the day with its castle-like booth. Young Prince Charming (John Rentz) Tinkerbell and Cinderella (Amie Peace and Tricia Perry) lawyers dressed as fairy tale characters (such as Cinderella, Tinkerbell, and Prince Charming) welcomed the over 100 children and caregivers to a day of fun and games. In addition to youngsters being able to take a picture with their favorite character and receiving Halloween candy, young and old alike enjoyed a hot dog lunch. Foster families were asked to provide list of the items clothes, diapers, wipes, toiletries their children needed most. A grant from the Texas Young Lawyer s Association covered the expense of the booth, food, and pictures. Each family was able to receive at least one item from their list as a result of the generous donations of Denton lawyers that totaled over $1500. We are excited at the success our project had last year, stated John Rentz, GDCYLA president, and are proud to have developed a program that will benefit children in Denton and possibly throughout the state. GDCYLA is partnering with CASA and the local CPS office to host the Kinship Fair again this year on Make a Difference Day, October 27. The At the Bar Leaders Conference, accepting their award from TYLA for the first Annual Kinship Fair are Tricia Perry, J.P. LeCompte, John Rentz, Bill Miller, President of TYLA, Amie Peace, and Jason Burris. program is open to children in CPS care that have been placed with family members rather than in the foster care system. In addition to needing funds for the cost of the fair itself, GDCYLA hopes to raise $5000 to purchase much needed clothes, supplies, and toys for these children this year. If you would like to be one of the local lawyers who make this annual event successful, please contact John Rentz at for information about volunteering and making a donation. What s Inside From the President...2 Verdict Search...3 From DCBA...5 From the Sections...6 From our Sponsors...7 Announcements...8
2 From the President DCBA Officers President, Tiffany L. Haertling Immediate Past President, L. James Ashmore President-Elect, Hugh Coleman Vice President, Darcy Loveless Treasurer, Don R. White Secretary, Dena A. Reecer CLE Director, Theodore D. Ogilvie DCBA Directors Cynthia Burkett, Duane L. Coker, Gina Hill, Theodore D. Ogilvie, Amie Peace, Patty Ryan, Joe Zellmer. DCBA Committee Chairs Courts Committee, Darcy E. Loveless Library Board of Governors, L. James Ashmore Social Committee, Gina Hill, Patricia Ryan Fee Arbitration, Darcy E. Loveless CLE Committee, Theodore D. Ogilvie Communications Committee, Don R. White, Jr.. Newsletter, Don R. White, Jr. Internet/Web Page, Don R. White, Jr., Patricia Ryan /Blast Fax, Hugh Coleman ADR/Settlement Week, Duane L. Coker Pro Bono, Dena Reecer Photography, Hugh Coleman Membership, Cynthia Burkett Awards, Amie Peace DCBA Membership Your DCBA Membership includes Free and discounted CLE programs Monthly lunch and happy hours Networking opportunities Listing on the bar website which includes a photo, two areas of practice, and a link to your own personal website Your DCBA Membership offers Family Law Section Real Estate, Trust, and Probate Law Section Denton County. Trial Lawyer s Assoc.. Greater Denton County Young Lawyers Association 2 had the pleasure of attending the I Bar Leaders Conference in Houston in July, and over the course of the next several columns, I will be sharing some of the information I learned. IOLTA Accounts As many of you are probably aware, effective March 1, 2007, the Texas Supreme Court amended IOLTA Rule 7 to provide that Texas attorneys are required to place their IOLTA accounts in financial institutions which pay comparable interest rates on IOLTA as similarly situated accounts. Banks throughout the state were required to come into compliance with eligibility requirements by June 1, For a complete list of eligible banks, visit If your bank is not among those who have chosen to pursue eligibility, The Texas Equal Access to Justice Foundation may be contacting you to require you to move your IOLTA account to an eligible bank. A number of banks, known as Prime Partners, go above and beyond eligibility requirements to foster the IOLTA program. These institutions pay a new yield of 0.7% or more of the Federal Funds Target Rate. They are committed to ensuring the success of the IOLTA program and increased funding for legal aid. By using Prime Partner banks, we can maximize our contribution to the funding provided for Legal Aid in Texas. Unfortunately, at present, there are no Prime Partner banks in Denton County (although I understand that NorthStar Bank is in the process of becoming a Prime Partner). I would like to talk to our local banks in this regard, and it would be helpful for me to know which financial institutions provide significant services to Denton County lawyers. Please me at if you think your bank would be interested and if you have no objection to my approaching these institutions on behalf of the Bar. It is my goal that all IOLTA accounts held in Denton County will be in Prime Partner bank by the end of the year. Until the enactment of this rule, the average interest rate paid by the top eighty banks was 0.65%, including accounts that hold in excess of $100,000. Of those, thirty-two banks were paying less than 0.5% even on high balance accounts and, in many instances, accounts that held over $1,000,000 were being paid as low as 0.20%. By contrast, the top sixteen banks indicate that they were paying a range of % on non-iolta high balance accounts. Non-Refundable Fees A case worth reading is Cluck v. Commission for Lawyer Discipline, (214.S.W.3d 736) in which the Court of Appeals in Austin addressed the issue of non-refundable fees. The Court determined that the attorney had committed professional misconduct and upheld the suspension of the attorney s license. The Court further discussed the difference between a true retainer and an advance fee. Tiffany Haertling, DCBA President, and Michelle Houston, DCBA Bar Tender, at the Bar Leaders Conference.
3 AS PUBLISHED IN TEXAS D E N T O N C O U N T Y MOTOR VEHICLE Tractor-Trailer Intersection Insurance Signal light repairman hit, ejected from cherry picker SETTLEMENT $1,900,000 CASE Enrique J. Villagomez v. David Owen Frisby, Hurricane Waste Systems, LLC, a/k/a Hurricane Waste System, LLC, Hurricane Waste Systems and Hurricane Transportation, No COURT Denton County District Court, 393rd 158th, TX JUDGE Vicki Isaacks NEUTRAL(S) Edwin Wright III DATE 3/7/2007 PLAINTIFF ATTORNEY(S) DEFENSE ATTORNEY(S) ATTORNEY FOR INSURANCE CARRIER ATTORNEY FOR THIRD PARTY Jeff Springer (lead), Springer & Lyle, LLP, Denton, TX Frank Lyle, Springer & Lyle, LLP, Denton, TX Marc Hedges Fanning, Fanning, Harper & Martinson, PC, Dallas, TX J. Kevin Kindred, Wilson, Elser, Moskowitz, Edelman & Dicker, L.L.P., Dallas, TX (Fireman s Fund (excess carrier) William W. Krueger, III, Fletcher & Springer LLP, Dallas, TX (city of Denton) FACTS & ALLEGATIONS On Feb. 19, 2004 at 3:45 p.m., plaintiff Enrique Villagomez, 55, a signal light repairman for the city of Denton, was servicing a tether line for signal lights over the southwest-bound traffic lane at an intersection in Denton. The intersection was at the 1700 block of South Loop 288, about 35 feet southwest of its intersection with Brinker Road. Villagomez was working from a cherry picker, an elevated crane designed for that purpose. It was attached to a utility truck parked on the shoulder and out of the lane of traffic. The elevated crane bucket was several feet above traffic on the loop, but not high enough for an 18-wheeler to pass underneath. The work Villagomez was doing required him to be positioned facing away from oncoming traffic. When a semi pulling a flatbed trailer collided with the crane bucket, Villagomez was ejected. Because he was tethered to the crane bucket by a safety harness, he was dragged along the load of the semi-truck, and eventually he struck the stinger forklift being transported at the rear of the trailer. Claiming negligence, Villagomez sued the driver, David Frisby, and the owner of the semi-truck tractor, Hurricane Waste Systems LLC, a/k/a also known as Hurricane Waste System LLC, Hurricane Waste Systems and Hurricane Transportation, Irving. The plaintiff claimed that Frisby had a direct line of sight to Villagomez and knew or should have known that his load was stacked too high for him to pass under the crane, yet he continued through the intersection. (Villagomez also sued the owner of the flatbed semi-trailer, but that company was dismissed from the litigation.) Villagomez alleged that Frisby was traveling southwest on the Loop. After being stopped at an intersection well north of where Villagomez was positioned, Frisby approached the intersection where Villagomez was working. Traffic ahead consisted only of cars, which proceeded quickly beneath Villagomez, through the intersection, and Frisby followed. The defendants denied the allegations. They claimed that the city and its employees were primarily responsible for Villagomez s injuries because the workplace was not properly set up, and because no attempt was made to control the flow of traffic under Villagomez. Plaintiff s liability expert stated that the Frisby had a clear line of sight to Villagomez for several hundred yards, so plaintiff 18 w w w. V E R D I C T S E A R C H. c o m June 25, 2007
4 VERDICTSEARCH TEXAS should have been clearly visible. Defense liability experts faulted the city for the way the work site was set up, and for failing to have policies and procedures that required work crews to divert traffic around work sites, or to control traffic so that workers were not required to work over open lanes of traffic. INJURIES/DAMAGES face; facial fractures; facial laceration; fracture, neck; fracture, sinus; fracture, skull; fracture, vertebra; lacerations; laminectomy; neck; subdural hematoma; traumatic brain injury Villagomez was taken by a CareFlite air ambulance to a hospital in Dallas, where he was in a coma for about two weeks. His injuries included a depressed skull fracture; sinus fracture; subdural hematoma; traumatic brain injury; complex scalp and facial lacerations; facial fractures of the right frontal and right orbital bones; vertebral fractures; and neck fracture at C-2 with spinal cord injury. Villagomez required five surgeries, including evacuation of the subdural hematoma; elevation of the skull fracture; reconstruction of the right orbital facial fracture; placement of screws in his neck at the C-2 fracture; and laminectomy. On March 10, 2004, Villagomez was transferred to a medical center in Irving for several weeks of rehabilitation. For a month thereafter, he was an inpatient at a neurological skills center, where he was subsequently placed in the outpatient program for more than a year. Villagomez underwent speech, physical and occupational therapy, but continues to have severely limited cervical range of motions, loss of mobility and short-term memory problems. He has weakness and numbness in his arms, shoulders, hands and legs. He has had problems with double vision and other vision problems due to his cranial nerve and interior oblique muscle weakness caused by the facial/orbital fractures. He has loss of hearing, sleep disorder and cognitive and motor disorders. He is unable to perform many daily functions, and in all probability will not be able to drive a car again. He requires daily assistance and care. Villagomez has been unable to return to his job at the city, and is being evaluated to determine whether he will be able to perform any type of job for future employment. His medical management and daily care requirements are ongoing, and much of his care is expected to be permanent. Villagomez claimed $396,272 in medical specials. Plaintiff s life care planner estimated Villagomez s future medical expenses at about $2 million. He claimed $120,292 in past lost wages. The defense claimed that Villagomez s past medical expenses were limited to the amount of subrogation claimed by the city s attorneys, and that the expected cost of his future medical needs were overestimated by more than $1 million. RESULT A mediation was held just a few weeks before the trial was scheduled to begin. The case was resolved when plaintiff s Stowers demand expired, after being extended to within a few days of trial. The case settled for $1.9 million present value, including a cash payment of $1.2 million and a structured settlement of monthly payments and future lump sums with an expected total payment of $1,474,184. Liability claims were resolved several weeks before the city s subrogation claim was resolved. The issue was the percentage of the city s fault. The defendants had named the city and two of its employees as responsible third parties. The statute allowing responsible third parties to be named provided that the city s subrogation recovery would be reduced by its percentage of fault. The issue of the city s fault had to be resolved before the subrogation claim could be settled. The issue was never set for trial, however, because the city ultimately accepted a 40% reduction in its lien. The responsible third parties are pending dismissal from the suit. INSURER(S) PLAINTIFF EXPERT(S) DEFENSE EXPERT(S) N O R T H E A S T Home State County Mutual Insurance Co. (primary liability for Hurricane Waste) Fireman s Fund Insurance Co. (excess carrier for Hurricane Waste) Barbara Dunlap, life care planning, Fort Worth, TX James R. Lock, accident reconstruction, College Station, TX Michael L. Nieswiadomy, Ph.D., economics, Denton, TX Joe Montgomery, accident investigation & reconstruction/ failure analysis/product liability, College Station, TX Richard C. Senelick, M.D., P.A., life care planning, San Antonio, TX Joe Thornhill, Ph.D., life care planning, Leander, TX EDITOR S NOTE This report is based on information that was provided by plaintiff s and defense counsel. Don Maines June 25, 2007 w w w. V E R D I C T S E A R C H. c o m M A D I S O N A V E N U E. N E W Y O R K, N Y C O P Y R I G H T V E R D I C T S E A R C H. A L L R I G H T S R E S E R V E D.
5 From DCBA Law Office 101 Tips for Practicing in Denton County Program: Denton County Paralegal Association (DCPA) and Greater Denton County Young Lawyers Association (GDCYLA) will sponsor the Law Office 101 Tips for Practicing in Denton County on Friday, September 14, :00 5:00 pm Registration: Costs: $5.00 per person Pre-Register by September 7, 2007 (limited seating) 3.5 hrs CLE (paralegals) 2.5 hrs MCLE (attorneys) Please complete the following form and return with $5.00 to DCPA: P.O. Box 2641, Denton, Texas Name: Address: Phone Number: If you have any questions, please contact Lisa Bowles, DCPA CLE-Chair at DCBA Meeting Minutes, August 3, Meeting called to order: Tiffany Haertling 2. Introduction of Guests: a. Michelle Jones introduced Josh Westrom b. Bill Woods introduced George Hopkins c. Grace Weatherly introduced Jack Peace (Amie s son) 3. Announcements: a. Next meeting will be held at WinStar Casino for our DCBA Kick-Off party. (See and ad on page 7 for full details.) b. The DCAP Sign Up party is on Friday, Aug. 24th at Lantana Golf Club from 6:30 pm 9:30 pm c. Tiffany came back from the Bar Leader s Conference with several ideas that she would like DCBA to become involved in. The primary focus will be on pro bono activities. d. Kinship Fair: At the Bar Leader s Conference, GDCYLA was awarded first place for the Single Service Project to the Public. (See cover story and for full details.) e. Legal Aid of Northwest Texas (For complete information please visit 1. Tiffany wants everyone to take at least 1-2 cases this year. She will be calling you soon to get you on board. 2. In addition, Legal Aid of NW TX has a clinic the 2nd Monday every month at the CCA. 4. Secretary s Report/Treasurer s Report: Tiffany Haertling a. Treasurer, Don White, was absent due to a work conflict b. Currently our checking account balance is at approximately $20, CLE: Introduced by Ted Ogilvie a. Michelle Jones, Esq. spoke on Eminent Domain. 6. Meeting adjourned: Tiffany Haertling To view a complete version of the meeting minutes, please go to
6 From the Sections DCBA Monthly Meetings Collaborative Professionals Collaborative Professionals will meet at 12:00 pm on Tuesday, September 4 at Giuseppe s on 821 N. Locust, in Denton. Family Law Family Law will meet at 5:30 pm on Monday, September 24. The location will be announced. GDCYLA GDCYLA will meet at 11:30 am on Thursday, September 6 at Fuddrucker s on Loop 288 in Denton. Activities: Golf and Poker, Lunch, and CLE Logistics and CLE: A bus to WinStar Casinos will leave from the Denton County Court House at 10:00 am and return at 5:00 pm. Lunch and CLE will be provided on the bus. Bob Eames will present CLE on Ethics and The New Supreme Court Orders on IOLTA Eligible Cases and Non-Refundable Retainers. For more information please contact Michelle Houston at GDCYLA will hold their happy hour at 5:00 pm on Thursday, September 13 at the Loophole in Denton. Paralegals Paralegals will meet at 12:00 pm on Thursday, September 27 at Oakmont Country Club located at 1901 Oakmont Dr., Corinth. REPTL REPTL will meet at 12:00 pm on Wednesday, September 17 at Luby s Cafeteria located at 2440 South Interstate 35 in Denton. GDCYLA Kinship Fair Raises Money to Meet Needs for Area Foster Children Greater Denton County Young Lawyers Association (GDCYLA) hopes to at least raise $5000 to provide area children with diapers, toiletries, and clothes. They can t reach that goal without your help! GDCYLA is accepting cash and check donations for their Kinship Fair Drive to help cover the costs of the fair and to provide much needed items for area foster children and families. Donations will be accepted until October 5, You can hand deliver or mail your donation. You can mail your donation (please make checks payable to GDCYLA) to: Denton County Bar Association Attention: GDCYLA 512 W. Hickory St., Suite 202 Denton, TX Please contact John Rentz, President of GDCYLA, at for more information about volunteering and making donations.
7 From our Sponsors Continuing Education Opportunities at Texas Woman s University CE Opportunities at TWU Upcoming Events Family Mediation August 23-26, 2007 Community Music August 27 - November 19, 2007 Community Dance September 4 - November 12, 2007 Conflict Resolution October 11-14, 2007 Negotiation November 29 December 2, 2007 Other Training Opportunities: Contract Training Survival Spanish for the Workplace Online Non-credit Certificate Programs Online Non-credit Courses Chris Watts was fantastic. This training was so good many of us are already planning to do the Family Law Mediation training in August. Please put us (DCAP members who attended this training) on your reminder list for the August Family Law Mediation training. -Participant of the DCAP Mediation training For complete details on events, visit the Lifelong Learning website at or call our office at anderson, spector & Company, P.C. certified public accountants 222 E. McKinney, Suite 100 Denton, Texas Roy P. Anderson, CPA Telephone (940) Fax (940)
8 Denton County Bar Association & Denton County Alternative Dispute Resolution Program 512 West Hickory Street, Suite 202 Denton, TX PRESTD First Class US Postage Paid Denton, TX Permit #1029 DCBA in September Bar Luncheon Date: Friday, September 7, 10:00 am Meal included Location: WinStar Casinos Meet at Denton County Courthouse at 10:00 am Program: Ethics Speaker: Bob Eames, Esq. October Bar Luncheon Date: Friday, October 5, 11:00 am Meal included Location: Oakmont Country Club 1901 Oakmont Drive Corinth, Texas Program: Employment Law Update Speaker: Grace Weatherly, Esq. Announcing DCAP now has a new website, the address is Leigh Hilton is now joining the law firm of Sawko & Burroughs LLP and is heading up their estate planning department.