Category Archives: Press Release

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Nationally Recognized “Top 100 Lawyer” Keeps Getting Top 100 Verdicts

Perennial “Top 100 Lawyer” Brent Coon and Brent Coon and Associates have again fought their way into the elite “Top 100 Verdicts of the Year”.   On Monday, May 7, 2018,  a Las Vegas, Nevada Federal Court  returned a unanimous verdict of five million dollars in favor of an injured railroad worker against his employer, Union Pacific Railroad (Gibbons vs Union Pacific RR Company).  The Court accepted and entered judgment on May 8, 2018. The pre-trial settlement offer was only $150,000.00   This follows on the heels of securing a “Top 100 Verdict of 2017” last year in Texas with a $7 Million verdict on behalf of a contractor company against Houston Independent School District (Fort Bend Mechanical vs HISD) for breach of contract on a zero settlement offer case, and over a million dollars in a “Top 100 Verdicts of 2016” on a premises security case (Cadriel vs. Woven Metal Products, et al).

Greg Gibbons’ truck after the bridge collapse

Mr. Coon and members of his firm have successfully tried hundreds of cases all across the country, collecting more than one billion dollars in verdicts and settlements.

Attorney Brent Coon

Brent Coon and Associates has a wealth of experience representing clients in a broad array of legal specialties. Below are a few of the many areas of focus and communication. However, should you have any legal need, contact the law firm of Brent Coon and Associates and we will give your situation the focus and attention it deserves.

  • WORKPLACE INJURY
  • ASBESTOS/LUNG CANCER
  • PERSONAL INJURY
  • AUTO ACCIDENTS
  • HURRICANE RECOVERY
  • PHARMACEUTICAL INJURIES
  • BUSINESS LITIGATION
  • SEXUAL HARASSMENT
  • TRANSPORTATION CLAIMS

For more information, please visit www.bcoonlaw.com or call 409-222-2222


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BCA Wins Multi-Million Dollar Lawsuit Against Union Pacific Railroad in Las Vegas

A Las Vegas, NV federal court jury today returned a unanimous verdict of five million dollars in favor of an injured railroad worker against his employer, the freight-hauling Union Pacific Railroad (HQ: Salt Lake City, UT).

On December 9, 2012, Greg Gibbons, of Afton, Wyoming,  was driving a truckload of ballast and pulling a trailer also loaded with equipment for Union Pacific near Caliente, NV.  A converted railcar  bridge also designed and owned by Union Pacific suddenly collapsed underneath him, dropping the full rig down the embankment approximately a dozen feet to the bottom of the ravine below. Mr. Gibbons was taken in for medical treatment and eventually underwent a complex cervical fusion procedure to his neck.

The 43 year old truck driver retained the union designated law firm of Brent Coon & Associates and brought suit under the Federal Employer’s Liability Act (FELA), claiming that Union Pacific failed to maintain the bridge and that they had improperly converted an old flatbed railcar into a bridge to save money without even testing it for load bearing capacity.

Union Pacific  maintained that it wasn’t illegal to repurpose old railcars into bridges along the access roads and that they were not aware before the collapse that the bridge would fail.

BCA Attorneys Brent Coon of Beaumont and Jim Morris of the BCA office in Los Angeles argued to the Federal jury that Union Pacific  had a non-delegable duty to maintain the integrity of the bridge,  that the rail car was a poor substitute for a real bridge,  that it was never designed to be a bridge and that U.P. never tested it to determine maximum load capacity,  nor had they posted any load limits at the crossing.

Union Pacific  also argued that the fall wasn’t severe enough to cause the injuries complained of,  which included herniated discs to his neck,  mid back and low back, and that the injuries were either old in nature or  otherwise unrelated to the incident.  They also argued Mr. Gibbons had no lost wage earning capacity because he remained gainfully employed with the railroad in the six years since the bridge collapse.

The jury unanimously determined  that Union Pacific was negligent and that his injuries were related to the incident.  They awarded Mr. Gibbons five million dollars in damages, a verdict over thirty-three (33) times greater than the pre-trial settlement offer.

“This case is about the bravery of our client in taking a stand against a big company and fighting to the finish for what is right, said Orange County native Jim Morris.  “U.P. regularly uses old and abandoned railroad flat cars as bridge crossings,  even connecting them together.  They were not designed to be bridges and should not be used as bridges.  This is a serious problem throughout the railroad industry and they get away with it because these bridges fall outside of the jurisdiction of regulatory authorities and requirements, notably the Federal Railway act.”

Greg Gibbons, the client, stated, “First off, I want to thank both of my lawyers who were phenomenal and the jury that was awesome.  In the future I hope this helps so that this doesn’t happen to someone else as it did to me.  I want the railroads to do a better job to protect their employees, particularly in addressing serious issues with these railroad flatcars they convert to bridges.  I was shocked in the trial to see how little is done to properly inspect and test them and it is a wonder this hasn’t happened more often.”

Brent Coon added, “This incident is another example of the risks inherent in a lack of oversight of the railroad industry over this highly dangerous practice,  which puts people’s lives at stake.  We will continue to assist national railroad worker coalitions to force the railroad industry to  abandon this shady practice that is utilized only to save the industry the cost of building real bridges.  And let’s not forget, if this particular bridge had a higher elevation or the ravine was full of water this matter would likely have resulted in a fatality.”

 

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ABOUT BCA:  Brent Coon & Associates was founded in 2001. Today, with multiple satellite offices around the country and hundreds of associated firms in various practice areas, it is one of the most recognized trial law firms in the nation and the epitome of the 21st century law practice. Brent Coon & Associates employs a full complement of aggressive litigators with solid experience in individual and complex multi-party, occupational/environmental, health and personal injury cases.

BCA is a public policy firm and has worked with numerous state and federal investigative agencies, including the Department of Justice, multiple state Attorneys General, OSHA, and the United States Chemical and Hazards Investigation Board. BCA serves as institutional or advisory counsel to numerous agencies and organizations, including the United Steelworkers, pilot unions, railroad and other transportation unions. Their work in this arena has led to widespread improvements in the safety and working conditions of industries throughout America and abroad.

The firm and founder have been repeatedly recognized by most leading journals and legal associations including Texas Lawyer Litigation Department of the Year (2013); Forbes “Lawyer of the Month” and Forbes ‘Top 75 Litigation Firms; MTMP “Clarence Darrow Award”; Texas Monthly Superlawyers,  U.S. News & World Reports Top Law Firms and numerous other accolades.


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Jury Awards War Hero Over 1 Million Dollars

November 9, 2016, 3:22 pm

Today a jury verdict was returned regarding a lawsuit filed against Woven Metal Products, Inc. on behalf of Jacob Matthew Cadriel, who was killed on the job by a co-worker, Steven Damien Young.  This tragic incident took place on April 1, 2015. On that date and on Woven Metal Products, Inc.’s workplace premises, co-worker Steven Damien Young reached into his waistband, pulled out a 38-caliber handgun and shot and killed Jacob.  Young was arrested and charged with murder, and is now serving a 45 year sentence.

Jacob Cadriel left his home in rural southeast Texas in 2006 to fulfill a five-year commitment to the US armed Forces, where he completed two extended tours of duty in Iraq and Afghanistan.  A brother was a drill sergeant and a sister had enlisted as well. He returned home to a wife who obtained her nursing degree while he was away with plans to have a large family of their own.

Platoon brothers lost to the war were etched in ink on his arm, along with the name of his wife over his heart.

Unfortunately, he made the mistake of going to work in one of the local fabrication shops servicing the petrochemical industry without realizing that most of the workforce there were former criminals. The shop was managed by the parent company, Woven, which was also the owner of the premises as well.

One such prior inmate, Steven “Kareem” Young, had pulled a gun on workers at a prior job and had pulled one again at employees of a Jack in the Box shortly before he was hired on at Woven Metal Products facility to work for their subsidiary, Indchem. While a background check would have revealed those charges and convictions, none was undertaken.

This was unknown to Jacob, who worked around Young in the shop. It was also unknown to him that in the prior shift Young had ripped his shirt off and tried to fight another co-worker who had reprimanded him for calling their supervisor a “skinhead”, a pejorative for Aryan Nation racists.

Within minutes of their shift, ironically on April 1, 2015, Jacob was told to borrow the forklift from Young. He did so only to be challenged and then repeatedly struck in the face by Young. Even after the brutal attack was broken up by co-workers, Young pulled a pistol from his pants and stepped over to Jacob and shot him in the back.

The lawsuit alleged that Woven Metal Products, Inc. who owned the facility where Mr. Cadriel worked, was negligent in knowingly providing an unsafe workplace for its employees and that the company failed to, among other things, conduct comprehensive employment background checks and criminal record searches on their employees and failed listen to numerous workers at the facility who repeatedly told them about the erratic and unstable behavior of Steven Young and who failed to provide any training or education on identifying and handling this type of violence behavior in the workplace.

Young was subsequently restrained as he fled to the parking lot and Jacob died two hours later at a local hospital from massive blood loss.

Evidence developed and revealed at trial showed that Young had well-known behavior problems throughout his short tenure at the Woven jobsite. Talking to himself, frequent confrontations with many of the other co-workers, and an unwillingness to work with the rest of the crew were examples of his behavior. The other workers at trial described him as a loner, weird, and crazy. Employees expressed these concerns to management, even the president of the company, yet nothing was done. A leading expert in workplace violence, Steve Milwee, testified at trial that in the 40 years of work in the field he had only seen one or two other incidents that were so striking.

Notably, this was not Young’s only brush with the law due to his violent behavior.  In 2008, Young had been arrested, charged and convicted in Harris County of the offense of carrying an illegal weapon on the jobsite.  In 2014, Young had been arrested and charged in Harris County with the offense of making a terroristic threat.  Young was out on bond awaiting trial on that charge when he murdered Jacob Cadriel.

Woven had never trained any of their workforce in how to address any issues associated with workplace violence. Even more ironically, Woven was in the process of terminating Young for the prior incident but admittedly “let time slip away”, resulting in Young returning to work on the next shift. The coworker from the prior shift had even told the supervisor he wasn’t coming back to work if Young was there, and that he was concerned Young might have a weapon.

The defense had a workplace expert as well but chose not to call him at trial.

According to Ronald Brown, author of “Dying on the Job”, each year approximately 800 employees are killed in brutal homicides in the American workplace.  Both Cadriel and Young had only worked at Woven Metal Products, Inc. for approximately 6 months when Young’s violent temperament and behavior was directed at Cadriel. Routine and readily available background and criminal history checks done prior to Young’s hire by Woven Metal Products, Inc. would have uncovered his criminal background and offered insight as to his history of odd behavior.

Texas law does not require background checks and does not allow evidence of a past conviction to be the basis of liability. Likewise, Texas law prohibits exemplary damages when criminal acts of others cause an injury, even if it was from a coworker or invitee to the premises.

Mr Cadriel was represented by Brent Coon and Eric Newell from Brent Coon & Associates and by Robert A. Schwartz with the Heard Law Firm.  Lead attorney Brent Coon noted, “These cases are always tragic, regardless of the outcome with the jury. We are pleased that the family can now get some closure to the matter, and that a jury has agreed with us that Woven bears responsibility for the criminal culture they created on the jobsite with their hiring and retention practices.  Low-level and even senior management had little understanding or appreciation of the risks inherent in utilizing workers in a shop around other coworkers who had histories of abnormal and violent behavior.  Hopefully, lessons will be learned for Woven, and even other companies, from this case and this decision that workplace violence is a very serious matter that every company should educate and train their workforce, particularly their management team, on how to identify it, confront it, and eliminate it.”

The BCA legal team also notes that Defense now gets the benefit of new laws from the recent rash of one-sided tort reforms intended to protect business owners (ie: owner cannot be held liable for punitive damages because of criminal conduct of a 3rd party).  Texas laws benefiting businesses have also been passed that state that an owner has no duty to perform a criminal background check on invitees and there is no liability in cases where there is only one prior criminal conviction on the record at the time the invitee was allowed on the premises.

Jacob Matthew Cadriel served his country in the U.S. Army from 2004 through 2009, and was active in two tours in Iraq.  He was back home in Texas, married to his high school sweetheart, and raising their 5-year-old son, Jacob Matthew Cadriel, Jr., at the time of his death.

At closing, lead plaintiff counsel, Brent Coon, pointed out how tragically similar Jacob’s path was to that of Chris Kyle, the hero of the movie “American Sniper” who was also gunned down by a deranged acquaintance. He closed with pointing out that Jacob had always put others before himself, first his country and then his family and it was time for him to be put first.  As his last tattoo eerily stated, it is better to be judged by 12 than carried by 6.

Counsel finished the close, pointing out that Jacob didn’t get to make that choice and as a result of Woven’ s negligence, it was Jacob who was carried by six, and now 12 could provide justice for his family.

The jury returned its one million-dollar-plus verdict after a long and intense deliberation and stated that Woven Metal Products were negligent and that the Woven premises were in an unreasonably dangerous condition and that they failed in their duty to warn Jacob of the highly foreseeable likelihood of harm, which contributed to Mr. Cadriel’s death. The jury awarded for the estate of Mr. Cadriel his pain and suffering and his medical bills.  Additionally, he is survived by his wife who will receive compensation for his lost earning potential as well her suffering due to loss of companionship.

His distraught wife abandoned their apartment and moved back home with her 6 year old son, Jacob Jr.  She kept the apartment and all the contents for another year as they were that day, even leaving her clothes and all of little J’s toys, except for a doll that Jacob had bought him earlier on the day of shooting.

Erika Cadriel was quoted as saying after the verdict, “This verdict helps to bring the family closure as defined by the citizens of Brazoria County, saying unequivocally that Woven should not have allowed this tragedy to have happened.  Hopefully, we now as a family can move on.  Thanks to the jurors for their service and we hope that the Texas legislature looks at this case and considers it a referendum to mandate criminal background checks for all employees.  We will always miss Jacob Cadriel, a great father, son, brother, husband, leader, and a great servant to our country for the 5 years of his life he committed to the international war on terror and to keep this country safe.  This verdict validates his existence, but will never replace him in our hearts”

About Brent Coon & Associates:

Brent Coon & Associates was founded in 2001. Today, with multiple satellite offices around the country and hundreds of associated firms in various practice areas, it is one of the most recognized trial law firms in the nation and the epitome of the 21st century law practice. Brent Coon & Associates employs a full complement of aggressive litigators with solid experience in individual and complex multi-party, occupational/environmental, health and personal injury cases.

BCA is a public policy firm and has worked with numerous state and federal investigative agencies and has directed over $40,000,000.00 dollars to landmark safety programs and advancements in industrial health care.

The firm and founder have been repeatedly recognized by most leading journals and legal associations including Texas Lawyer Litigation Department of the Year (2013) ; Forbes “Lawyer of the Month” and Forbes “Top 75 Litigation Firms”; MTMP “Clarence Darrow Award”; Texas Monthly Magazine “Texas Super Lawyers” (2007-2015); “Best Lawyers in America”; Lawdragon “”500 Leading Plaintiff Lawyers in America”; American Association of Justice “Stephen Sharp Public Service Award”, Best Lawyers in America and many others.


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Houston Police Department caught red-handed illegally engaging in a home invasion and covering it up by destroying security system: Damages Suit filed by Law Firm for Homeowner

March 3, 2017, 9:34 am

In one of the most egregious examples of police excess and violation of law perpetrated by HPD in recent times, two separate security systems from two different homeowners caught an HPD police officer and another uniformed officer illegally break into a Harris County home, destroy their surveillance system, illegally search the home with no one there, illegally go through their mail, and leave the home with the door open before the homeowners arrived back to their residence. All of this illegal activity, conducted without probable cause, without a search warrant, without any permission from anyone, and the destruction of the homeowners private property, including their security system, was captured on the homeowners backup system and by a neighbors system as well. In addition, the activities occurred outside the city limits of the City of Houston.

The homeowners brought the highly disturbing proof to HPD officials who were dismissive of the charges in spite of the damning tapes. As a consequence of HPD officials failure to take appropriate remedial action, Robin Custer, the homeowner, filed suit on Thursday, March 02, 2017, through a team of attorneys from the Houston area led by well-known trial lawyer Brent Coon in Harris County State District Court.

BACKGROUND

On March 5th, 2015, Robin Custer’s husband arrived at their property in Highlands, Texas at 2:30 pm to find their home had been invaded, and their security cameras disabled. Robin Custer quickly left work and joined her husband at their home. Fortunately for the Custers, their security camera footage was saved to a DVR. In addition, the Custer’s neighbor had recorded security camera footage that also captured the events. Upon reviewing the DVR security footage of the day, the couple were shocked by what they saw.

The Custer’s security camera videos, as well as the neighbor’s video, clearly shows a Houston Police Department (HPD) patrol unit pull into the family’s driveway, with two officers exiting the car and surveying the Custer’s home. One of the officers is seen in a Houston Police Department uniform, while the second officer is wearing a tactical vest marked “POLICE”. One of the officer’s used his police flashlight to force open the couple’s front door. Next the officer began walking around the house disabling each of the Custers’ security cameras. Both officers then entered the home for several minutes, then exited the property, removed the couple’s mail and then left. The front door was left wide open by the officers. Shortly thereafter, Mrs. Custer arrived home from work and the same HPD patrol unit was seen driving by the house with knowledge that the Custers were then at home. The officers never went back to speak to the Custers.

The lawsuit, filed by Brent Coon and Associates, and two other area law firms, is brought pursuant to various statutory and common law actions, most notably Sec. 42 USC §1983, entitled the Civil Rights Act, the critical language of which is as follows:

Every person who, under color of any statute, ordinance, regulation, custom, or usage, of any State or Territory or the District of Columbia, subjects, or causes to be subjected, any citizen of the United States or other person within the jurisdiction thereof to the deprivation of any rights, privileges, or immunities secured by the Constitution and laws, shall be liable to the party injured in an action at law, suit in equity, or other proper proceeding for redress.

Brent Coon, attorney in charge of the matter, was quoted as saying, “I am astonished by two things. First, that the very people who we as a community trust to protect us would ever engage in this type of illegal activity, and second, that their superiors did not seem to think it was a big deal when brought to their attention by the homeowners. This was a home invasion. Those words strike fear in every resident in every town in America. The mere thought that someone would trespass on private property without invitation, authority or notice, and then bust in without knocking or gaining permission, is a terrifying act of aggression. Had anyone been home, they would have been within their rights to shoot the invaders, and had firearms been engaged this incredible incident could have turned out much worse for all concerned. The officers didn’t belong there. They didn’t have a search warrant. The homeowners had done nothing wrong or illegal. The officers clearly desired to break in to the home knowing their conduct was illegal. They clearly thought they had covered their tracks by destroying the surveillance system at the residence. They were wrong. Had not the system had a backup, or a neighbors camera also capturing the activities, Ms. Custer would have ironically probably called the police to investigate”.

The plaintiff is suing for negligence and gross negligence as the officers committed various acts of negligence and caused physical and emotional injuries and damages to Plaintiff’s personal property.

The lawsuit seeks a jury trial and pursuant to Rule 47, the Plaintiff seeks unspecified monetary relief.

Click below to watch the actual video of the break in or to review a copy of the lawsuit.

http://www.bcoonlaw.com/hpd_lawsuit


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Father of Worker Killed at PCA Plant Explosion Files Multimillion Dollar Suit.

Father of Worker Killed at PCA Plant Explosion Files Multimillion Dollar Suit and Requests Criminal Investigation

(SUMMARY: The father of one of the three workers killed in a packaging facility explosion two months ago has now filed suit in Houston. He explains his feelings and relationship with his son, facts known about the incident to date, and what he hopes to achieve with the lawsuit. His attorney, Brent Coon of Houston, elaborates on the incident and expresses concern for the possible closing of the CSB, which is charged with investigating fatal chemical explosions across America, something that could significantly change industrial facility operations and increase safety and health risk factors. More details are below, and the office can be contacted for further information on this breaking story).

A multi-million dollar lawsuit was filed today in the State District Courts of Harris County Texas by Joe Gooch, who lost his son Jody Gooch in a tragic explosion at the Packaging Corporation of America (PCA) plant in DeRidder, Louisiana in February. The case is against PCA, the owner of the facility, and Elite Industrial Services of Pasadena, Mr. Gooch’s employer at the time of the incident. Joe Gooch is suing the companies as legal administrator on behalf of the estate of Jody Gooch as well as for his own damages.

“There is nothing like the love of your children, and it tears me up to know that my son lost his life in a highly avoidable tragedy at work. We hope that this lawsuit will shed more light on what happened and reduce the likelihood of it ever happening again. It was very upsetting to learn that PCA apparently had something like this occur only a few years ago at another facility and didn’t do much, if anything, to keep it from happening again here. A parent should never have to bury their own child and we hope this lawsuit and investigation will change the way these companies do business. It seems like these days all they care about is making money and more money and very little about worker safety” says Joe Gooch. “Even though my son was all grown up, he just about still lived here with us and it is hard adjusting to the fact that he won’t be coming home any more. You just can’t replace that hole it leaves in your heart. Our thoughts and prayers go out to all the families who sustained losses in this terrible tragedy and even though I am a forgiving person, if this happened like another explosion I heard about at PCA a few years ago, someone should go to jail”.

The incident, which killed three workers and injured several others, is still under governmental investigation by not only OSHA staff, but representatives of the U.S. Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board (CSB), a highly skilled team of investigators based out of Washington D.C. that only take on a select few high profile tragedies in the industrial sector at any given time, usually involving multiple fatalities. The CSB has just released the first preliminary statements on their investigation and believes that the incident had to do with “hot work” igniting vapors on a containment vessel. Welding activity may have ignited combustible vapors emanating from by product liquids that had been left in the tank at the time the work was being performed.

Brent Coon, whose firm is filing the suit, stated:

“Once again my firm has been called upon to help a family as a result of tragic and senseless loss of life in an industrial operation. Welding is commonplace and workers should NEVER be made to work in an environment with welding activity anywhere around volatile vapors or combustible liquids. We will work with our team of independent experts and compare findings with the governmental investigations, which will collectively leave us with a clear picture of what happened. It goes without saying that this should not have happened, and as always, was something avoidable had the companies involved taken the appropriate steps to prepare the worksite safely before work commenced. If in fact these companies had hot work going on when they knew the containment vessels had not been cleaned and purged, they should not only be held liable in our civil courts, but face the scrutiny of a grand jury for criminal charges. Every manager and supervisor at every facility knows that you don’t engage hot work anywhere around potentially combustible areas, on containment vessels that have not been cleaned or on lines that have not been properly isolated and purged. It is early in this investigation into not only what happened on this occasion, but what the companies involved had in place as hazard analysis protocols, process safety systems and proper permitting. It is also disturbing to learn that something very similar occurred at another PCA facility only a few years ago which also killed three workers and little was apparently done subsequently to reduce the likelihood of a similar incident elsewhere in their system. This would be a disturbing safety culture failure. We have worked with the CSB and OSHA as lead counsel in the BP Texas City explosion in 2005, the Gulf Oil Spill and more recently in the multiple fatality incident at the DuPont plant in LaPorte, Texas, and all of those investigations revealed wide gaps in the safety culture of the companies involved. I am very confident that our joint investigations will get to the bottom of this and identify not only all the mistakes made by these companies, but also who specifically authorized them and why this work was not protected better”.

The CSB, the EPA and other safety and regulatory agencies are under scrutiny by the present administration in Washington and are facing massive budget cut proposals. The CSB has operated as an independent agency of the Federal Government since 1998 and is exclusively charged with investigating industrial chemical incidents. Their mission statement on the select few cases they are budgeted to investigate at any given time is to focus on the root causes of the incident and make industry recommendations to reduce the risk going forward. They are not involved in any penalty assessment issues and are comprised of highly trained technical resource personnel, primarily engineers and others with expansive background knowledge of the industrial sector.

“As a public policy law firm with a high degree of specialization on these types of events, it is most disheartening to see that they keep occurring, often due to the same root causes, and almost always due to money factors driving the bottom line and management decisions cutting corners to save money and finish projects quicker. You cant put profits over safety, cut corners and put lives at risk. What is equally tragic right now is that the CSB, which is the ONLY governmental agency with skill sets to investigate these types of events in the public sector and is heading up this investigation may be shut down by the Trump administration, which has targeted the CSB for closure. The CSB does incredible work on a shoe string budget of only a few million dollars a year and it would be asinine to shut it down for alleged “budgetary concerns” when the entire program is funded for amounts that are a small fraction of what is paid for security to the First Lady just to live in New York City instead of the White House. I try to stay of politics, but it is nauseating every time the corporations win the White House and immediately try to gut the agencies that try to protect our work forces. Hopefully enough people will complain about this and it will get enough media coverage to ultimately deter the White House and Congress from getting rid of this critically necessary agency, which as a result of their work product invariably save many lives in our industrial sector”, says Brent Coon.


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4 New Lawsuits Filed Over the Waco Biker Shooting

What does Patch Adams have to do with the Waco Biker shooting?

A lot.  The overzealous Waco Police Department clearly stumbled and bumbled through the debacle of the Waco motorcycle tragedy of May 2015 at the Twin Peaks restaurant in what is likely the worst police operation initiated by law enforcement in the history of Texas, including the fiasco of the Branch Davidian storming that killed dozens of innocent women and children outside of Waco over 20 years ago (which resulted in far more civilian casualties than the recent gas attacks by Assad of Syria).  James Harris, a college student in Austin and a devout motorcycle rider, was one of the 200 motorcycle club members from the region taking a relaxing ride to Waco on the morning of Sunday, May 17, 2015, to hear what was going on legislatively in the motorcycling community through a briefing sponsored by the Texas Confederation of Clubs and Independents.  James was just pulling into the parking lot of the Twin Peaks restaurant where the meeting was to take place when he and his three buddies riding with him heard shots fired from the restaurant patio area.  Although they had nothing to do with the shooting, and in fact hid behind a car with another police officer, they were all taken into custody, tagged as terrorist bikers engaged in conspiracies to engage in organized crime and commit commit murder and mayhem, ultimately assessed  a staggeringly ridiculous and illegal 2-million-dollar bond, and subsequently had their lives forever and irreparably damaged. James and his partners had their lives destroyed by Waco law enforcement that day, in what will be shown to be one of the biggest blunders and cover-ups by any law enforcement agency in the country. A cover-up that spread through the ranks of  local law enforcement, the district attorney’s office and even elements of the judiciary.  A kangaroo court system protective of “their own” and xenophobic to all others.  James Harris was one of many caught that day in a web of deceit and political grandstanding which left him brandished with false allegations of wrongdoing of the worst kind, of forcing him to live without the right to go when and where he wanted or even associate with his friends.  He even found himself essentially extradited back from Mexico for the fraudulent allegations against him when he returned there to work with Dr. Hunter Doherty Adams (a/k/a “Patch Adams”, founder of the Gesundheit! Institute), to work with the seriously ill children there again.

Highlights:

James Harris was and is the extreme antithesis of what was portrayed by Waco PD, the Waco DA and others – as are the rest of James’s club members-all of whom are now ready and available to tell their stories. Accordingly,  BCA is filing  a massive new law suit – against multiple and highly culpable parties – that will finally began shedding light on what really happened that day and why – most of it the press has never heard. The gag order perpetrated by local law enforcement to stymie public information about what REALLY happened has been lifted, and people are ready to talk….and sue those accountable for what happened.

How the Waco Police Department set up a parameter of snipers and sniper rifles – ahead of the meeting – in order to shoot and kill the attendees to the meeting with the slightest provocation.   How they could have easily prevented the shooting, but instead chose to lay in wait, utilize any potential outbreak of violence as an excuse to unload on everyone there, arrest everyone who survived, and charge each and every one of them with conspiracies to engage in organized crime to commit murder and engage in drug running, prostitution and other vices without ANY evidence.  There will not ever be a SINGLE SHRED of evidence to support any of those charges. One big stack of pre-stamped probable cause affidavits and the locals had “rounded up” everyone in attendance and locked them all up.  Guilty until proven innocent.  Waco becomes another Salem Massachusetts in a witch Hunt for bikers.

We will show how the culture of the Waco Police Department, the local Baylor University footprint on the community, and even Waco’s turbulent and controversially racist and sexist history, all created a perfect storm for the worst incident ever impacting  the biking community, over 10 million strong.  How the culture of the Waco Police Department was xenophobic of bikes and bikers,  and had even banned their own motorcycle division many decades before because they felt it an “inappropriate image” of law enforcement.  How Baylor and the incestuous ties of Baylor graduates in the local prosecutors office and the judiciary created an incestuous relationship in this case.  How the intolerance of an isolated community adhered to ideals and standards relatively unchanged since Baylor University became the beacon for fundamentalists with social ideologies of no drinking, no dancing and  no cavorting, which also translated to no tolerance, no motorcyclists, no tattoos, no leather jackets and  no “breastaurants”.  Cover-ups seem to be de jour in Waco, whether it is covering up for murders and payoffs of basketball players, rampant rape of students by well- paid collegiate athletes, public lynching’s of black prisoners in the courtyards by the rabid citizens as the police look on, or the shootings of patrons of a disliked restaurant. “Kill them all and let God sort them out” seems to be the mantra in Waco, and illegal and trumped up charges and incarceration of everyone in attendance who managed to dodge the bullets from sniper rifles is the now the main course.

A NATIONAL MOVEMENT AGAINST PROFILING NOW BEGINS

Supported by and on behalf of the total biking community nationally – Waco has led to a grassroots movement of millions and millions of riders – the story will announce the movement culminating on the 2 year anniversary with the first annual National Motorcycle Anti-Profiling Day this May 17th.  This will be the inaugural year of a movement that is becoming the rallying cry of bikers and motorcycle enthusiasts around the country. The biking community enjoys community support from most people in our country, and even most people in law enforcement, some of whom have their  own bike clubs.  But what is clear from Waco and other tragic episodes involving elements of law enforcement and the biking community is that some people with a badge have no tolerance of others they do not personally identify with.  Some would claim it  has reached epidemic proportions  in the African American community, much which is now finally getting exposed through media coverage.  That conduct is not dissimilar to what the biking community has to deal with from fringe members of law enforcement, who regularly harass people just because they engage in a lifestyle that some “don’t approve” for whatever reason.  This case will start exposing these stories nationally, as the biking community begins to organize a response to these unjust attacks on their lifestyles that has brought civil rights violations into their communities.

Again,  the interactive petition on these filings is available at http://www.bikerrights.law. for more information.

Interactive Petition – Two Layers of  Interactivity

Because this lawsuit exposes such critical civil rights issues in our community, BCA will be creating an open, dedicated website to Bikers Rights (BikerRights.com) and will feature a transparent viewing of the Lawsuit complaint in a unique and interactive format.

To get the story and the vital info out, and to provide unprecedented transparency and access to the media and public, BCA will be filing the first-ever interactive petition/complaint – online  – along with powerful evidence releases, a full media center,  article library, and complete video overviews please visit http://www.bikerrights.law

The lawsuit petition will provide the media, biker’s rights advocates and the general public with a DOUBLE searchable resource for cross referencing all the sourced information on this story. First, the links in the section below entitled THE GOOD PARTS will jump you right to relevant sections of the petition as indicated, and SECOND, the Petition itself is also hot-linked with links to relevant articles, Wikipedia pages, and OTHER SUPPORT MATERIALS.  Even if the discovery information is kept confidential by the court, this interactive petition will allow the media exclusive access to the information to form their own independent opinion on what happened in this tragedy.

We have highlighted the top points of the lawsuit. In addition to that we have provided links for the issues discussed in this lawsuit. It is the first double actively petition/lawsuit that we know of. To view this unique interactive lawsuit, please visit:
 http://www.bikerrights.law


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HISD LOSES TWO BIG LAWSUITS IN SWEEPING 38 PAGE VERDICT

Jury hits HISD with over $7,000,000.00 in damages on one suit, and denies any recovery to HISD as a Plaintiff in their own $13 Million dollar lawsuit.  

A unanimous Houston jury told HISD they were wrong to breach five construction contracts with a local building contractor Friday evening after a full day of deliberations. In the same 38 page verdict, the jury also told HISD that their countersuit against the contractor, Fort Bend Mechanical, along with their bonding agent, Hanover Insurance, and yet a third defendant HISD sued for defective field testing of foundations had ZERO merit and awarded no damages against any of the three defendants and awarded zero legal costs to HISD.  Fort Bend Mechanical had sought almost $9 Million in damages at trial for what they alleged were multiple and repeated contract violations over the course of six construction jobs with the school district emanating from the 2007 School Bond, which had provided for almost a billion dollars in renovations to over 100 HISD campuses.  The jury of 7 women and 5 men agreed with most of the complaints asserted by Fort Bend Mechanical, and awarded damages and legal fees in excess of $7 million dollars in their verdict, which came in early Friday evening in the 151st Harris County District Court before Judge Michael Engelhart.

In addition, HISD had brought a countersuit against Fort Bend Mechanical and their bonding agent, Hanover, for breaches of four of the construction contracts, and alleged almost $5 million in damages and over $2 million in legal costs against Fort Bend and another $3 Million in damages against Hanover.  HISD also brought claims against Quality Control Labs for approximately $3 Million dollars, maintaining that Quality Control had failed to properly test the pier construction on one of the projects for the Worthing High School campus being constructed by Fort Bend Mechanical.  The jury also unanimously agreed that neither Fort Bend Mechanical nor Hanover owed anything to HISD in damages or legal costs, and that Quality Control Labs had not engaged in faulty testing of the pier construction.

The result stems from five weeks of hotly contested testimony from all sides of the affair after four years of trial preparations.   Fort Bend Mechanical loaded their legal team with four area law firms, with well-known litigator Brent Coon serving as lead counsel.

“It was very gratifying to not only help Fort Bend Mechanical recover most of what they were owed under the contracts, but also to make sure that HISD didn’t get a dime in their frivolous countersuits.  Those suits were not driven by facts and contracts, they were driven by animosity and retaliation and supported only by rhetoric.    Rarely have I seen a company who owed one of our clients respond by suing them back, particularly when there was no support for their legal position against Fort Bend or any other parties.  Our firm rarely is called upon to defend counter-allegations as counsel, but we undertook this additional challenge and I am personally pleased to say we remain undefeated. It was also a pleasure to try the case with two of my former… and apparently well trained… lawyers in Byron Buchanan and Bob Schwartz, along with my longtime friend Brooks Harrison and former law partner Matt Willis.  We complemented each other well at trial and brought our own styles and experiences with us, which I think helped fully present the case” said lead attorney Brent Coon.

Fort Bend Mechanical was the general contractor under 5 contracts with Houston Independent School District for renovation and new construction to six campuses as part of a billion dollar bond program approved by the taxpayers in 2007. The construction projects began in 2010 and entailed over 30 million dollars in contracts between HISD and FBM.  Four of the six projects reached substantial completion levels by 2012. The last two projects were still far from completion at the end of 2012 when HISD determined that they would exercise their right to terminate further completion. This was primarily due to the approval of another new bond issued in late 2012 totaling over $2 Billion dollars, which added tens of millions of dollars in additional improvements to those two remaining campuses.

The result of this transition left a number of disputed closure obligations between the parties.  FBM ultimately brought suit against HISD alleging dozens of separate contractual breaches on four of the five contracts covering the six campuses. These included failure to release millions of dollars in retainages, delivered materials, extra work, delay damages and pay applications totaling approximately 9 million dollars.

HISD countersued for damages, alleging FBM failed to complete punch list items, that they had been overpaid for prior work performed, that they did not owe the material values as stated, and that delays in the projects resulted in almost a million dollars in liquidated damages. HISD later added an additional $1.5 million in damages for work associated to the pier construction on the last building involved at Worthing High School, and also then brought third party claims against Quality Control Labs, alleging failure to perform proper tests on pier construction and integrity, and a clam against Hanover Insurance as the bonding agency for FBM on that work.

HISD admitted they only owed retainages on the jobs and $155,000 in the remaining material values left on site, and that they were not to be released until offsets were addressed. FBM maintained that HISD was not entitled to any of the offsets based on lack of timely contractual notice and lack of proof of any material defects in the work performed. FBM alleged HISD accepted work as substantially conforming and owed the full schedule of values on all accepted materials.

QC Labs maintained they performed their work properly pursuant to the contracts and there were no defects in the piers. Hanover as the bonding agency to the project likewise maintained there was no defects in the piers and that HISD failed to provide timely notice under the bond documents and failure to timely notify the assured of any defects or provide an opportunity to cure.

“We were particularly impressed with all 12 jurors ability to stay on top of the tens of thousands of pages of documents and exhibits involved and all of the testimony over five long weeks in trial with very few breaks”, said Mr. Coon. “The court even had the law firms provide lunches for the jury so that we could spend more time in the courtroom.  We had two excellent experts in construction contract law and loss calculations to help educate an already well informed jury comprised of some folks with engineering backgrounds as well. I think this helped at the end of the day when we cross-examined over a dozen HISD retained engineers and architects involved in the various jobs.   HISD was unable to pull the wool on this one.  While they also had a very capable legal team, we were able to point out that in addition to the fact that every HISD called witness was on the HISD payroll in some fashion, every one of them also admitted to substantial additional “witness preparation” with HISD lawyers, clearly implicating them in coaching their trial testimony.

“I was in awe of the attention the jury paid to the numerous details in the case for five weeks”, said Byron Buchanan, another attorney on the case. “Many thanks to the 151st District Court and its staff for their professionalism. They are an asset to The citizens of Harris County and the State of Texas.  Our client is grateful to have gotten his day in court and we hope this verdict sends a message to HISD that it needs to be a better steward of the taxpayers money”.

“After four long years FBM finally got their day in court before a jury of their peers and in front of a fair judge who applied the law. Sometimes the bullies don’t get their way and are held accountable. I’m honored to be part of a world-class trial team standing up to the HISD bully – that’s justice in and of itself.”

How did HISD spend the money?

One critical aspect of the case was condemnation by plaintiff and counsel over wasteful spending practices by HISD leading up to the lawsuit and further wasteful spending by HISD with new bond monies from 2012 which overlapped these projects, as well as wasteful prosecution of a countersuit against Fort Bend and the other defendants.

“What we know is that HISD received a billion dollars in bond money in 2007 for over 100 new construction projects”, said Brent Coon, lead attorney. “It is clear that many of the HISD personnel and hired consultants were not thorough in the planning stage, which resulted in many millions of dollars being wasted for revisions and modifications after plans were submitted for bid. This resulted in numerous delay charges as well as further architectural and engineering fees.  These revisionist practices then led to many other fundamental errors like turning in the wrong plans to the city for permits. An example is what occurred in our trial on the Worthing High School. HISD permitted the wrong plans and was exposing the district to all sorts of penalties and other costs. Rather than confront the issue head on, HISD hired architects who backdated documents and their hired engineers then provided false reports to the City of Houston. Thereafter they fired the contractor, Fort Bend Mechanical, to shut down the job and buy them time to bring in a new contractor and new plans to start all over. That cost the taxpayers an additional $8 million in construction costs alone in just one job, and several million dollars more in collateral costs. The architectural fees alone ended up being well over a million dollars. Why would anyone use bond money to remodel campuses and then tear it up in the middle of the job just because they have some more money from another bond? They should finish the scope of work from one bond before requesting more bond money so that it is not wasted redoing pending construction jobs” said Brent Coon, lead counsel for the plaintiff legal team.

“Monies misappropriated on changing these jobs and sloppy practices aren’t the only places they waste money. To defend their actions in nonpayment to FBM, they have spent two million in legal fees alone and almost 500 thousand dollars on just one of their experts for their lawsuit against FBM and others, which the jury ultimately said didn’t have any merit in the first place.  They paid one of their witnesses 25 grand just for coming to the courthouse to testify for two hours.  It is painfully clear that HISD needs help at the apex levels in properly managing major construction projects and one suggestion would be that the monies be spread out over longer time frames so that plans are thought out better, drawn and engineered better, properly permitted, and then constructed in a timely manner with few alterations and delays. Hundreds of millions of dollars likely gets wasted with this level of mismanagement of the money when such large blocks of bond monies come in at one time and everyone immediately wants a piece.  People like our client get caught in the crossfire when this much work tries to get done this quickly, particularly when HISD decides to completely alter the scope of work in the middle of projects”.

“We appreciate all the time and attention our jury gave to hearing 5 weeks of testimony on this case and reaching a decision based on a review of thousands of documents,  many witnesses  and over a dozen experts involved in the case. Our civil justice system continues to work because of the sacrifices of our citizens to take this much time out of their own lives at no charge to anyone, and often to their own personal loss. Hopefully HISD can move forward with our community in a positive manner with lessons learned from a very public hearing on how this happened. Maybe they can know do a better job moving forward” said Brent Coon in recapping the results.

“Today a jury told HISD they were not acting responsibly as a custodian of the public trust”, said attorney Bob Schwartz.  “They told HISD they were wrong to withhold payments due for construction work performed by Fort Bend Mechanical and they were wrong to refuse to honor the very contracts that they had drafted.  They also told HISD they were wrong to maliciously file lawsuits back at Fort Bend Mechanical, Quality Control Labs and Hanover Insurance, claiming almost $5 million in damages under the contracts and over $2 million dollars in legal costs to Fort Bend and several million dollars more in claims against Quality Control Labs and Hanover.

The unanimous jury verdict saying HISD was entitled to ZERO dollars on every single claim they brought against all three defendants speaks volumes.  Our jury today told HISD they did not condone wasteful spending of taxpayers’ money to harass and bully a contractor solely to hide its own financial mismanagement and falsification of government records.“

The Client: FORT BEND MECHANICAL

Pete Medford, a co-owner of Fort Bend Mechanical during the time frame involved, was a key ingredient to the outcome.  He was personally aware of almost all of the details of the work performed under all five contracts and took the witness stand for almost a week of intensive examination and cross examination.   A tearful Pete was there when the verdict came in and thanked each one of the jurors for fulfilling their community obligations to serve in a very long and trying case.

“I can’t thank everyone enough.  This has been a very emotional and draining experience for me.  Having to defend my company from all the misrepresentations of HISD was very challenging, and going back over all the details of thousands of invoices, pay apps, change orders and plan specifications on all these jobs has been  a full time job for me for months before the trial actually started.  I am so grateful that we were finally able to get to the courtroom after four years of this to hopefully begin the emotional and financial healing process.  I had a lot of good friends as subcontractors and vendors on these jobs who have been waiting for me to get paid so they can get paid as well.  What HISD did in not paying us what they owed hurt a lot more local companies than just Fort Bend Mechanical.

I am also glad to see that the jury told HISD that they have to honor ALL the terms of their contracts, and they can’t just pick and choose.  It was their contracts, so they shouldn’t be able to complain about them after the fact.  Lastly, it was total BS for them to come back years later and make many millions of dollars of additional claims against me and other companies for allegations that the piers on the Worthing project were defective. All they were doing is trying to cover up for the fact that they used the wrong plans on the job.  They also knew that a new contractor would never come in and use someone else’s piers on a big job anyway, and they were going to have to replace them regardless. The fact that they cut all 268 of the 20 foot deep piers off 5 feet below grade, haul off and destroy every one of the top sections, and then cover it all back up before notifying my company or any of the other defendants in their countersuit should tell you volumes about their motivation.”

Medford says, “It is said it is hard to find heroes in this day and time, and it is said you can look up at your heroes without apology. I, my family and my company are looking up at 12 honest, hardworking, unselfish Harris county residents, jurors who gave up their jobs and families to listen to our case and deliver unbiased justice as they saw it, along with Judge Mike Engelhart and his professional staff who remained unbiased and extremely patient throughout this entire process. The taxpayers of HISD deserve better, and deserve to know how the Houston Independent School district is wasting millions of their tax dollars on cases like this and on the hundreds of architects and engineers performing millions of dollars of designs and engineering that ultimately had to be corrected by Fort Bend Mechanical and other contractors and HISD not holding those architects, engineers and CMPA firms accountable for their mistakes. “

The “defective pier” allegation by HISD was another unusual twist in the case.  The $14 million dollar new building going in at Worthing High School entailed an 86,000 square foot pad site with 268 support piers.  Fort Bend Mechanical subcontracted the pier drilling work to Groundhog Foundation Drilling, and the pier construction was then inspected by Quality Control Labs, under separate contract directly with HISD.  Daniel Bankhead with HISD testified that the new 2012 $2 Billion dollar bond entailed an additional $30 million in construction funds for Worthing, so they decided to shut down the construction project in mid- stream with FBM in order to solicit new bids on that work and expanded scope of work with the new monies. FBM maintained this invited all sorts of problems. In addition to ultimately paying a new contractor over $22 million for essentially the same building under contract with FBM for $14 million, they were not able to get much of the benefit of the several million dollars in work performed by FBM either.  The new contractor refused to rely on piers they didn’t build and it ultimately cost more to tear everything out and start over then it would have to start out from scratch.  FBM also claimed that HISD would be able to cover their tracks with an all new set of plans with a new contractor for permitting and never get caught by the City of Houston for starting the job initially with unapproved plans.

“HISD kept trying to tell us, the Court and the jury that it was OK to use unapproved plans on the job but we called in the head of permitting and building inspection with the City early on in our case. He made it abundantly clear that what they were doing was wrong and in 17 years of overseeing permitting work he had never seen errors of this magnitude. It wasn’t surprising to him in light of what transpired that they NEVER went back and told the City of Houston about their original mistakes when they submitted new plans for the new contractor in 2013”.  Again, sloppy practices cost HISD, and ultimately the taxpayers, a lot of additional money” said Brent Coon.

About Brent Coon & Associates:

Brent Coon & Associates was founded in 2001. Today, with multiple satellite offices around the country and hundreds of associated firms in various practice areas, it is one of the most recognized trial law firms in the nation and the epitome of the 21st century law practice. Brent Coon & Associates employs a full complement of aggressive litigators with solid experience in individual and complex multi-party, occupational/environmental, health and personal injury cases.

BCA is a public policy firm and has worked with numerous state and federal investigative agencies, including the Department of Justice, multiple state Attorneys General, the United States Chemical and Hazards Investigation Board.   BCA serves as institutional or advisory counsel to numerous agencies and organizations, including the United Steelworkers, pilot unions, railroad and other transportation unions. Their work in this arena has led to widespread improvements in the safety and working conditions of industries throughout America and abroad.

The firm and founder have been repeatedly recognized by most leading journals and legal associations including Texas Lawyer Litigation Department of the Year (2013); Forbes “Lawyer of the Month” and Forbes “Top 75 Litigation Firms”; MTMP “Clarence Darrow Award”; Texas Monthly Magazine “Texas Super Lawyers” (2007-2015); “Best Lawyers in America”; Lawdragon “”500 Leading Plaintiff Lawyers in America”; American Association of Justice “