AZA Wins Appeal to Keep Injured Client’s Case in Texas
December 13, 2022
HOUSTON – AZA won its appeal to keep a client’s personal injury claim in Houston, rejecting the defendant company’s effort to move the case out of state. The lawsuit involves a seaman who sued his employer over the unseaworthiness of the vessel he was working on and the lack of safety procedures and crew.
AZA client Gerald Simon suffered a stroke while working on the vessel and fell to the floor. In his lawsuit, he said Marquette Transportation Co. failed to properly maintain and staff the vessel and also failed to properly train employees on safety measures.
This is the ninth win for the AZA appellate team in just this year in the intermediate Texas appellate courts, the Texas Supreme Court or the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit.
The Dec. 13 win in the Texas 14th Court of Appeals is the second time AZA has defeated marine transportation company Marquette in its attempts to remove this Jones Act personal injury lawsuit away from Harris County.
Kelsi Stayart White, who handled the oral argument, said that in the first instance, Marquette wanted the case moved to Kentucky where it is headquartered, claiming Texas was an improper forum. But AZA beat Marquette’s petition for a writ of mandamus on that issue.
In the current appellate win, Marquette filed a special appearance claim, saying the case should be in Louisiana, since the incident occurred in Louisiana waters. But the company has Texas offices and Texas employees are responsible for the safety of the vessel. The trial court judge denied the Marquette request, and the appellate court agreed.
“The decision emphasizes the importance of the burden-shifting framework for special appearances under Texas law,” Ms. White said. She handled this appeal with AZA Of Counsel Daryl Moore.
The court opinion said that even though “a plaintiff has the initial burden to plead sufficient allegations to confer jurisdiction …, a defendant seeking to avoid being sued in Texas then has the burden to negate all potential bases for jurisdiction pled by the plaintiff.”
The case is Marquette Transportation Company, LLC and Marquette Transportation Company Gulf-Inland, LLC Appellants v. Gerald Simon, Appellee, Case No. 14-21-00729-CV on appeal from the 157th District Court in Harris County. Lawyers Eric Rhine and Marcus Spagnoletti, of the Spagnoletti Law Firm, beat the special appearance request in the trial court.
AZA, or Ahmad, Zavitsanos & Mensing, is a Houston-based law firm that is home to true courtroom lawyers with a formidable track record in complex commercial litigation, including energy, healthcare, intellectual property, and business dispute cases. AZA is recognized by Chambers USA 2022 among the best in Texas commercial law and intellectual property; by U.S. News – Best Lawyers’ Best Law Firms as one of the country’s best commercial litigation firms for 11 years running; has been named Litigation Department of the Year by Texas Lawyer three times including for 2021; and was previously dubbed by Law360 a Texas Powerhouse law firm.