Case Summaries

In re: Weatherford International LLC et al.

In April 2024, the Supreme Court of Texas agreed with AZA’s appellate team when it found that a trial court abused its discretion when it failed to dismiss a case against energy giant Weatherford International. The justices found that Weatherford could not be sued in a Texas court. The case was filed by the family of a worker who lived in South Africa and centered on questions about a medical test conducted in Egypt.

AZA Lawyers:  Kelsi Stayart WhiteTodd Mensing and Ryan Hackney

Case Type: Appellate

Hunter Carr v. Scott Hepford et al.

In a business divorce trial where the plaintiff presented damages of up to $82 million, a Harris County jury unanimously found he should take nothing and returned a verdict in favor of AZA’s clients.

Hunter Carr, who ran a diabetes treatment consultancy along with AZA’s clients, alleged in the lawsuit that the others squeezed him out of their business and improperly sold company assets to themselves. But AZA clients Scott Hepford and partners showed the jury they had saved the assets in the sale because their company was failing. 

In the two-week trial before Judge Ravi Sandill, the jury charge was 34 pages long, with many questions the jury did not need to answer once it found that AZA’s clients did nothing wrong. 

AZA Lawyers:  Kevin Leyendecker, Nathan Campbell and Kelsi Stayart White.

Case Type: Litigation Defense

Melinda Abbt v. City of Houston and John Chris Barrientes

In a case that has already changed Texas sexual harassment law, a jury awarded $250,000 to a female firefighter whose supervisor obtained an intimate video made for her husband and secretly watched it for years.

The jury awarded $80,000 in actual damages for mental anguish, $50,000 in punitive damages and $120,166 in attorneys’ fees to Melinda Abbt in Judge Ursula Hall’s court.

The U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals in March 2022, in reversing a hostile work environment summary judgment order in this case, set two new precedents in hostile work environment cases.

The panel found the firefighter did not need to experience harassment in real time for it to be actionable. According to the ruling, the victim still has a claim if she finds out later about what happened behind her back. This is the first time the court has ruled on that issue.

The appellate panel also ruled that the City of Houston can be liable if a workplace harassment report goes up the chain of command but stops because a supervisor who was a recipient of the notice is also a participant in the harassment. This is also the first time the court has ruled on this issue.

AZA Lawyers:  Kelsi Stayart White, Joe AhmadJordan Warshauer, Karina Sanchez-Peralta, Colin Phillips

Case Type: Appellate and Litigation Plaintiff

Odessa Pumps and Equipment Inc. v. GR Lift, L.P. et al.

In October 2023, a Harris County jury awarded AZA client Odessa Pumps $2.4 million in attorneys’ fees in a breach of contract case against GR Energy and its affiliates over a 2021 asset purchase. GR Energy sought approximately $30 million but took nothing.

Odessa Pumps, a DistributionNOW company, is a provider of pump products in the energy industry. In 2021, Odessa Pumps bought Flex Flow, a horizontal pumping system business, from GR Energy. Later, both sides sued each other over issues including breach of contract, a noncompete promise and unpaid fees.

AZA Lawyers: Joe AhmadJason McManis, Judge Daryl Moore,  John ZavitsanosNathan Campbell, Angela PetersonHailey Pulman, and Karina Sanchez-Peralta.

Case Type: Litigation Defense

Dismissal of California Wrongful Death Lawsuit Against International Energy Company

In August 2023, a federal judge in California granted summary judgment for an international energy company represented by AZA in a $10 million offshore platform wrongful death case.

U.S. District Judge Fred W. Slaughter ruled that AZA’s energy company client had no liability for an offshore platform accident in which a platform worker fell to his death in December 2020.  

The plaintiffs’ lawyers asserted that AZA’s client had negligently maintained the platform during its former ownership and failed to warn of dangerous conditions on the platform. AZA successfully argued that its client owed the plaintiffs no legal duty, that the worker’s employer was responsible, and that the plaintiffs had failed to meet the deadline to add related defendants. 

AZA Lawyers:  Rey Flores, Michael Gorrell, and Todd Mensing

Case Type: Litigation Defense

Patriot Contracting LLC v HERC Solutions USA LLC

In a complex six-week case involving the construction of Houston Midtown apartments, a Harris County jury awarded AZA client, Mid Main Properties LLP, $32.5 million. 

The jury found that Patriot Contracting LLC, its owner, and bond insurers Travelers must pay Mid Main. The award included about $17.5 million in punitive damages, $8 million in actual damages and $7 million in attorneys’ fees. 

The case, in state District Judge Rabeea Collier’s court, centered on work done at a four-building, multi-use Midtown property on Main Street near the Ensemble/HCC Metro train stop. The apartments were a continuation of developer Bob Schultz’ vision for an Austin-like Midtown and were adjacent to an area where he had already developed an eclectic mix of eateries, venues and businesses.

AZA Lawyers: Nathan Campbell, John Zavitsanos, Shahmeer Halepota, Kelsi Stayart White and Emily Adler.

Case Type: Litigation Plaintiff

Hebert et al. v. FMC Technologies Inc.

In June 2023, the U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed a Fair Labor Standards Act case summary judgment win for AZA client FMC Technologies Inc., a global provider of technology services for the energy industry.

An installation engineer at FMC made a Fair Labor Standards Act claim that he, and many other installation engineers like him, should not be considered salaried and should be allowed to collect overtime. He claimed he should get overtime because he sometimes received a bonus for going in the field. But a three-judge panel on the appellate court found that the engineer’s regular duties required technical expertise and he was paid a salary, making him overtime-exempt.

The engineer, who when applying his professional engineer’s license in Louisiana claimed he did sophisticated engineering work, argued that because he got a “field bonus” for occasionally checking on work out of the office, he could recharacterize his job as manual labor.

AZA Lawyers: Kelsi Stayart White and Todd Mensing

Case Type: Appellate

AZA Wins Take-Nothing Judgment for Fuel Company

AZA defeated a $5 million breach of contract claim for a Houston-based fuel company that was sued by an international fuel trader.  

A Harris County district judge ruled in May 2023 for AZA’s client following a one-week trial in April 2023 that ended with both sides submitting proposed findings, conclusions, and judgments. 

The plaintiff sued AZA’s client for damages for allegedly breaching supply agreements. The trial was the culmination of three years of litigation. Adding interest and legal fees, the judgment would have likely exceeded $5 million.  

AZA Lawyers:  Kyle PoelkerTodd Mensing, and Harrison Scheer

Case Type: Litigation Defense

MMWKM Advisors, LLC, and Kenneth Moraif v Joseph Dowdall

An arbitration panel awarded $3.4 million to AZA client, MMWKM Advisors, which does business as Retirement Planners of America (RPOA), a Plano-based investment advisory firm, from former employee Joseph Dowdall, a Plano-based financial planner.

The three-arbitrator panel for the American Arbitration Association found that Mr. Dowdall breached his contractual and fiduciary duties to RPOA when he took confidential information and accepted client relationships in violation of his contract when he left to go to a competitor. The panel denied Mr. Dowdall’s counterclaims and found that he destroyed texts and other evidence after he became aware of this litigation.

MMWKM was awarded $2.7 million in damages and attorneys’ fees, plus pre-judgment interest and arbitration fees. The case was in arbitration per the Investment Advisor Representation Agreement the parties signed in 2013.  

AZA Lawyers: Ryan Hackney

Case Type: Arbitration

SilverBow Resources Operating LLC and El Dorado Gas & Oil, Inc. v. ETC Field Services, LLC et al.

In February 2023, AZA and Hogan Thompson  law firm teamed up to win their two clients a total of $41.8 million from a South Texas jury in an oil and gas trespass case.

A McMullen County jury unanimously found that AZA’s client SilverBow Resources and Hogan Thompson’s client El Dorado Gas & Oil were damaged by Energy Transfer’s trespass. The trial focused on whether midstream energy company Energy Transfer should pay for additional drilling and production costs caused by Energy Transfer’s injection of natural gas processing waste byproducts in the subsurface.

AZA Lawyers: Todd Mensing, Taylor Freeman, Jane Robinson, Cameron ByrdHarrison ScheerHilary Greene, and Thomas Cooke.

Case Type: Litigation Plaintiff

Ben & Jerry’s Homemade Holdings Inc., vs. Conopco, Inc.

In December 2022, the board of directors of Ben & Jerry’s, the premium ice cream brand known for its social awareness, successfully and confidentially settled a dispute with its parent company Unilever, a multinational consumer product company. The legal battle was over the billion-dollar brand’s corporate governance, including the licensing of Ben & Jerry’s products in the West Bank.

The fight gained international media attention after the board filed suit in federal court in New York seeking to stop the parent company from subverting its 2000 merger agreement that requires board approval for the sale of Ben & Jerry’s intellectual property.

AZA Lawyers: Shahmeer Halepota

Case Type: Litigation Plaintiff

Marquette Transportation Company, LLC and Marquette Transportation Company Gulf-Inland, LLC Appellants v. Gerald Simon, Appellee,

In December 2022, 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.

AZA Lawyers: Kelsi Stayart White and Daryl Moore

Case Type: Appellate

MMWKM Advisors, LLC, Series ERD I, LLC, and Elias R. Dragon vs. Philip Floyd

In August 2022, a Collin County judge affirmed a $1.4 million arbitration award against a former employee who breached his contractual and fiduciary obligations to MMWKM Advisors, which does business as Retirement Planners of America (RPOA), a Plano-based investment advisory firm.

Arbitrator Anne Ashby, a retired Dallas County judge, found that Philip Floyd had “solicited another MMWKM employee, Joseph Dowdall, to work with him on a scheme to use the information and client relationships they had received access to from [RPOA] to serve their own financial interests.”

Mr. Floyd in 2019 signed an Investment Adviser Representative Agreement in which he agreed that for three years after leaving the company that trained him and provided him with clients, he would not use the company’s confidential information, and that if he accepted the business of any of his former employer’s clients he would purchase the client relationships at a contractually agreed price.

AZA Lawyers: Ryan Hackney

Case Type: Arbitration

Martin Energy Services LLC v. Vertex Refining Alabama LLC

In February 2024, AZA zeroed out at trial a breach of contract and fraud claim brought against its client, Vertex Alabama, a fuel refiner. Martin Energy sought several million dollars for Vertex Alabama’s alleged failure to supply contractually required fuel and defrauding Martin Energy in the process. After a several day bench trial, the Court rejected these claims and entered a take nothing judgment in Vertex Alabama’s favor.

AZA Lawyers: Todd Mensing, DJ Ringquist, and Michael Thompson

Case Type: Litigation Defense

Port of Houston Authority of Harris County Texas v. Louis Dreyfus Company Houston Export Elevator LLC

In March 2022, a jury in U.S. District Judge Lynn Hughes’ court returned a $28 million verdict for AZA client, the Port of Houston, in a breach of contract dispute with French merchant firm Louis Dreyfus Company. The dispute was over Louis Dreyfus’ refusal to do required upkeep on a portside grain elevator it rented from the government from 2008 through 2018. The lack of upkeep resulted in massive corrosion, conveyor and structural tower problems, dust system problems, and other issues.

AZA Lawyers: Todd Mensing, Kelsi Stayart White, Michael Killingsworth, and Thomas Frashier

Case Type: Litigation Plaintiff

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