Debora Simon Pacholder

Of Counsel

Debora Simon Pacholder

Of Counsel

Debbie Pacholder’s trial practice emphasizes representation of corporations and individuals in the oil and gas, healthcare and other commercial industries. Debbie has achieved unparalleled success at the pretrial stage in hotly contested cases expected to be resolved only at trial. Debbie and her clients have emerged victorious in every motion for summary judgment she has filed and argued, and in every motion to dismiss she has filed. She has successfully participated in arbitration proceedings, conducted evidentiary hearings and obtained injunctive relief, including appointments of a receiver and temporary restraining orders.

Recent wins for clients in the oil and gas industry:
Debbie was brought in during trial preparation to defend against a counterclaim on a theft of trade secrets case regarding subsea contracts between two major players in the oil and gas industry. She wrote and argued a motion for summary judgment on the counterclaim. Within hours after the hearing, the opposing party dismissed its counterclaim. Shortly thereafter, AZA’s client obtained a lucrative settlement on the eve of trial.

Her client Timothy W. Johnson, General Counsel of Peak Completion Technologies, Inc., was awarded General Counsel of the Year, Small or Solo Practice, by the Association of Corporate Counsel’s Houston Chapter and The Texas Lawbook in April 2019, stemming from her nomination describing the successful results they achieved in bet-the-company litigation. One of these was an $8 million claim by a supplier seeking damages against Peak for unpaid invoices, which Peak determined were fraudulent.  The supplier dismissed all of its claims with no settlement payment after Debbie filed a motion for summary judgment, motion for sanctions and a motion for spoliation of evidence.

Debbie constructed an innovative counterclaim in a multi-million-dollar patent dispute involving transportation of fracking materials. AZA’s client resolved the suit without paying any settlement amount.

She handled an AAA arbitration proceeding for an oil and gas completions client against an auditor who failed to advise the company of fraudulent transactions by its president. The client obtained a lucrative resolution. Debbie also assisted the client in reaching a substantial settlement with the widow of the company president for the return of her shares after he died unexpectedly.

Debbie and AZA associate Ward Goolsby obtained summary judgment and dismissal of all claims for CITGO Petroleum Corporation in a breach of contract suit brought in Delaware Superior Court by a crude transportation company claiming CITGO owed $1.9 million.

She and AZA partner Steve Mitby obtained summary judgment, upheld by the 14th Court of Appeals, for National Oilwell Varco (NOV) on a former employees’ claim of alleged disability discrimination.

Debbie researched and wrote the relevant portions of a motion for summary judgment in multi-million-dollar litigation by an operator against AZA’s downstream client. After the summary judgment hearings, AZA resolved the matter with its client paying no money in settlement.

She obtained dismissal of a $10 million qui tam action by a former employee alleging illegal environmental releases by AZA’s client, a staffing company for offshore oil and gas platforms.

For the same client, Debbie investigated allegations of Clean Water Act violations involving two offshore platforms. She counseled several individual employees to prepare them for their grand jury testimony, preventing indictments of both the individuals and her corporate client. She also analyzed and deflected the platform operator’s substantial claims for indemnity.

Before NOV became a client of AZA, Debbie won nearly $140,000 in sanctions against them on behalf of the former president of NOV’s subsidiary. The sanctions award, based on NOV’s filing of a groundless “strike” suit, was noted in Texas Lawyer and was identified as the “verdict of the week” by the Texas Bluesheet. NOV had alleged fraud and breach of fiduciary duties against its former officer, claiming millions in damages. After Debbie obtained dismissal all of the claims brought by NOV on summary judgment, she succeeded in recovering what was the highest ever amount of sanctions assessed in an employment case in state district court in Houston at that time.

Debbie, along with John Zavitsanos and Joe Ahmad, represented a local valve supplier whom NOV sued for alleged violation of trade secrets. After a lengthy trial, the jury returned a zero verdict, vindicating the valve supplier and several of its employees.

Recent wins for clients in the healthcare industry:
Debbie, with AZA partner Steve Mitby, convinced the court to appoint two independent managers to oversee an imaging center in an acrimonious business divorce.

She succeeded in recovering, under an ERISA plan, long-term disability and other benefits for a former executive after a major insurance company had determined the executive was no longer disabled. Debbie secured all the relief requested in pre-suit negotiations without filing suit.

Debbie participated in the defense of a health services company sued for negligence in a wrongful death suit. After she filed for summary judgment on behalf of the company, the Plaintiffs settled the suit with the company’s co-defendant, but dismissed her client without requesting any settlement payment. Later, she and John Zavitsanos recovered the client’s attorney’s fees incurred in defense of the medical malpractice suit in an arbitration action for indemnity against the company’s settling co-defendant.
For the same health services entity, she has successfully obtained:

• the appointment of a receiver over the defendant’s assets in a breach of contract action after less than one day of testimony
• a multi-million dollar default judgment, which the company collected
• successful resolution in a complex action brought against it by a former pharmaceutical giant
• a temporary injunction preventing disbursement of the defendant’s funds in another breach of contract action
• dismissal of two hotly contested actions brought against the company by a laboratory services company, with no settlement payment by the company
• summary judgment on the defendant’s affirmative defenses in another breach of contract action, enabling the client to obtain in settlement 95 percent of its damages — and attorney’s fees incurred — after presentation of the evidence at trial

Other notable wins:
Debbie obtained summary judgment for an industrial tool supplier client in a catastrophic burn injury case. The motion was granted shortly after Debbie prepared and presented the company’s corporate representative for his deposition.

She obtained summary judgment via the “one satisfaction rule” against a law firm asserting a claim for damages against her client, arising out of his involvement in a sale in which the firm had sought a million-dollar contingency fee. Judge Ken Wise granted the summary judgment motion on the eve of trial, agreeing that the law firm had already been fully compensated for its alleged loss.

Debbie won a motion to dismiss she filed on behalf of light heavyweight boxing champion Chad Dawson in a suit filed against him by former boxing promoter James Prince. Mr. Prince previously attempted to obtain an injunction against Dawson from defending his light heavyweight title against Antonio Tarver in Las Vegas by filing suit in Houston and seeking a temporary restraining order to stop the fight. The TRO was not granted. The motion to dismiss Debbie filed challenged personal jurisdiction over Mr. Dawson in Houston. United States District Judge David Hittner granted the motion and transferred the case to the United States District Court for the District of Nevada, Southern Division, where Mr. Dawson was training.

She defended a major automobile manufacturer against a claim of deceptive trade practices by a corporation and its individual proprietors who were seeking more than a million dollars in damages. She obtained an abatement of the corporation’s claim against the manufacturer due to the corporation’s non-payment of state franchise taxes. In another suit defending the same manufacturer, Debbie negotiated a recovery on the client’s counterclaim, while the plaintiff took nothing.

In a suit seeking more than $1 million in damages for breach of contract against a publicly traded telecommunications corporation, Debbie defeated a party’s motion for protective order. The plaintiffs immediately dismissed all of their claims against the corporation.

With John Zavitsanos, Debbie defended a nation-wide auto and travel organization in a breach of contract and tortious interference action in which the plaintiff was seeking $8 million in damages. At the end of a five-week trial, the jury returned a zero verdict in favor of the defense on all claims. Debbie successfully defended the verdict on appeal.

In handling lease disputes for a major local shopping mall, she has obtained judgments to have commercial tenants evicted for non-payment of rent, and recovered lease payments owed. Debbie successfully defended a major local property management company in a claim for unpaid commissions, and, on the opposite side, has recovered unpaid commissions on behalf of another major commercial real estate firm.

Debbie also has obtained summary judgments on behalf of employers in various employment disputes:

• Summary judgment on all allegations of race and sex discrimination and racial and sexual harassment in a suit against a major corporation involved in the manufacturing of agricultural products, upheld on appeal by the 5th Circuit en banc;
• She and AZA partner Steve Mitby obtained summary judgment, upheld by the 14th Court of Appeals, for National Oilwell Varco (NOV) on a former employees’ claim of alleged disability discrimination; and
• Obtained several no-cause findings resulting from her submissions to the EEOC in defense of clients who have had charges filed against them for employment discrimination issues

Victories involving insurance matters:
Debbie successfully argued to the 14th Court of Appeals to have a decision granted against her client overturned. The client, who had sought reimbursement for a settlement to which its insurer refused to consent, ultimately recovered the majority of the fees expended. The case, Comsys Information Technology Services, Inc. v. Twin City Fire Ins. Co., 130 S.W.3d 181 (Tex. App. — Houston [14th Dist.] 2003, review denied) is cited often in reported decisions involving insurance coverage issues.

She succeeded in recovering, under an ERISA plan, long-term disability and other benefits for a former executive after a major insurance company had determined the executive was no longer disabled. Debbie secured all the relief requested in pre-suit negotiations without filing suit.

Debbie represented an insurance adjuster in a mold claim in which the Plaintiff was seeking more than $1 million in damages. The adjuster was let out of the case without paying any money in settlement.

Background:
Debbie is a native Houstonian. She has been recognized by the Jewish Family Service of Houston for her contributions to the community and pro bono legal work. An active participant in the Houston Chapter of Women in Energy, she was selected to serve as a Houston Chapter mentor. Debbie also created a unique methodology for timekeeping, utilized by each of AZA’s lawyers and legal assistants. She also volunteers her time extensively in the special needs community through her three children’s schools, Avondale House and The Joy School.

Before joining AZA, Debbie was an associate with a mid-sized Dallas litigation boutique where she practiced in commercial, toxic tort and employment litigation. She served as co-chair of the Dallas Association of Young Lawyers Employment Law Committee, and taught reading and writing skills to adults as an instructor for LIFT, Literacy Instruction for Texas.

She attended the University of Houston Law Center, where she was a moot court semifinalist, and the University of Texas at Austin, where she graduated with honors in journalism and won several awards writing and editing for The Daily Texan, the school’s nationally recognized news publication.

Published cases:
Okpere v. National Oilwell Varco, L.P., 524 S.W.3d 818, 821 (Tex. App. – Houston [14th Dist.] 2017, pet. denied)
RCI v. American Automobile Association, Inc., 154 S.W.3d 878 (Tex. App. — Dallas 2005, review denied)
Comsys Information Technology Services, Inc. v. Twin City Fire Ins. Co., 130 S.W.3d 181 (Tex. App. — Houston [14th Dist.] 2003, review denied)

CLE:
Debbie was a speaker at the State Bar of Texas’ 19th Annual Texas Minority Counsel Program (2011) on “Obtaining and Avoiding Sanctions” Awards.

IN THE NEWS

AZA Wins $1.9 Million Contract Case for CITGO in Delaware Court

National Oilwell Varco Summary Judgment Win Affirmed by U.S. Circuit Court

AZA Obtains Major Court Victory for Current Light Heavyweight Boxing Champion

AZA is Retained to Represent Current Light-Heavyweight Boxing Champion Chad Dawson

AZA Obtains Favorable Verdict in Month-Long Trade Secrets Trial

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(713) 655-1101

© 2019 All rights reserved.

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