Compiled by Tess Congo

/ Austin/San Antonio's Best Lawyers 2017

IN THE HEADLINES

► Bracewell: J. Tullos Wells(employment law – management; labor law – management, 2001), who is general counsel for the San Antonio Spurs, is representing Tim Duncan, the recently retired NBA player, against Duncan’s former financial adviser, Charles Augustus Banks IV. Banks was indicted on two counts (now four) of criminal wire fraud for allegedly defrauding Duncan of $75 million that Duncan invested in Gameday Entertainment, a sports merchandise company run by Banks. The four wire charges against Banks each carry a maximum 20-year sentence.  

► Enoch Kever: Craig T. Enoch (appellate practice, 2008) is a former Supreme Court justice who went head-to-head with former Chief Justice Wallace B. Jefferson over a case brought to the Texas Supreme Court justices concerning an inheritance dispute. Enoch is representing a family who states that their step-grandmother with dementia, Lesey Kinsel, was unduly influenced by her niece and nephew, who are blood relatives. Kinsel dropped Enoch’s clients from her will and sold her ownership in their grandfather’s ranch due to influence by her niece, nephew, and law firm Jackson Walker, which is also being sued by the Kinsels.

 

► Gordon Rees Scully Mansukhani: Kenneth J. Ferguson (mass tort litigation / class actions – defendants; personal injury litigation – defendants; product liability litigation – defendants, 2005) is representing Uber in a lawsuit filed by Sarah Milburn, who became a quadriplegic paralyzed below the middle of her chest after her Uber driver ran a red light. Milburn is also suing Honda, the driver, and the owner of the van the Uber driver drove. Police charged the other driver for causing the accident, and no charges were filed against the Uber driver.

 

► Slack & Davis: Michael L. Slack (personal injury litigation – plaintiffs; product liability litigation – plaintiffs, 1995), John R. Davis, Paula Knippa;  Joe K. Longley of the Law Offices of Joe K. Longley; and Roger N. Heller and Jonathan D. Selbin (product liability litigation – plaintiffs, 2013) of Lieff Cabraser Heimann & Bernstein are representing policyholders in a class action lawsuit against Farmers Insurance. The lawsuit cites discrimination, alleging that Farmers intimidated its insurance agents into hiding lower rates offered to new customers from existing policyholders. This resulted in loyal, longtime policyholders paying higher premiums than new customers for virtually the same coverage. The plaintiffs are now seeking an injunction against Farmers to halt the unequal pricing and damages and/or restitution for attorney’s fees and costs.

ITN FEATURE

Tom Rhodes Helps Sandra Bland’s Family Secure $1.9 Million Settlement in Civil Suit

 

Tom Rhodes Law Firm: Tom Rhodes (bet-the-company litigation; commercial litigation; construction law; litigation – construction; litigation – patent; medical malpractice law – plaintiffs; personal injury litigation – plaintiffs; product liability litigation – plaintiffs; professional malpractice law – plaintiffs, 2001), Larry Powers, Jr., and Cannon Lambert, Sr., represented the family of Sandra Bland, the 28-year-old African-American woman who died in jail after being arrested during a minor driving violation, against Waller County and the Texas Department of Public Safety.

On July 10, 2015, Texas state trooper Brian Encinia pulled Bland over for failing to signal a lane change. Encinia’s dash cam footage and audio revealed that, after writing Bland a ticket, Encinia remarked that Bland looked “irritated” and requested that she put out her cigarette. When Bland refused, Encinia ordered her out of the vehicle. After attempting to forcibly remove Bland from her car, Encinia pulled out a stun gun and said, “Get out of the car. I will light you up.”

Encinia arrested Bland off-camera. Three days later, after being unable to afford the $500 bond, Bland was found hanging by a trash bag in her cell.

While the medical examiner ruled Bland’s death as a suicide, Bland’s family maintained that Bland would not have taken her own life. At the time of her death, Bland had moved to Texas to start a new job at her alma mater Prairie View A&M University. On social media, Bland was active, encouraging white and black people to befriend one another, posting videos discussing her belief that technology would play a key role in social justice cases and commenting on police shootings of unarmed black men.

A grand jury determined that Encinia lied when he said he removed Bland from the car only to conduct a “safe traffic investigation.” Following his perjury indictment, Encinia was fired by the Texas Department of Public Safety.

In the civil suit filed by Bland’s family, Larry J. Simmons, Jr.(personal injury litigation – defendants, 2010), of Germer, represented the Texas Department of Public Safety. The settlement Rhodes and the rest of the team helped secure for the Bland family calls for Waller County to pay $1.8 million and the Texas Department of Public Safety to pay an additional $100,000.