Stephan Selinidis Admitted to Practice in Oklahoma
As of October 2, 2012, Harrison Bettis associate Stephan Selinidis is a member of the Oklahoma Bar. Selinidis sought admittance into the Oklahoma Bar to better serve clients who are conducting exploration and production operations in Oklahoma. Selinidis noted that, “Many of our Texas-based clients are conducting business in other states, such as Oklahoma.” “Our goal is to better serve their needs, wherever and whenever they may arise.” The firm’s expertise in oil and gas law and client base operating in Oklahoma made his decision to join the Oklahoma Bar an easy one.
Summary Judgment in Fire Case
Jim Bettis and Paul Sculley recently obtained a summary judgment and dismissal of a case against their client, Kinder Morgan Production Company, LLC, in which the plaintiff sought several hundred thousand dollars in damages resulting from fire damage to her property. She alleged that the fire had been caused by a transformer on a utility pole at a Kinder Morgan pumping station. Jim and Paul established that there was no evidence that Kinder Morgan was negligent, or that the transformer actually caused the fire. The court granted summary judgment and dismissed the case.
Defense Victory in Products Liability Case
Jim Bettis and Paul Sculley defended a manufacturer of high performance brakes in a case arising out of a catastrophic accident at Texas Motor Speedway in which a professional race car driver suffered severe brain damage and his passenger was killed. The plaintiffs, who sought approximately $8 million, alleged that the brakes on the race car, a modified Corvette, were defective and fractured or otherwise failed, causing the Corvette to spin out of control and hit the outside wall of the race track. After exhaustive expert failure analysis and testing of the brakes, Jim and Paul proved that the brakes were not defective and were not the cause of the accident, obtaining summary judgment and dismissal of the case against the brake manufacturer.
Harrison Bettis Secures Major Insurance Settlement for Oil Company
Paul Sculley, Jim Bettis and Mitch McFarland, on behalf of a large oil exploration and production company, sued various London based insurance underwriters for failure to pay a claim after an oil well blew out. The insurance underwriters steadfastly denied payment for the cost to re-drill the well. Motions for summary judgment were filed and argued to the trial court. While the motions remained pending, the case was mediated and the insurance underwriters ultimately paid for the multimillion dollar cost of re-drilling the well.
Harrison, Bettis and McFarland named as Texas Super Lawyers
Cliff Harrison, Jim Bettis and Mitch McFarland have been named by Texas Monthly magazine as “Super Lawyers” for 2012. This annual determination is made as a result of a survey of lawyers from all across Texas, and is limited to the top 5% of attorneys who are nominated and receive votes. The firm takes pride in announcing that Cliff Harrison has been named a Super Lawyer in the category of Personal Injury – Defense, Jim Bettis has been named in the category of Insurance Coverage, and Mitch McFarland in the category of Business Litigation. Congratulations to Cliff, Jim and Mitch.
Mitch McFarland argues before Texas Supreme Court
On February 8, 2012, Mitch McFarland argued before the Texas Supreme Court in case styled El Paso Marketing, L. v. Wolf Hollow 1, L.P. The case involved claims by the owner of a gas-fired electric power generating plant against the gas supplier (El Paso Marketing) and the pipeline that delivered fuel to the plant (Enterprise Pipeline) for interruptions in service and for delivering gas below contractual quality standards. Mr. McFarland represented El Paso and prevailed at the trial court on motions for summary judgment that the interruptions were due to force majeure and that Wolf Hollow’s damage claims were barred as consequential damages. The Fourteenth Court of Appeals affirmed the ruling that all of Wolf Hollow’s damage claims were barred as consequential damages. However, the court of appeals held that Wolf Hollow could proceed with claims for negligence against Enterprise. All parties sought petitions for review by the Texas Supreme Court. See, Wolf Hollow I, L.P. v. El Paso Marketing, L.P., 329 S.W.3d 628 (Tex. App. – Houston [14th Dist.] 2010, pet. granted).
Cliff Harrison Wins the Yancey Award for Best Article
The International Association of Defense Counsel announced at their annual meeting that Cliff Harrison is the winner of the Yancey Memorial Award. This award is bestowed annually to the author of the best article published in Defense Counsel Journal in the previous year. Cliff’s winning article Ten Rules for Great Jury Selection can be viewed here. The Yancey Memorial Award, instituted in 1963, honors George W. Yancey, former president of the IADC and founder of the Defense Counsel Journal. Congratultions to Cliff on receiving this important award.
Cliff Harrison Becomes Member of TIDA
Cliff Harrison has become a member of the Transportation Industry Defense Association, a national educational and networking organization dedicated to sharing knowledge and resources in the defense of the trucking industry. Founded in 1993, TIDA has become the organization of choice for over 1800 motor carriers, trucking insurers and defense attorneys. (link to their website?)
Harrison Wins Case Involving Death of Motorcyclist
Cliff Harrison successfully defended a national waste hauler in a case in which one of the company’s truck drivers was accused of making a wide turn in front of a motorcycle. The motorcycle struck the back of the truck, which had extended over into the motorcyclist’s lane as the truck made its turn. The rider died after being on life support for twelve days. The case was tried before a Navarro County jury, which found that the motorcyclist was 80% responsible for the accident. Under Texas law, such a finding precludes any recovery by the rider’s estate as well as the claims filed by his parents and by his child.
Harrison Bettis Named Among Texas’ Top Rated Lawyers
The name partners at Harrison, Bettis, Staff, McFarland & Weems, LLP have been named by Martindale-Hubbell and ALM among the Top Rated Lawyers in Texas for 2012. The partners, Cliff Harrison, Jim Bettis, Rick Staff, Mitch McFarland and Jeff Weems, were also featured in a cover story in ALM’s publication “Texas’ Top Rated Lawyers.” In addition to this prestigious annual listing, ALM also publishes The American Lawyer, The National Law Journal, and The Texas Lawyer, all of which included the Top Rated Lawyers magazine in their April 2012 edition. “Top Rated Lawyers” was also included in the March 30 edition of the Wall Street Journal, Houston Chronicle, Dallas Morning News, and Austin American Statesman. The partners at Harrison Bettis received this honor as a result of consistently maintaining the highest possible “AV Preeminent” rating by Martindale-Hubbell, the nation’s oldest and most prestigious attorney rating service. Congratulations to all the partners for their legacy of consistently striving for the highest standards of client service.
The publication and article can be accessed by clicking here .
Harrison Achieves Diplomate Status in ABOTA
Cliff Harrison has been elevated to the rank of “Diplomate” in the American Board of Trial Advocates. ABOTA is a national association of experienced trial lawyers dedicated to the preservation and promotion of the right of trial by jury in civil cases. Membership is by invitation only, after nomination and election by the local chapter. Diplomate status is reserved for those members who have tried over 100 jury trials, and represents a level achieved by less than 5% of the total membership.
Mitch McFarland and Jim Bettis Win Major Arbitration Victory for Kinder Morgan
D. Mitchell McFarland and James M. Bettis, Jr. successfully represented Kinder Morgan Energy Partners, L.P. and Kinder Morgan Petcoke, L.P. in an arbitration of a $61,000,000 breach of contract claim for damages and lost profits brought by Watts, Guerra & Craft, L.L.P. on behalf of The Premcor Refining Group, Inc. (a wholly owned subsidiary of Valero Energy Corporation) related to the collapse of a coke pit wall at Valero’s Port Arthur Refinery. At trial, Harrison Bettis was successful in proving that Kinder Morgan complied with its contractual obligations in full and that the cause of the coke pit wall failure was due to defects in the design and construction of the coke pit by Premcor’s EPC contractor. The arbitrator ruled that Premcor take nothing on its claims.Kinder Morgan is one of the largest terminal operators in the United States and Kinder Morgan Petcoke, the largest petroleum coke handling company in North America, has the contract for coke cutting and coke handling at the Valero’s Port Arthur Refinery. Its responsibilities include removing coke from the coke pit, water management in the coke pit, storage of the coke and loading it onto ships for transport. In August 2007, at a time when Premcor was producing coke at maximum capacity, one of two gantry cranes used by KMP to remove coke from the coke pit was down for repairs for ten days. This lead to the coke pit being almost completely full of coke and water and on August 14, the coke pit wall collapsed.According to the claims by Premcor, the coke plant did not return to full operations for over four months. Port Arthur Coker Company, a wholly owned subsidiary of Premcor, sued Premcor for breach of contract and obtained an award of over $50,000,000. Premcor then sued Kinder Morgan for breach of contract and for indemnity on the claim by PACC against Premcor. After a six day hearing, which included six expert witnesses, the arbitrator found that Kinder Morgan did not breach the contract, that Kinder Morgan did not owe indemnity to Premcor and entered a take nothing award.Paul Sculley, Carrie Schadle and our paralegal Suzanne Drew provided valuable assistance on this matter. Also, special thanks to Scott Hunter at TimeLine Productions for audio visual assistance.
Outstanding Settlement in Construction Case
Thad Jenks recently obtained a favorable settlement in a construction defect case brought by a major electric company. The case settled seven months after the firm’s client was sued, without taking any depositions, and for less than 5% of the claimed damages.
Jeff Weems Named by AAPL to Special Committee
Jeff Weems has been named by the AAPL (American Association of Professional Landmen) to the committee formed to revamp the Model Form Operating Agreement, which has gone over 20 years without updating. Most oil and gas operators throughout the United States use the AAPL Model Form as the core document to formalize the rights and duties of parties to joint operations. Jeff is the Texas representative on this committee.
Harrison Wins Indemnity Dispute
Cliff Harrison has successfully defended Midstream Fuel Service in a case in which Midstream allegedly sold defective marine fuel to another oil company which resold it to a ship, where the fuel allegedly caused damage to the ship’s engines. The purchaser of the fuel had settled with the ship’s owner, then sued Midstream seeking indemnity for the settlement amount, together with attorneys’ fees. The plaintiff fuel purchaser alleged that it was an “innocent retailer” of “defective” fuel and was therefore entitled to indemnity. The case was tried to a jury in the 151st Judicial District in Houston; where the jury returned a verdict in favor of Midstream and against the plaintiff. Congratulations to Cliff on another courtroom victory.
Proactive Litigation Plan Pays Off
Rick Staff and Kerry McEniry were called upon by a division of a major oil field service provider to develop an accurate and early risk assessment and tactical litigation plan for the handling of four related contract, personal injury and wrongful death suits in Texas and New Mexico. The company used the assessment and plan in conjunction with developing a revised business plan to address unexpected downturns in the demand for the company’s products and services. The last of the four suits, which arose in connection with the company’s contract for a multi-well drilling program in the two states and ultimately involved twenty separate parties, was resolved by settlement after almost four years of litigation. Despite many complex factual and legal issues involved, Harrison Bettis’ early assessment proved to be directly on target, contributing to the client’s efforts to re-focus and allocate company resources in the successful achievement of its revised business goals in the challenging market conditions.