Client’s interests in real estate entities vindicated on appeal to Texas Supreme Court

Partners Eileen O’Neill and Michelle R. Meriam Blair succeeded in securing a reversal of a declaratory judgment against their clients, Osama Abdullatif and Ali Mokarm. The case involved disputed ownership interests in two closely held entities organized and owned by Abdullatif and Mokaram, a limited partnership and a limited liability company. The trial court declared that plaintiff, Ali Choudhri, acquired Mokaram’s interests in both entities and was a member and manager of the LLC. The court of appeals reversed, holding that Choudhri never acquired any interest in the LLC and clarifying that although he obtained an interest in the limited partnership, he was a mere assignee with limited rights. The court also reversed the trial court’s award of over $600,000 in attorneys’ fees, remanding the issue for reconsideration in light of its decision. Choudhri sought review in the Texas Supreme Court, but his petition was denied.

Victory for Ware Jackson clients in international commercial arbitration

Partners Dennis Barrow, Tyler Henkel, and Michelle R. Meriam Blair secured a total defensive victory in an international arbitration. In the arbitration, former officers and shareholders alleged Ware Jackson’s clients, who are oil field service companies, breached multiple fiduciary duties. The claimants sought to establish that a series of corporate acquisitions, the implementation of a corporate debt structure, a corporate merger, a capital infusion and a stock redemption individually or together constituted an improper scheme to dilute and squeeze the claimants out of a company in which they had previously sold the majority interest to a corporate conglomerate. The claimants sought approximately $9 million in damages, along with their attorneys’ fees. After an evidentiary hearing, the arbitrator rendered an award that the claimants take nothing on their claims.

Appellate victory in defamation suit awarding $6.4 million to local surgeon

Ware Jackson partners Tim Lee, Margaret Bryant, and Michelle R. Meriam Blair successfully defended an appeal of a $6.4 million judgment against Memorial Hermann Health System in favor of Houston surgeon Miguel Gomez and his professional association. This appears to be the largest defamation verdict ever upheld by a Texas appellate court. The Houston court of appeals rejected all of Memorial Hermann’s arguments, including that its defamatory and disparaging statements were not published, did not cause damages, and were protected by a qualified privilege. The appellate court affirmed the entire jury award, including lost profits, reputational harm, mental anguish, and exemplary damages.

The opinion is Mem’l Hermann Health Sys. v. Gomez, No. 01-17-00632-CV, 2019 WL 3819516 (Tex. App.—Houston [1st Dist.] Aug. 15, 2019, no pet.). An article about the case from the Texas Medical Association is available here. Gomez was represented in the trial court by the firm’s good friends, Mike Doyle, Patrick Dennis, and Jeff Avery.

Ware Jackson successfully defends judgment for local production company on appeal

The First Court of Appeals in Houston has affirmed a judgment in favor of Ware Jackson’s client, a local production company, that held a promoter liable for civil theft and conversion and awarded attorneys’ fees. Partner Michelle R. Meriam Blair handled the appeal, McGill v. GJG Productions, Inc., No. 01-17-00937-CV, 2019 WL 2749888 (Tex. App.—Houston [1st Dist.] June 25, 2019, no pet. h.). Michelle and partner Wes Jackson obtained summary judgment in the trial court on liability and a full victory following a jury trial on damages and attorneys’ fees.

Ware Jackson Partners win rare dispositive rulings in $2 billion international commercial arbitration

Partners Eileen O’Neill and Michelle R. Meriam Blair won rare, pre-hearing dispositive rulings in a $2 billion international commercial arbitration in favor of Ware Jackson’s client, a Houston-based Fortune 500 oil and gas company. The arbitrator agreed to hear the client’s motion for dispositive rulings, and ruled that the opposing party’s contract and tort claims for over $2 billion in consequential damages for alleged late deliveries were barred by limitations and foreclosed by the terms of the parties’ contract.

Ware Jackson defeats Facebook’s attempt to convince Houston court to dismiss civil claims regarding human trafficking of minors

In a case involving allegations that Facebook and others facilitated sex trafficking of minors, Ware Jackson partners Tim Lee, Margaret Bryant, and Michelle Meriam defeated Facebook’s motions to dismiss three cases filed in two different Texas district courts. Facebook argued that a federal statute preempts the plaintiffs’ state-law claims against internet service providers. The courts’ orders denying the motions and permitting the cases to proceed are believed to be the first of their kind under 2018 amendments to the federal statute, which has paved the way for victims of human trafficking to obtain relief against third-party online facilitators. Ware Jackson represents these clients as appellate counsel. Trial counsel for the plaintiff victims include Annie McAdams, David Harris, and Mike Gallagher.

Ware Jackson partners secure a historic victory

Ware Jackson partners K. Knox Nunnally and Michelle Meriam secured a historic victory for both their client and the LGBTQ Houston community on Friday, June 7, 2019.  They obtained a signed court order granting their transgender client the legal authority necessary to correct the gender marker on her Texas driver’s license and Texas birth certificate to conform with her true identity.

The Texas Department of Transportation and the Texas Department of State Health Services both currently require a certified court order to change a requestee’s gender marker on a driver’s license or birth certificate.  Before June 7, 2019, transgender individuals in Texas applying for the court orders could only obtain them from a few counties, not including Harris County.

This ruling is significant because, without identification that matches their appearance, transgender individuals may and do encounter enormous difficulties voting, traveling, and even purchasing guns. Further, it can make them targets for violence. Now, transgender individuals in Houston will have an avenue to obtain the same rights as those in other jurisdictions where approval of these types of orders is commonplace.

Ware, Jackson, Lee, O’Neill, Smith & Barrow, LLP or “Ware Jackson,” is a Houston-based law firm that is home to true trial and appellate lawyers with a 25 year track record in complex commercial litigation, including energy and construction, intellectual property, and business dispute cases. When trials are in your future look to Ware Jackson.

Appellate victory in truck-auto accident contribution appeal

Ware Jackson partners Tim Lee and Michelle Meriam successfully defended the parents of a critically-injured child after one defendant argued on appeal that it had a right to contribution from them. The First Court of Appeals held in favor of the parents, and the defendant filed a petition for review in the Texas Supreme Court. After ordering full briefing on the merits, the supreme court denied the petition for review, leaving the judgment undisturbed.

Ware Jackson helps secure big victory in long-fought $2 billion international commercial arbitration

Ware Jackson partner Eileen O’Neill and associate Michelle Meriam aided a Houston-based Fortune 500 company in obtaining a successful result in an international commercial arbitration seated in Paris, France.

The case arose from 2006 contracts under which the client’s Norwegian subsidiary supplied custom oil and gas equipment to a Saudi Arabian joint venture for six land-based oil wells built for Saudi Aramco. The joint venture, along with its parent company and one of its principals, accused the firm’s client of engaging in an elaborate conspiracy with other suppliers to destroy the joint venture’s business by delivering equipment late. They sought to recover liquidated damages and lost profits totaling more than $2.3 billion, plus twice the amount of commissions paid in connection with the sales.

The case was filed in Texas state court and removed to the Southern District of Texas. The federal district court denied the client’s motion to compel arbitration, but Ware Jackson successfully appealed that ruling to the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals. In the arbitration subsequently commenced with the ICC, Ware Jackson led the preparation of the client’s written submissions. The ICC arbitral tribunal issued its favorable 270-page final award following a 3-week oral hearing. The award held that the Saudi Arabian joint venture’s contract claims were barred by the Norwegian statute of limitations and determined that Ware Jackson’s client played no role in ARPD incurring liquidated damages or going out of business.

Firm trial, appellate and probate skills dominated in complex and lengthy battle and win against Anna Nicole Smith for the $1.6 billion estate of J. Howard Marshall.

Firm lawyers battled victoriously before juries and appellate judges for decades to preserve the $1.6 billion estate of the late J. Howard Marshall for certain family members. The legal team vigorously protected the interests of the billionaire’s son E. Pierce Marshall, his heirs and other members of the Marshall family against the claims of former Playboy model Anna Nicole Smith who was married to Marshall for one year before he died.

The complex legal battles were fought on two major fronts that highlighted both the trial and appellate skills of firm lawyers. One fight was in probate court in Texas and in the appeal of that verdict that left Ms. Smith out of the estate. The second fight was over a California bankruptcy judge’s decision that initially favored Ms. Smith. Ware, Jackson, Lee, O’Neill, Smith & Barrow lawyers successfully defended the Marshall family in appellate courts on that score, including twice at the U.S. Supreme Court.

Lawyers who protected client interest in these high-stakes cases include partners Don Jackson, Eileen O’Neill and Tim Lee and associate Michelle Meriam.

The highly publicized probate case was won when a Harris County jury found against the claims of Ms. Smith. The jury not only granted firm clients the estate but also some millions in counterclaims for fraud and tortious interference that survived judicial review. Firm lawyers also kept the win intact at the First Court of Appeals except for minor changes that included issues surrounding legal fees.

The California battle was fought simultaneously after a judge there granted Ms. Smith more than $400 million of the estate, and later when courts cut that down to $89 million. This matter went twice to the U.S. Supreme Court. First Ms. Smith won the right to take her complaints to federal court. But crucially, the second high court decision declared that a significant provision of the bankruptcy code was unconstitutional.  Ware Jackson clients were victorious when the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in California reversed the judgment against Pierce Marshall on grounds that it was precluded by the earlier Texas probate judgment obtained by the firm in that initial probate trial. Thus Ms. Smith was left without a share of the estate once and for all.