14 Dallas Gas Stations to Pay for Hurricane Harvey Price Gouging

price gouging

Last year’s catastrophic Hurricane Harvey dumped more than 50 inches of rain on the Houston area and claimed more than 80 lives. Many people stepped up to help their neighbors in the aftermath, but there were others who turned the community’s shared distress into a moneymaking enterprise through price gouging.

Immediately following the worst of the storm, both the Texas governor and attorney general warned businesses against price gouging. However, there were numerous reports of hurricane victims being charged ridiculous amounts for everything from bottled water to hotel rooms to gasoline.

The fears over supply shortages hit hard in Dallas, where hundreds of gas stations ran out of fuel and thousands of customers waited in line for hours.

Texas AG Files Price Gouging Claims

The AG’s office responded to reports of price gouging by asking those who believed they had been overcharged to provide copies of their receipts. In the months that followed, the AG filed a series of lawsuits and issued more than 125 notices of violations.

Now, several of those businesses have agreed to a legal settlement that includes more than $160,000 in refunds for customers. According to published reports, 48 Texas gas stations signed off on the agreement, including 14 in Dallas. Overall, 42 of the stations are in North Texas.

The AG says all the stations in the settlement charged gas prices of at least $3.99 per gallon after Harvey. Some stations reportedly charged as much as $8.99 per gallon. Gas prices in Texas averaged roughly $2.20 per gallon at the time.

The two biggest payouts reportedly are coming from the Old Town Store in Garland, which agreed to refund $14,870, and Bob’s Exxon in Dallas, which will pay $12,000. In an odd twist, the Old Town Store recently was in the news for selling a $1 million winning scratch-off lottery ticket. Based on the Texas Lottery’s bonus program, that means the owners of Old Town are in line for a $10,000 bonus, which should help offset their settlement payment.

Protecting Clients’ Money

Although the legal actions above were filed by the state, the facts are not that different from what I regularly see in cases involving fiduciary litigation and business disputes.

The gas stations that agreed to the price gouging settlement saw an opportunity to grab some extra cash and thought they could get away with it. Fortunately, the state was there to help.

At the Law Offices of Brad Jackson, we have spent decades helping individuals and companies who similarly have been ripped off through no fault of their own. The unfortunate truth is that there are people in all walks of life who are looking for the chance to line their pockets even if it means violating the law. That’s why we are here to protect clients’ interests and make sure that responsible parties are held accountable under the law.

Multimillion-Dollar Jury Verdict Follows Missed Deadline in Personal Injury Case

A high-profile Dallas lawyer has filed for bankruptcy protection while facing a multimillion-dollar lawsuit over an important missed deadline in a personal injury case.

Attorney Levi McCathern II is perhaps best known for representing the Dallas Cowboys and team owner Jerry Jones. He also earned some unflattering notoriety in 2011 after being cited and fined for illegally killing a giant alligator.

McCathern recently was the subject of a feature story in The Dallas Morning News about his representation of Lubbock-based West Star Transportation. The company’s insurer hired McCathern in 2009 to defend a personal injury lawsuit filed by a driver who suffered a serious brain injury after falling off a truck.

The driver’s attorney reportedly presented McCathern and his clients with $250,000 personal injury settlement offer that included a specific deadline. McCathern failed to respond in writing before the deadline and instead called to say that his client would agree to the proposed settlement. He then followed up to accept the offer in writing less than an hour after the deadline, but an appeals court ruled it was too late.

With the settlement off the table, the case went to trial in Lubbock in 2012. The jury awarded a $5.5 million verdict to the driver and his wife after finding West Star negligent. The verdict was affirmed in a judgment signed in 2015, and the trucking company appealed. The judgment now stands at roughly $7 million with the addition of interest. Family-owned West Star says that amount is enough to put it out of business.

Former Clients Target Lawyer

After the judgment was entered, West Star sued McCathern for legal malpractice. The company says McCathern exposed it to an “excess judgment” by not responding to the settlement offer in time. West Star is seeking nearly $20 million in damages.

The case was set to go to trial last month, but it was put on hold after McCathern filed for personal bankruptcy protection in Dallas. According to court records, he faces more than $1.7 million in bankruptcy debts and an IRS tax lien against him and his wife for $1.2 million. He has yet to provide a full accounting of his debts and assets in the case.

McCathern, who also has been sued by West Star’s insurance company, declined to comment for the Morning News story. His attorney said McCathern filed for bankruptcy protection because his insurance company wouldn’t cover West Star’s malpractice claim.

Meeting Deadlines Key for Every Attorney

Although settlement talks are in the works, this case no doubt will end up impacting everyone involved for years to come. The driver and his wife are still waiting for the money that was approved by a judge and an appeals court. The employees at West Star are unsure how long they’ll continue to have a place to work. And a notable Dallas attorney may end up defending a $20 million legal malpractice lawsuit after filing for bankruptcy protection.

It’s hard to believe this all could have been resolved nearly a decade ago except for a single missed deadline. This complicated case shows how important it is for attorneys to be organized and to make sure they closely monitor clients’ cases to make sure nothing is overlooked.

As lawyers, we owe an extra duty of care to the people who entrust us to protect their legal rights. Answering clients’ questions, keeping them updated on their cases, and meeting important deadlines should be the goal of every attorney.


Houston Jury Awards Nearly $90 Million in Tractor-Trailer Death


A recent verdict of nearly $90 million handed down by a Houston jury against trucking giant Werner Enterprises Inc. is only the latest reminder of the incredible devastation caused by wrecks involving drivers operating a tractor-trailer, 18-wheeler, or other heavy truck.

The six-week trial in Harris County District Court ended with jurors awarding damages to the family of Houston resident Jennifer Blake for physical pain, mental anguish, and future medical expenses.

The case against Werner Enterprises focused on a December 2014 crash in Ector County near Odessa. Ms. Blake was driving in the eastbound lane of Interstate 20 with her three children when her pickup reportedly veered across an icy roadway. The Blake’s truck slid into the path of a Werner tractor-trailer driven by a student driver who was making a delivery to California.

Ms. Blake and her eldest son suffered extensive brain injuries in the wreck, which also claimed the life of her youngest son and left her daughter a quadriplegic who will need 24-hour care for the rest of her life.

The Nebraska-based company claimed no responsibility for the crash, which on its face seems reasonable since its driver stayed on his side of the road and stopped his truck as soon as possible after the impact.

But, as with any lawsuit, there was another side to the story. Attorneys for the Blake family told the jury that the driver should have been traveling on a different road based on the icy conditions. They also claimed he was exceeding the speed limit, and that a Werner employee told the tractor-trailer driver to take the I-20 route.

Tractor-Trailer Verdict Factors, Appeal Coming

The high-dollar verdict no doubt was influenced by evidence that Werner had not provided the driver with a CB radio or outside thermometer to help monitor road conditions. Jurors also had to be feeling tremendous sympathy for the Blake family based on the deaths of their two children and their daughter’s lifelong need for expensive medical care.

Werner already has announced the company’s intention to appeal the verdict. It is also entirely possible that the trial court may decide to reduce the award before any judgment is issued based on a variety of factors.

While Werner has a number of avenues to try to get the verdict amount lowered (or even dismissed), cases like this provide further proof of the inherent dangers when passenger vehicles and tractor-trailers share the same roads. As this case reminds us, we all need to be a little bit safer whenever we get behind the wheel, for the good of everyone.

Brad Jackson Once Again Named Among Best Lawyers in Dallas


DALLAS – Dallas attorney Brad Jackson of the Law Offices of Brad Jackson once again has been named among the city’s top legal counsel in the 2018 listing of the Best Lawyers in Dallas published by D Magazine.

The exclusive roster of Dallas’ leading lawyers is based on nominations submitted by local attorneys who were asked: “Which Dallas lawyers, of those whose work you have witnessed firsthand, would you rank among the current best?” After the nominations are tallied, D Magazine’s editors determine the final selections with feedback from an anonymous panel of leading Dallas attorneys.

Honored for Dallas Business Litigation Work

Mr. Jackson, who is Board Certified in Civil Trial Law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization, earned his eighth consecutive appearance on the list for his work in business litigation and medical liability litigation.

“It is an honor to be ranked alongside so many excellent attorneys,” says Mr. Jackson. “Our firm’s mission is to always put our clients first, and recognition like this tells me we’re doing things the right way.”

Mr. Jackson has represented clients in state and federal courts for more than 25 years. Along with fellow firm attorney Cheryl L. Mann, he handles a variety of cases for people from all walks of life. The firm’s expertise includes business disputes and commercial litigation, contract disputes, fiduciary litigation, denial of commercial insurance claims, probate and trust litigation, professional malpractice cases, serious personal injuries and wrongful death, and other areas.

Successful Legal Defense for Clients

In a recent case heard in Dallas state district court, Mr. Jackson and Ms. Mann successfully defended a group of seller and business broker clients in a $3 million lawsuit over the sale of an insurance agency. Although the plaintiffs sought millions, they decided to dismiss the case after only three days of trial and agreed to pay $200,000 to one of the firm’s clients.

Based in Dallas, The Law Offices of Brad Jackson provides decades of experience representing clients in Texas and across the nation. Brad Jackson is Board Certified in Civil Trial Law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization. The firm handles practically every type of business dispute, as well as cases involving serious personal injury and wrongful death.

Law Offices of Brad Jackson Helps Clients Defeat $3 Million Lawsuit


Our team recently obtained a great result for a group of seller and business broker clients in a lawsuit over the sale of an insurance agency. Our clients were facing nearly $3 million in damages after being accused of fraud, negligent misrepresentation, breach of contract, breach of fiduciary duty and other claims.

This case provides a good example of our work in business disputes and fiduciary litigation, as well as our representation of local and out-of-state clients.

The lawsuit was filed by Frisco, Texas-based CLA USA Property and Casualty Group against our clients from Dallas-based CapRock Services, which provides financing for small businesses, and Sarasota, Florida-based General Insurance Brokerage, LLC, which specializes in brokering the sale of insurance agencies.

Business Lawsuit Background

The dispute arose after General Insurance Brokerage identified Irving, Texas-based Innovative National Risk, LLC, as a potential CLA acquisition target. CLA bought the company from CapRock in 2014.

Shortly after the sale, CLA claimed, among other things, that Innovate National Risk’s operations failed to comply with state and federal laws. CLA argued that it was left holding the bag, accusing our clients of conspiring to make the sale happen so that CapRock could divest itself of the insurance agency and General Insurance Brokerage could collect commission payments.

How We Won

We were brought into the case late to represent CapRock and General Insurance Brokerage, which previously had been defended by separate lawyers.

Together, Brad Jackson and Cheryl Mann began an aggressive defense that resulted in the court striking the testimony of CLA’s expert witnesses, including an attorney, an actuary and a certified fraud examiner. We also convinced the court to enforce a jury trial waiver because we believed that our defense of CLA’s complicated and convoluted claims would be best understood by an experienced trial judge.

By the third day of trial before the Honorable Tonya Parker of the 116th Judicial District Court of Dallas County, we had clearly proven that General Insurance Brokerage, CapRock, and their principals, who CLA had sued personally as well, had done nothing wrong. That same day, CLA voluntarily dismissed all its claims and agreed to pay $200,000 to our client CapRock.

Cases like these are why we come to work every day. Our clients had their backs against the wall, facing millions of dollars in potential damages. We were able to devise an aggressive and effective defense that resulted in the complete vindication of our clients.

Behind Dallas Appeals Court’s $288 Million Ruling Against Credit Suisse

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A verdict of nearly $40 million issued four years ago in Dallas recently was affirmed as a $288 million judgment against Swiss banking giant Credit Suisse. Of course, as with most legal appeals, the story continues.

The case over a failed Las Vegas real estate deal ended its current local run with the recent 35-page ruling authored by Justice Elizabeth Lang-Miers of the 5th District Court of Appeals in Dallas.

The next stop apparently will be in Austin at the Supreme Court of Texas since Credit Suisse almost immediately announced its intention to appeal.

Failed Deal Leads to Vegas-sized Judgment

The ruling addresses Credit Suisse’s failed attempt to void the original 2014 verdict and eventual judgment in favor of the Dallas investment firm Highland Capital Management. Jurors awarded $40 million against Credit Suisse after finding the company duped Highland into investing $250 million to help refinance a Las Vegas resort.

When Lake Las Vegas went belly up as part of the 2008 financial crisis, Highland sued based on allegations that Credit Suisse knowingly manipulated the property’s perceived value by relying on a faulty appraisal, among other claims.

Even though the state district jury in Dallas agreed with Highland, the case continued to go through additional legal wrangling. The trial court eventually approved the verdict amount and signed a 2015 judgment for more than $288 million after ruling that Highland was owed additional damages beyond the $40 million jury award.

Why Appeals Cases Take So Long

With a jury verdict, court judgment and favorable appeals court ruling, some might think Highland is about to pocket a hefty chunk of change. Not so fast. In the land of appeals, as this case perfectly illustrates, the devil is in the details.

In every Texas case when a trial court enters a judgment where money is awarded, the losing party can post a court-approved supersedeas bond or cash deposit to cover the amount.

By doing so, companies such as Credit Suisse can prevent winning parties like Highland from enforcing a judgment while the case is on appeal. Like a lot of big companies, Credit Suisse can find $288 million between its couch cushions, which is one of the many reasons why appeals can take so long to resolve.

Now that Credit Suisse has announced its intention to appeal to the Texas Supreme Court, and since it can appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court in the event of an adverse ruling, it may be years before this legal saga reaches its eventual end.

Although the legal profession strives to uphold the idea that “justice delayed is justice denied,” the truth is that any court case can be delayed if one or more parties have the financial wherewithal and internal fortitude to continue the fight through appeals. Eventually, it’s up to our courts to decide the justice part.


Cryptocurrency Craze Leads to Fraud Charges in Dallas

Photo by David McBee from Pexels https://www.pexels.com/photo/bitcoins-and-u-s-dollar-bills-730547/

Most of us have seen news reports about the ongoing cryptocurrency craze, including the skyrocketing and plummeting prices for Bitcoin and other electronic currencies. Now, some cryptocurrency companies are facing federal investigators based on allegations of fraud

The latest news comes from Dallas, where a cryptocurrency bank founded less than a year ago has been charged along with its owners of fraud and other alleged wrongdoing. Launched in March 2017, AriseBank claimed to have raised $600 million in the past two months in an initial coin offering (ICO) for its AriseCoins. Such sales are like an initial public offering (IPO) of stock options.

The bank said it had “one of the largest crypto-currency platforms ever built.” But the Fort Worth Regional Office of the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission says the bank was nothing more than an “outright scam.” The government says the company misled investors and sold unregistered securities under fraudulent terms.

After falsely claiming that it had purchased an FDIC-insured bank, AriseBank failed to tell investors that its co-founders have prior felony criminal convictions, according to the SEC.

Now, a Dallas federal judge has appointed a receiver to figure out how much of investors’ money, if any, remains.

It’s not hard to imagine that lawsuits from investors will soon follow, although collecting any judgment against AriseBank is now in doubt since the bank has been put under the government’s control and no one appears to yet know if any assets remain.

Investment Scams Nothing New

The trail of investment scams extends nearly as long as investing itself. That is why the cryptocurrency frenzy should send up a warning flare for many of today’s investors. For every quality investment opportunity, there are many more scams nearby.

One notable example came in 1986, when a California teenager formed ZZZZ Best Inc. and claimed the company was the “General Motors of carpet cleaning.” After the company sold millions in stock options, federal investigators discovered that ZZZZ Best was little more than a series of phony documents and sales receipts. In the end, investors lost more than $100 million and the company’s founder was sentenced to 25 years in prison.

Perhaps the greatest investment scam in history is rooted in Texas with the fall of energy giant Enron in 2001. Houston-based Enron was ranked as the seventh-largest company in the world. Unfortunately, the company was hiding billions of dollars in debt through a series of accounting transactions that relied on shell companies to conceal dire financial circumstances. In addition to resulting in the collapse of the global accounting firm Arthur Andersen, the fall of Enron caused billions of dollars in losses for investors and employees. More than 4,000 employees were let go after the company filed for bankruptcy protection.

AriseBank Lessons

The AriseBank story should serve as an important lesson for everyone. That’s especially true for those of us who are only mildly familiar with the ins and outs of the investing process. There are seemingly countless state and federal laws covering proper investment protocols and the sale and purchase of securities. Few “regular” investors know all the rules.

No matter how many TV commercials make it look easy to handle your own investment decisions, the truth is that investing is complicated business. Just because you have been successful enough to accumulate enough money to invest on your own doesn’t mean that you’ll enjoy the same success when it comes to finding the right investment opportunity.

That is why it is so important to have a trusted financial advisor and knowledgeable attorney involved if you’re thinking about plunking down your hard-earned cash in hopes of realizing positive returns in the future. Failing to do so could put you in the same position as the investors who backed AriseBank and are now waiting to see if the government can help them reclaim their money.

Happy Holidays!

Happy Holidays from everyone at the Law Offices of Brad Jackson! To all our clients and other friends, we wish you the very best throughout the holiday season and coming New Year. Please visit our blog in early 2018 when we’ll resume posting about the important legal issues of the day.

Witness Tampering Claims Leveled at Johnson & Johnson

Johnson & Johnson is one of the world’s most recognizable healthcare companies, with a history of producing and selling pharmaceutical drugs and medical devices since the late 1800s. Despite recent product recalls and lawsuits targeting several of the company’s medications, Johnson & Johnson remains one of the most powerful brands in the world based in large part on its Johnson’s brand of baby products.

Now, Johnson & Johnson is in the unusual situation of being accused of witness tampering in two different cases pending in Texas and Pennsylvania. The allegations are based on conversations the company’s sales representatives had with doctors who were scheduled to testify at trial.

While it is unclear whether any wrongdoing truly occurred, the fact is that witness tampering, particularly in federal court, is a very big deal regardless of whether you’re Johnson & Johnson or Mike Johnson.

Texas Case Opens Door

In the Texas case, Johnson & Johnson’s DePuy Orthopaedics unit is accused of producing and selling a defective, metal-on-metal hip implant that is targeted in more than 9,000 pending cases filed by patients who blame the device for a variety of injuries.

The lawyer representing the hip implant plaintiffs dropped a bombshell in mid-October when he announced that he would not be questioning a doctor who was scheduled to testify because of alleged witness tampering by a DePuy sales rep. The claim was based on an affidavit from the doctor, who said the sales rep told him he was worried that “there could be ramifications” for the doctor’s medical practiced based on his upcoming testimony, which was only three days away.

The judge overseeing the case called in the FBI and the U.S. Attorney’s Office to investigate the claims, with Johnson & Johnson noting that the doctor later said the conversation with the sales rep would not have impacted his testimony.

Apparently satisfied with what he heard after interviewing the sales rep and the company’s lawyer outside the presence of the jury, the judge found no evidence of criminal activity and has allowed the trial to proceed.

A Johnson & Johnson spokesman has said the judge’s ruling proves the company did nothing wrong. The lawyer for the plaintiffs told reporters that he hopes the episode “will inhibit DePuy from tampering in the future.”

Xarelto Case Brings New Claims

In Pennsylvania, Johnson & Johnson’s Janssen Pharmaceuticals unit is being sued over the company’s Xarelto anticoagulant medication. The popular blood-thinner is blamed for causing strokes, excessive blood loss, pulmonary embolisms, and a variety of other medical problems.

Following the news of the witness tampering claims in Texas, attorneys representing the plaintiff in the Xarelto case filed a similar court motion accusing a Johnson & Johnson sales rep of potentially trying to influence the testimony of a doctor who was set to testify only weeks later. According to the plaintiff’s lawyers, her doctor previously had said she suffered from gastrointestinal bleeding complicated by Xarelto, but changed his testimony to deny knowing that she ever had the bleeding.

Johnson & Johnson’s legal team say the lawyers representing the Xarelto plaintiff are making overbroad assumptions, and that the sales rep’s conversation with the doctor had nothing to do with his upcoming testimony. The court has ruled that the plaintiffs’ attorneys can question the sales rep in a deposition that will take place while the trial is proceeding.

Potential Fallout

With Johnson & Johnson being accused of witness tampering in back-to-back cases, it’s worth noting that the same law firm represents the company in both lawsuits. It’s also interesting that the same scenario of a sales rep trying to influence a testifying doctor is being alleged in both instances.

As noted earlier, federal witness tampering is serious business. Under 18. U.S. Code § 1512, anyone who “uses intimidation, threatens, or corruptly persuades another person, or engages in misleading conduct” to influence witness testimony could face a 20-year prison sentence and additional fines.

While doctors and sales reps talk with each regularly as part of their jobs, the more prudent practice would be to impose a communications blackout in the days and weeks prior to a doctor taking the stand in court. It certainly would have prevented the situation that Johnson & Johnson and the company’s sales reps are facing today.

Why Massive Trinity Industries Judgment was Reversed

Big news for Dallas-based Trinity Industries came down late last month when a three-judge panel from the U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals unanimously reversed and rendered, throwing out a $663.3 million adverse judgment. This case presented the odd situation where a plaintiff and jury said the government was defrauded, but the government wanted no part of it.

Like a lot of appeals court rulings, the final decision is focused more on the law’s intent rather than what the plaintiff alleged.

Case Background

The original 2014 verdict followed an earlier mistrial and three years of contentious litigation in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Texas in Marshall. The lawsuit was filed under the federal False Claims Act by a man who owned a company that competed against Trinity. The False Claims Act allows individuals to file lawsuits aimed at protecting the government from fraud. Often, the government will join such cases as a plaintiff, but not always.

The plaintiff accused Trinity of defrauding the federal government by not disclosing a redesign in its ET-Plus guardrail system that was sold under federally subsidized state contracts. Jurors heard one week of testimony before slapping Trinity with a $175 million verdict that climbed to more than $663 million in the final judgment after the addition of penalties and attorney fees.

Court’s Reasoning

Trinity appealed, noting that the government never said there was anything wrong with the company’s guardrails as it continued to buy them. Notably, the Federal Highway Administration decided not to join the lawsuit as a plaintiff and instead issued an official memorandum during the trial expressing its continued confidence in the ET-Plus system.

On September 29, the 5th Circuit panel ruled in Trinity’s favor by reversing the earlier judgment and dismissing all claims against the company. Considering that Trinity didn’t tell the Federal Highway Administration about modifying its guardrail system and later made millions and millions of dollars selling the same system, you might ask, “So why didn’t Trinity lose on appeal?”

The answer, according to the unanimous three-judge panel, boiled down to a question of materiality.

The 5th Circuit noted that even though the plaintiff and the East Texas jury may have believed the government was defrauded, the government’s actions painted a much different picture.

“When the government, at appropriate levels, repeatedly concludes that it has not been defrauded, it is not forgiving a found fraud— rather it is concluding that there was no fraud at all,” the court concluded.

While some will argue that the ruling ignored the jury’s decision, the 5th Circuit’s reasoning no doubt will be relied upon by future defendants in False Claims Act cases until or unless this issue reaches the U.S. Supreme Court.