City Council Gets Ready To Implement Prop B

It’s been over three months since Houston voters approved pay parity between firefighters and police officers and Houston City Council is getting ready to begin implementation. As the legal representatives who helped the Houston Professional Firefighters Association get Proposition B on the ballot, our entire team is very proud to see the measure come to fruition.

In a City Council meeting in late January, Mayor Sylvester Turner and City Council members discussed different options for how to roll the proposition out. Although Mayor Turner opposed Proposition B, claiming there was not room in the budget for pay parity, others have suggested the money can be allocated from other places. The City of Houston is required to keep 7.5% reserve funds on hand for emergencies, but Houston has an estimated 8.9% in reserves, meaning the city has an excess in its reserves. Some have suggested the excess in reserves can be used to immediately implement Prop B.

While there are many options for funding the implementation of pay parity for fire fighters, the City Council could look to its surplus funds to implement Prop B. Estimates indicate that if the city continues to spend at the same rate through the end of the 2019 fiscal year, there would be a surplus of $88 million available. This surplus could be used for the immediate funding of pay parity. But the city doesn’t have to implement Prop B all at once, as pay parity could be introduced in phases to be completed over five years.

We Are Proud To Support Firefighters

Feldman & Feldman has been honored to help Houston firefighters in their fight to get pay parity with police officers. We are also assisting Dallas and San Antonio firefighters in protecting their rights in separate actions. Our attorneys have extensive experience with governmental entities and workers’ unions and know how to achieve successful results.

Contact Feldman & Feldman For Help

The dedicated attorneys at Feldman & Feldman provide a unique approach to complex legal issues. If you would like to schedule an appointment with us to discuss your legal issues, contact us today.

Investigation Reveals Over 300 Sexually Abusive Southern Baptist Church Leaders

Just one week after Catholic Dioceses across Texas released the names of priests credibly accused of sexual abuse, an investigation by the Houston Chronicle and the San Antonio Express-News revealed 380 Southern Baptist church leaders and volunteers across the country have been accused of sexual misconduct. Over 220 of these individuals have been charged with sex crimes. Nonetheless the Southern Baptist Convention has refused to act and implement protocols that could prevent much of this abuse, and now victims want answers.

The Southern Baptist Convention as an institution is particularly susceptible to becoming a vehicle for abusers as church doctrine supports the independence of each local church. Hence, there is no central database tracking when an individual was ordained, accusations of sexual or physical assault, and the background/criminal history of pastors, church officials, or employees. In turn, it was previously unknown just how widespread abuse was within the Southern Baptist Convention. The Houston Chronicle and the San Antonio Express-News assembled through news reports, prison records, court records, sex offender registries, the number of known predators within the Southern Baptist Convention. However, this probably only represents a fraction of the crisis, as most incidents go unreported, or are not publicly revealed by church officials.

Nonetheless, the Houston Chronicle investigation revealed startling facts. According to the investigation, at least 35 church pastors, employees, and volunteers were able to find a job within Southern Baptist Convention after exhibiting predatory behavior. This was due in part to churches failing to alert law enforcement officials to claims of abuse. The investigation also found that registered sex offenders were able to return to a church and continue working such as one Houston area preacher who sexually assaulted a minor. While some of the church sexual abuse victims were adults, most were minors, with the youngest only three years old. Victims reported being molested, sent explicit communications, photographed nude, exposed to pornography, and repeatedly raped. Many assaults occurred on church grounds.

Helping Victims Speak Out

Feldman & Feldman has been on the front lines holding perpetrators of sex crimes accountable, regardless of denomination, faith, creed, sexual orientation, or race, including members of the Southern Baptist Convention. Religious institutions far too often sweep incidents under the rug, and victims often are unable to seek justice in the criminal justice arena. Feldman & Feldman utilizes recourse in the civil justice system to assist victims in finding closure, and in holding sexual predators fully accountable. Contact us today to schedule an appointment with one of our dedicated attorneys.

Texas Liquor Giant Fighting The Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission

If you happen to live in Texas and are over the age of 21, you’re likely familiar with the liquor chain Spec’s. While Spec’s carries a plethora of options for wine, beer and spirits, you can also go there to get other necessary items for a get together or holiday party, including food and paper goods. What you may not know about Spec’s is their ongoing legal troubles with the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission (TABC) and how they feel they have been wronged by the organization as a whole.

Spec’s Wine, Spirits and Finer Foods, Texas’ largest liquor chain recently announced it would be suing the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission (TABC) for abusive regulatory overreach. This comes after a two year long enforcement action that led to administrative proceedings in 2017, according to court documents.

The federal lawsuit alleges TABC “wrongfully and maliciously” attempted to extort money from Spec’s. According to the liquor giant, this was done by threatening to effectively shut Spec’s down or by making the business pay more than $700 million in civil penalties.

Last year during a rebuke of TABC, administrative law judges said the agency failed to prove dozens of allegations and chastised TABC for failing to disclose evidence to their own witness and the court. The judges also stated the agency was “stacking” charges, a tactic commonly used to pressure defendants into settlement. In the end, the judges determined no fines should be assessed against the liquor chain.

Currently, Spec’s is seeking an unspecified amount of monetary damages, including lost profits, more than $1 million in attorneys fees, and harm to its reputation. The lawsuit also alleges TABC provided false testimony during the spring proceedings.

Complex Litigation Attorneys

For the dedicated complex litigation attorneys at Feldman & Feldman, there is no adversary too big. Our legal team passionately pursues each case with skill and tenacity, but without the overhead of a large law firm. For the legal team at Feldman & Feldman, each case is unique and there is no one-size-fits-all solution. If you are facing any type of complex business dispute or commercial litigation, call Feldman & Feldman today to schedule a consultation to discuss your case.

Catholic Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston Release List Of Sexually Abusive Priests

Feldman & Feldman has an established history helping victims of sexual abuse involving the church. Indeed, growing pressure from civil lawsuits such as those filed by Feldman & Feldman, as well as criminal investigations nationally, have forced religious institutions throughout the country to be more forthcoming. As a result, in response to growing public concerns of sexual abuse among clergy, the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston has released today a list of clergy with credible sexual abuse allegations dating as far back as the 1940s. There are in excess of 300 clergy members on the list. To see the full list, click here.

In solidarity with the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston, dioceses all across the state have also released similar lists. It is the Church’s hope the list will help victims in the healing process, but it truly comes too late for many victims, who should have been protected from the abuse by more proactive actions from the Church.

Conroe Priest’s Arrest Leads to Release of Names In Texas

On a local level, disclosure of the names of priests engaged in sexual misconduct began in September 2018, when Conroe-based priest Father Manuel LaRosa-Lopez was charged with four counts of indecency with a child. The investigation into Father LaRosa-Lopez began when two victims claimed he abused them as teenagers while serving at the Sacred Heart Catholic Church. Months later, the Montgomery County District Attorney executed a search warrant at the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston looking for church records relating to sexual abuse allegations.

According to the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston, a report was made to Child Protective Services (CPS) after the first allegation referenced above surfaced; however, investigators were unable to find this report during their investigation, begging the question as to what the Diocese knew, and when did they know it. The lack of the purported report to CPS smacked of a cover-up. Victims’ advocates subsequently put tremendous pressure on the Archdiocese to stop protecting clergy members who commit such heinous crimes. In response to this pressure, the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston and 15 other dioceses have today released names of suspected abusers.

What Is A Credible Allegation?

The lists released by the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston and others only contain names of clergy who have been “credibly” accused. How the Church describes credibility is a little uncertain, but it has proven self-serving in the past. Michael Norris, a member of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP), had his own allegations determined to be “not credible” by the Church. His abuser was eventually found guilty in a criminal trial and sent to prison. Mr. Norris’s situation illustrates the inability of the Church to internally investigate and prevent sexual abuse. Furthermore, the lists fail to recognize the clergy members who did not participate in abuse, but failed to report it or actively worked to conceal incriminating information.

What Victims Can Do

Sexual abuse is about control. Victims often feel lost and angry, but all victims have rights. While law enforcement can pursue criminal charges, perpetrators of these crimes and the people who protect them can also be held accountable through a civil lawsuit. While no amount of compensation can undo the damage done to victims of clergy sexual abuse, compensation can relieve financial stressors and instead allow victims to focus on healing.

Feldman & Feldman Fights For Clergy Abuse Victims

At Feldman & Feldman, our attorneys have a long history defending some of the most vulnerable populations. Our firm has represented clergy sexual abuse victims in the past and helped them not only hold the perpetrator responsible, but assist victims on their road to recovery by giving them a voice. We understand that coming forward is incredibly difficult for clergy sexual abuse victims, but doing so can also bring great relief knowing their abuser was held accountable and their actions will help prevent further atrocities.

If you were sexually abused by a clergy member, Feldman & Feldman can help. We provide free, no obligation consultations to clergy abuse victims. We can help you understand your legal options and your rights. If you do decide to work with us, there is no upfront cost and you won’t owe us anything unless we help you obtain compensation. Contact us today to schedule an appointment with one of our dedicated attorneys.

Huffman, Texas School Suing Contractors For Shoddy Work

When you send your kids off to school, it’s only natural to assume you’re sending them to a safe and secure environment to learn in. Oftentimes there’s no reason to think the institution they are attending is in any shape other than good or even exemplary. Unfortunately for an elementary school in Huffman, Texas, this isn’t the case.

At Falcon Ridge Elementary, there aren’t just a few worn down classrooms, there are numerous safety concerns throughout the school. Ceiling tiles sag over students’ heads, while another student fell into a hole on the second floor that had been hastily patched over with a thin layer of concrete and insulation wrapped in plastic tarp. Solid-maple planks have fallen 40-feet into the school’s commons and seemingly unending cracks and gaps have formed in the wooden gym floor.

The school finds itself at the focal point of a multi-million dollar lawsuit between a construction management firm, a bond program manager, and Huffman ISD.

Paradigm Construction LLC officials say the school district had actually stopped payments to the company after June, even though it took until August to substantially complete the school after several delays spurred by Hurricane Harvey and alleged interference from a firm selected to manage Huffman ISD’s bond program. They claim that as they worked seven days a week to get the building ready for the first day of school, Huffman’s bond manager inserted new subcontractors into the project who altered already finished features, making it difficult for Paradigm’s unpaid subcontractors to finish their work.

On the other hand, Huffman ISD and Bond Program Management Services say their contract allowed them to stop payments to Paradigm after it was apparent the construction would not be completed by the original substantial completion date of July 19, and that the work did not meet standards. BPMS officials say Paradigm, architectural firm Huckabee & Associates, and subcontractors did little to address issues within the school, leading to a building inundated with problems that has even injured students.

Teachers were forced to band together to help assemble furniture and vacuum construction debris hours before they were to welcome students to the school for an open house. In a separate situation, the district was also forced to pay $3,000 a day for two weeks to bring in catered lunches because the school’s kitchen was inoperable.

In the middle of this legal battle and escalating war of words are hundreds of students and dozens of teachers trying to make do with doors that do not close and classrooms with incomplete walls.

Falcon Ridge Physical Education teacher, Courtney Lively, has said she finds new issues with the building each day. The bathrooms attached to the gym only became functional on December 13, and they still lack tile flooring.

“The kids don’t know all the problems, but the teachers are stressed trying to keep it all together,” Lively said.

Houston Construction Attorneys

 At Feldman & Feldman, our attorneys have over 100 years of combined legal experience. Unlike big firms, we work very closely with our clients and no one gets “lost in the shuffle.” We will evaluate your situation, listen to your needs and goals, and devise a strategy that best helps us obtain a successful outcome for you. Contact us today to schedule an appointment to discuss your situation.

Not All Real Estate Agents Are Bound By Fiduciary Duty

If you’re thinking of buying a house, it’s easy to assume the real estate agent or agency you’re working with has your best interests at heart. Whether you’re buying or selling, it’s hard to imagine that these entities would only think of themselves, right?

Recently, Consumer Federation of America (CFA) posed a national survey question to a group of adults who were asked whether or not they assume realty agents are required to represent the best interests of the home buyer or seller with whom they are working. Around 50 percent answered yes, and 16 percent said, “yes, almost always.” Leaving two-thirds of consumers in the survey with roughly the same impression.

A new report from CFA found that in fact, “real estate agents often are not required by law to represent the interests of buyers or sellers.” Meaning that clients of these agents can fall prey to poor transactions or self-dealing, as real estate agents are not legally obligated with a fiduciary duty to their clients.

The author of the report and immediate past executive director of CFA, Stephen Brobeck, says the vast majority of consumers don’t understand the varying types of representation by realty agents. He says the key question they need to ask before agreeing to work with any agent is: Will you be representing us exclusively throughout the transaction and have a fiduciary duty to us?

“The holy grail is to capture the entire commission,” says Brobeck. “The listing agent might say to the seller, we’ve got a hot buyer for your house.”

Common forms of representation examined in the CFA study:

  • Single agent: The agent works solely for the client and has a fiduciary responsibility to the client.
  • Subagent: The agent works with the buyer but has a fiduciary duty to the seller.
  • Transactional agent: The agent works with both the buyer and seller to facilitate a sale but has no fiduciary responsibility to either party.
  • Dual agency: An arrangement whereby “the agent somehow is expected to represent the interests of both the seller and the buyer in a home purchase.”

Breach of Fiduciary Duty Attorneys

The attorneys at Feldman & Feldman handle allegations of breach of fiduciary duty very carefully. We understand these claims often involve delicate situations, so we work efficiently to protect your interests while exploring all options for resolution. If you have been accused of breaching your fiduciary duty or if you believe your fiduciary’s actions constitute a breach, contact us today to schedule a consultation.

Texas Dram Shop Law and Overserving Patrons

Drinking and driving is illegal, but in Texas, so is overserving patrons. The Dram Shop Act in the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Code holds establishments such as restaurants, bars, and nightclubs liable for selling alcohol to patrons that are obviously intoxicated. Harris County District Attorney Kim Ogg has stated the county is cracking down on offenders, having recently charged five bar employees for overserving a man who left the bar and was later involved in a fatal drunk driving accident.

Employees of the bar Servi-Car El 3 served 19-year old Erick Hernandez over a dozen drinks during the six hours he was at their bar. The bartenders failed to card Hernandez to check his age, an act that would have saved a life by preventing the subsequent fatal drunk driving accident. The bar only had a beer and wine license, but bartenders were seen on video serving Hernandez tequila shots, with some joining in and taking shots of their own. Just three minutes after Hernandez left the bar, he drove the wrong way down College Avenue and struck a car with a young mother, her one-year-old son, and the baby’s grandmothers. The young mother died at the scene of the accident.

Texas Dram Shop Law

While the bartenders that overserved Erick Hernandez will face criminal charges, Texas Dram Shop law also allows victims to seek compensation through a civil lawsuit. When filing a civil lawsuit, the plaintiff must prove the intoxicated individual was intoxicated to the extent that they presented a danger to themselves or others. Individuals injured in drunk driving accidents can seek compensation through the Texas Dram Shop law to help cover the costs of emergency medical treatment, property damage, lost wages, lost earning capacity, and pain and suffering, among other damages.

Texas Dram Shop Law Attorneys

Restaurants, bars, and nightclubs have no right to recklessly endanger the lives of the public by overserving patrons. If you or someone you love was injured in a drunk driving accident, the Texas Dram Shop law attorneys at Feldman & Feldman can investigate your case and help you obtain compensation. Contact us today to schedule an appointment with one of our experienced attorneys.

Contract Disputes Are The Most Common Cause Of Construction Litigation

With any construction project, there are dozens of moving parts. If just one part fails, the rest of the project can be thrown off schedule. Construction litigation can be extremely costly and time consuming, making it difficult for projects to reach completion. The most common cause of construction litigation is contract disputes, which echoes the importance of drafting thorough and specific contracts with the help of experienced construction lawyers.

According to the 2018 Global Construction Disputes Report, contract disputes are the leading cause of legal issues for the construction industry, including contractual errors and omissions, poor contract administration and contractual misunderstandings. You might think a small omission wouldn’t have a huge impact on a project, but you’d be wrong. On average, construction contract disputes take 18 months to resolve. This means projects can be slowed down dramatically by even the smallest contract issue.

Construction contracts are a common cause of disputes, because unlike other types of contracts, they are often written in real time. Every little change needs to be documented in a change order to prevent confusion; however, there are many small details that can have huge implications. This means any time there is a contract dispute, the parties involved need to immediately contact an experienced construction lawyer. The right lawyer can help resolve issues before they drag out into an 18 month long ordeal.

Start With A Solid Foundation

The best way to protect yourself from litigation is to work with an experienced contract attorney; however, not just any contract attorney will do. The construction industry is extremely nuanced, and even attorneys with the best intensions can make costly mistakes. When looking for an attorney to help you with construction contracts, you must select an attorney with prior experience in the construction industry. You will need someone with industry knowledge to protect your best interests.

Know Where To Turn To When Litigation Arises

To prevent construction disputes from getting out of hand and delaying projects, you need to know where to turn to when litigation arises. Construction litigation can be incredibly complex, and you should only turn to attorneys with a successful track record. At Feldman & Feldman, our experienced construction lawyers are well versed on matters relating to the construction industry. We have helped draft solid contracts that prevent litigation and assisted clients when disputes threatened their projects.

Houston Construction Lawyers

If you are facing any type of construction law dispute, don’t wait to contact Feldman & Feldman today. We can analyze your case and explain your legal options. Call us today to schedule an appointment.

Litigation Appeals Are About To Change

Anyone facing litigation should prepare for big impending changes. While we don’t often think of elections as forces for change in our court systems and legal processes, the reality is that the significant election of new Democratic judges in Harris County and other Texas counties this year is going to change litigation appeals.

Unlike other states, Texas elects its judges. Voters decide whom they want presiding over their courtrooms, and this has huge implications. This past election, there were twenty Democratic judges elected to seats on the state courts of appeals in Austin, Dallas, and Houston. According to legal experts, this “blue wave” is going to change business litigation across the state.

While we think of judges as impartial and thus by virtue apolitical, each individual judge has his or her own interpretation of the law. Democratic judges share similar views in the interpretation of the law, including issues related to when to enforce arbitration clauses, when a case should be dismissed before trial, and how much deference to give trial judges and juries when reviewing large-dollar plaintiff’s verdicts.

The Republican judges that previously controlled many of the Texas appellate courts were largely pro-business and pro-arbitration. This made it more difficult for plaintiffs to pursue effective resolution to a legal issue both in and out of court. Additionally, Republican judges tend to oppose large jury verdicts. But all of that is about to change.

Plaintiffs pursuing employment litigation, products liability, or medical malpractice lawsuits will no longer face the same legal hurdles. This will help victims of negligence and unfair business practices obtain the justice they deserve. The impacts of the Texas appellate court bench changes will not occur overnight. But regardless, moving forward pursuing litigation will require an experienced trial and appellate lawyer familiar with every complicated facet of the law and the legal leanings of appeals judges.

Experienced Trial and Appellate Lawyers

Feldman & Feldman is a legal team comprised of fierce trial lawyers and knowledgeable appellate lawyers. This makes us uniquely qualified to handle our cases from start to finish. We can deliver big wins in the courtroom and defend those wins on appeal, if necessary. If you would like to schedule a consultation with one of our dedicated attorneys, contact us today for a free consultation to see how we can help.

Health Insurance Giant Slammed With $25 Million Verdict For Bad Faith Denial

Insurance is typically a good thing. Policyholders can pay a small premium and receive financial compensation if they end up filing a claim. Without insurance, many people would be unable to pay for car repairs after an accident, a new roof after a storm, or necessary medical treatment. Unfortunately, insurance companies are first and foremost a business, and they sometimes put their own financial interests above their contractual obligations to policyholders.

Bad faith insurance denials in the healthcare industry are all too common, and patients pay the price; however, an Oklahoma court is making an example of insurance companies who wrongly deny claims. Jurors in Oklahoma awarded $25.5 million to the estate of a patient whose health insurance claim was wrongfully denied by health insurance giant Aetna.

In 2014, Orrana Cunningham was diagnosed with Stage 4 Nasopharyngeal Cancer. As devastating as the news was, Orrana and her husband felt fortunate to have health insurance that would allow them to pursue treatment. Her doctors recommended proton beam therapy. Proton beam therapy has been used for decades to target specific tumors because it increases the effectiveness of treatment and comes with fewer side effects than other types of treatment.

The Cunninghams sought coverage under their Aetna health plan, but the company and its in-house medical directors denied the claim. The company claimed proton beam therapy was “experimental or investigational” and therefore excluded from coverage. To call this type of treatment experimental is quite a reach. Proton beam therapy is not only approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), but it is also a covered treatment under Medicare. The Cunninghams believe Aetna denied the claim for financial reasons, saving the insurer from paying out on expensive claims. They also pointed out Aetna’s in-house medical directors receive profit-based bonuses, exposing them to bias.

Unfortunately, Mrs. Cunningham passed away in May 2015 from complications related to her treatment; however, her struggle was not in vain. The massive $25 million verdict sends a strong message to health insurers: bad faith denials will not be tolerated and insurance companies that operate in bad faith will pay a heavy price.

Bad Faith Insurance Denials

Policyholders that pay their premiums deserve full coverage under their policies. If you or someone you love has received a bad faith insurance denial, contact Feldman & Feldman today to protect your rights and pursue rightful compensation.