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MODESETT WILLIAMS PLLC

EXPERIENCED     TRIAL     LAWYERS

515 CONGRESS AVENUE

SUITE 1650

AUSTIN, TX 78701

512.472.6097

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OUR LATEST News AND Updates

 

what's happening in our world

Call to Support Senate Bill 932

Modesett Williams - Wednesday, May 10, 2017

The Texas Senate unanimously approved Senate Bill 932, the bill that would crack down on bad nursing homes, and now the House is deliberating on whether these bad nursing homes should be held accountable for their wrongdoings. Jack Modesett wrote a letter in February congratulating Senator Schwertner for his work on this bill and on behalf of some of our most vulnerable citizens, which can be read here.


This morning's Austin American-Statesman features a full page ad in support of the bill and we strongly encourage you to check it out, learn more about the low quality of care provided by Texas nursing homes, and take action.


"Tell your legislator to make nursing homes safer and protect Texas seniors by passing Senate Bill 932. Call 1-844-305-8852 today."

Connecting the Jury to Each Other - And Your Case

Modesett Williams - Tuesday, May 09, 2017

At our shop, we spend a lot of time thinking how to connect with juries. We constantly ask ourselves, how can we tell our client's story in a way that resonates with the jury's experience? As we all retreat into our smartphones and become less connected to each other, though ostensibly connected to the world, finding that common ground is becoming more difficult.


Perhaps that is why Sebastian Junger's "Tribe, On Homecoming and Belonging" resonated with me. Junger asks, "How do you become an adult in a society that doesn't ask for sacrifice? How do you become a man in a world that doesn't require courage?" He answers his questions with, "Humans don't mind hardship, in fact they thrive on it; what they mind is not feeling necessary. Modern society has perfected the art of making people not feel necessary. It's time for that to end." I agree. A jury's experience at trial can and should be a way to make them "necessary" to society.


Junger goes on to describe human "needs" in a way that can be a call to action for a jury. "...human beings need three basic things in order to be content: they need to feel competent at what they do; they need to feel authentic in their lives; and they need to feel connected to others. These values are considered 'intrinsic' to human happiness and far outweigh 'extrinsic' values such as beauty, money and status."


How many of us are aware of how our world works? Are we connected to anything outside of our daily routine? Not really. Junger makes the point that we are "disconnected from just about everything. Farming, mineral extraction, gas and oil production, bulk cargo transport, logging, fishing, infrastructure construction--all the industries that keep the nation going are mostly unacknowledged by the people who depend on them most." Junger's solution: "When people are actively engaged in a cause their lives have more purpose... with a resulting improvement in mental health..."


When presenting your case, give jury members a cause, even if just for a week or two.

Jack's Take on the Bill that would Crack Down on Bad Nursing Homes

Modesett Williams - Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Read the Austin American-Statesman article about Senate Bill 932 here. The bill was filed by State Senator Charles Schwertner on Thursday, February 16, 2017.


Jack Modesett has spent twenty-five years representing patients who have suffered abuse in the long-term care setting. He feels that Senator Schwertner is to be congratulated for his work on behalf of some of our most vulnerable citizens, but he knows there is still work to be done in protecting these people.


The two agree that nursing home operators must be held accountable for their acts of malfeasance. In handling hundreds of these cases across Texas, Jack has seen every kind of horror one can imagine and recognizes that these types of abuses and neglect occur all too frequently in nursing homes. He asserts that this will continue as many nursing home operators have used recent changes to Texas law to "associate" with county hospitals and then claim Tort Claims Immunity. These "associations" are a sham and change nothing about how the homes are operated or who really operates them; some of the "associations" are with county hospitals that are not within a hundred miles of the home.


If Jack can offer any assistance in representing these victims, holding nursing home operators accountable, or improving the long-term care industry, Modesett Williams stands ready.

Recent Results for Modesett Williams

Modesett Williams - Wednesday, October 05, 2016

This September, the lawyers at Modesett Williams settled a serious motorcycle injury case for $1.25 million in conservative Williamson County. The firm took on the case when no other firm would due to large liens. For good results on serious cases, Modesett Williams delivers.

What I Learned from a Recently Settled Case

Modesett Williams - Monday, June 20, 2016

We recently settled a business dispute involving claims for breach of contract, breach of fiduciary duty and fraud. We quickly realized that an insurance policy would likely cover the claims, but its limits were about one-third of our damages. It was also a "declining" policy, meaning the limits declined as attorney's fees were paid. The defendants were likely judgment proof.


The plan was straight-forward: gather all of the evidence we could find and give it to the defendants. Within 30 days of the case being filed, we had our persons with knowledge of facts, a decent (but not perfect) damage model and most of the facts understood. We sent responses to request for disclosure before a request was sent. We produced about 1000 pages of documents we had identified. We answered interrogatories within a few days. Then we spent hours interviewing the important witnesses and got detailed affidavits from two of them.


Then we sent a detailed Stowers demand for policy limits. Rejecting our demand would mean the insurance company risked being on the hook for the entirety of a judgment. The time for the demand expired. We gave defendants an extension. Then defendants wanted to mediate and we agreed. Then we filed a summary judgment motion on one of our claims - as a plaintiff. I had even written a preliminary opening statement to test the logic of our position.


We prepared mightily for mediation and had a great presentation. Nevertheless, mediation was unproductive because we argued over what the facts were, rather than what the numbers should be. We adjourned the mediation. Then we provided additional declarations, designated experts on damages and liability issues, which were all issues the defendants had with our case. Having fixed the "problems" with our case, our mediator went to work. We settled for policy limits.


Insurance makes a case much easier to settle. It is designed to pay claims. It also removes some of the emotion defendants feel when they get sued. It also changes your audience. Insurance companies like to "build" a file, so the more information you give them, the easier it is to justify payment of significant sum. There is nothing more intimidating to a defendant than having a plaintiff with all the facts available and understood early in the case. PowerPoint presentations are helpful, but not as big a deal as you think they will be. The Stowers doctrine is a powerful bargaining chip, but has its limitations.

Proving Economic Damages: Client, Expert or Both?

Modesett Williams - Friday, February 12, 2016

Jury trials in commercial litigation offer business owners the opportunity not only to tell their story, but also to describe their damages. Because owners know more about their business and market than anyone else, they are well-suited to make this calculation and support it with historic information and future projections based on their experience in the real world. With proper preparation, this can be compelling testimony.


But should you hire a damage expert as well? Probably so, for at least three reasons. First, jurors like to create their own damage models and reach their own conclusions on a plaintiff's damages. Multiple damage options give jurors the formulas and raw data they need to calculate their own number and still survive a JOV. Second, having a bit of tension between the expert's typically lower number and the owner's more optimistic figure makes both witnesses' calculation truly independent. Third, multiple calculations could give you additional support on appeal.


In one case, this strategy worked out well. The jury heard both the owner's number and the expert's. The numbers were about 30 percent different. The jury went with the expert, with a small twist in our client's favor. We were fine with that. In fact, I suspect the defendants used the expert's appraisal to get a loan to pay our judgment! Our takeaway: Empower the jury by giving them options on damages. They are going to make their own calculation anyway.

A Threatening Trend: Inexperienced Trial Lawyers

Modesett Williams - Thursday, March 12, 2015

An article titled “Honesty is the Best Policy: It’s Time to Disclose Lack of Jury Trial Experience” was posted in the March 2015 edition of the Texas Bar Journal and discusses a threatening trend in today’s legal world: a lack of experience in trial. Modern lawyers lack the jury-trial experience that more “traditional” lawyers have gained throughout their years. There is a distinction to be made between the terminology “litigator” and “trail lawyer”. According the Kimberlee Kovach, a professor at South Texas College of Law, a litigator in “an attorney who tries cases in court”, while a trial lawyer is simply one who resolves disputes outside of a jury trial. It is important to note that the number of cases resolved outside of trial is increasing, and thus many modern attorneys lack trial experience. Consider the following statistics as an example of this new trend:

·         Within 5 years of litigation experience, 30% of attorneys had tried a case in court, and only 8% had tried more than two cases in court

·         Of these individuals, 93% had settled at least one case through mediation or negotiation

·         Within 10 years of litigation experience, 30% of attorneys had never tried a case in court, and only 36% had tried more than two cases in court

 

These statistics confirm that there are many lawyers who lack proper knowledge of the trial process and court system. This inexperience poses potential harm to clients that hire these individuals. Examples of the negative effects associated with this lack of knowledge is discussed below.

Trial inexperience conversely effects an attorney’s decisions on how to handle a client’s situation. Without experience, a lawyer cannot adequately consider the benefits of trial. For example, a case that could produce better results in court often dismisses trial as an option due to fear.  Inexperienced lawyers can be afraid of taking cases to trial because in trial, there are definite winner and losers, and thus, a lawyer’s reputation is at stake. Pre-trial settlement is the safer option to resolve disputes, and thus clients who hire inexperienced trial lawyers are likely to engage in this type of resolution. In addition, lawyers who lack trial experience may not fully understand the discovery process: their inexperience often leads to extensive and unnecessarily costly discovery process. Lastly, a lack of court experience is negatively associated with the capacity to understand jury-value. Jury value is the ability to predict a jury’s reaction to evidence, and further, the value of that evidence. A lawyer who is incapable of estimating this value cannot produce the most effective results, even through means of mediation or arbitration.

Currently, a lawyer has no legal obligation to disclose information regarding their trial experience. However, the results of a recent study reveal that clients expect that their attorney has trial experience, and thus, do not ask these questions. Therefore, a lack of disclosing trial experience has evolved into an ethical issue. Clients trust that their lawyers are knowledgeable in how to properly handle their complex cases, and as it turns out, that trust is often misplaced. At Modesett Williams, we proudly employ two highly experienced litigation lawyers with ample experience in court. Consider Modesett Williams to realize the full potential of your case.


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