October 2012 Newsletter

Recovery for Defective Seatbelts

In the fall of 2011, our client was driving a 1998 Ford Escort when she was involved in an automobile accident where she sustained fatal liver lacerations as a result of a defective seatbelt. Our team helped our client’s family pursue a claim against the liability carrier that settled for policy limits. We then pursued a claim with Ford Motor Company for defective seatbelts and recovered a confidential settlement.

Product claims are often overlooked because the focus of typical case evaluations is on who caused the accident itself. However, products cases should be evaluated by comparative causation. The question is what caused the injury, not what caused the accident. Even if the defendant ran a red light, or was intoxicated, there may be a products liability claim against the vehicle manufacturer if the plaintiff would not have suffered serious injury “but for” the vehicle defect. Some examples of crashworthiness issues that our firm has prosecuted include seatbelts, roof crush, rollover potential, and crush zone protection for the occupants.

Referral Fees are Alive and Well in Texas

While the rules have changed slightly, Texas still allows contingency fee sharing between lawyers. In 2005, Texas awarded State Bar rule governing fee-sharing between lawyers. While the rules relate to all fees, our firm only collects contingency fees. “Pure Referral” fees were eliminated by the 2005 amendments. Fee sharing must now be based either on the “proportion of the services performed” or based on the lawyers agreeing to “assume joint responsibility for the representation.” “Joint responsibility” requires the referring lawyer to “make reasonable efforts to assure adequacy of representation and to provide adequate client communication.”

State Bar Rule 1.04 comment 13 Rule 1.04(f) and (g) requires the client’s consent in writing to identity the lawyers involved, the share each lawyer will receive, and the basis for the division of fees (usually joint responsibility).
At our firm, we have a standard fee sharing contract which the client signs that satisfies the rules. We usually pay one third to the referring attorney. We then communicate with the referring attorney throughout the case so the referring attorney can “assure adequacy of representation.” Throughout the case, we invite the referring attorney to important decision-making meetings with the client to help assure adequate client communication. Our relationships with everyone involved in the case allows us to continue to keep the referring attorneys involved, giving the benefit of two lawyers or firms with no additional fees to the client. Throughout the years we have been able to pay substantial referral fees amounting to millions of dollars and will continue to do so. The 2005 rule amendments are good for clients and lawyer, because the clients know more about fee sharing, and lawyers know more of what is expected of them as a referring attorney. We invite lawyers to call us if they want to discuss referring a case.

Glasheen Leads Tech Alumni Association

Kevin Glasheen, a Texas Tech School of Law 1988 graduate and a partner of Glasheen, Valles & Inderman, will be leading the Texas Tech School of Law Alumni Association as President. 2013 events include the Law School Gala (which is a lot of fun) on Friday, March 1st and the class reunion on Saturday, March 2nd. If you would like to reconnect with your class or get more information about the 2003, 1983, 1988, and 1973 class reunions contact Laura Urquieta at laura.urquieta@ttu.edu. The Alumni Association also has regional events. Check the Alumni Association website for news and events http://www.law.ttu.edu/alumni/