Thursday 19th October 2017
RMJ Attorneys Named 2017 Super Lawyers and Texas Rising Stars
September 29, 2017
Congratulations to David Jeans for 15 Years Selected to Super Lawyers.

10 Consecutive Years Selected Super Lawyer:
Jeffrey T. Lucky
John W. McChristian, Jr.
Jeff Ray

2017 Texas Super Lawyers:
Chris Borunda

2017 Rising Stars:
Louis A. Gross
Joseph G. Peña
Maria Ybarra


Dan Hernandez Has Been Nominated to Serve as TADC's District #7 Director for 2017-2018.
September 12, 2017
Congratulations to Dan Hernandez on being nominated to serve as Texas Association of Defense Counsel's District #7 Director for 2017-2018.

TADC is not only the largest state organization of its kind, but it has deservedly earned the reputation of being the most dynamic and creative. As an organization TADC continues to evolve and re-evaluate their goals and ideals to aid members in their professional and personal lives.

Welcome, attorney Stephen D. Ralph
August 22, 2017
After graduating from law school, Mr. Ralph accepted a position as an Assistant District Attorney in Clovis, New Mexico. There he gained first-hand trial litigation experience prosecuting criminal cases on behalf of the State of New Mexico. He then accepted a position at the Supreme Court of New Mexico as a judicial law clerk for Justice Petra Jimenez Maes, before returning to serve as Assistant District Attorney in Clovis.

As a law student at University of New Mexico School of Law, Stephen was selected to join the New Mexico Law Review. He received a Bachelor of Arts, Economics, magna cum laude, in May of 2012 from the University of New Mexico.

Prior to that, Stephen attended the United States Military Academy at West Point where he was on the Dean's list in the Fall of 2009.

We're delighted to have Stephen as part of our team!

Randall Ordones Has Joined the Firm
July 01, 2017
Randy Ordones was born and raised in Waco, Texas. He received his bachelor's degree from Tarleton State University in 2011. After a two year period of working in the insurance industry, Mr. Ordones attended St. Mary's University School of Law in San Antonio, Texas. While in law school, he was a staff writer for the St. Mary's Law Journal and a research assistant for his business torts and contracts professor. He graduated with his Juris Doctorate in December 2016. Randy works in the firm's litigation department.

Daniel H. Hernandez Named Vice President of the El Paso Bar Association
June 01, 2017
Daniel H. Hernandez has been appointed by the El Paso Bar Association to serve as Vice President for the 2017-2018 term.

Jeff Ray Named Treasurer of the El Paso Bar Association
June 01, 2017
Jeff Ray has been appointed by the El Paso Bar Association to serve as Treasurer for the 2017-2018 term.

Aldo Lopez has been elected Director for District 17 of the State Bar of Texas
May 01, 2017
Congratulations to Aldo Lopez for winning the contested election for the State Bar of Texas Board of Director's position for District 17. Aldo will serve a three-year-term representing the counties of Brewster, Culberson, Hudspeth, Jeff Davis, Presidio and El Paso.

Will Aldrete Has Joined The Firm
April 03, 2017
Mr. Aldrete came to RMJ after briefly working as a case manager for the U.S. Small Business Administration Office of Disaster Relief. During law school, he was a student attorney with the Consumer Advocacy Project. He worked on issues concerning landlord/tenant law, contract law, debt collection, and DTPA claims. He also engaged in the Clinic's advocacy projects, which included teaching at-risk communities about obtaining and maintaining good credit and researching payday loan reform. He has interned with a company, law firms, and the Texas Attorney General. Before beginning law school, he worked for a Social Security disability advocacy group in the greater Boston area.

Welcome, Jennifer Kaufman!
October 03, 2016
Jennifer attended SMU in Dallas and received a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science in 2007. She received her Juris Doctor from South Texas College of Law in 2012, and shortly thereafter joined the City of San Antonio as an Assistant City Attorney.

Welcome, Jennifer!

RMJ Attorneys Named 2016 Super Lawyers and Texas Rising Stars
September 30, 2016
10 Consecutive Years Selected to Super Lawyer:
Jeff Ray

2016 Texas Super Lawyers:
Chris M. Borunda
David S. Jeans
Jeffrey T. Lucky
John W. McChristian, Jr.

2016 Texas Rising Stars:
Louis A. Gross
Joseph G. Pena
Marisa Y. Ybarra


Daniel Hernandez Elected to TADC's Board of Directors
September 25, 2016
The Texas Association of Defense Counsel announced at its Annual Meeting that Daniel was elected to the position of Regional Director, District #7 for 2016-2017.

Since 1991, Daniel has been an active trial lawyer, trying over 60 jury trials as lead counsel, and many more trials as part of trial teams as counsel for businesses, corporations, governments, employers, manufacturers, owners, insurance companies, and individuals.

Daniel has tried cases in Texas and New Mexico, in which he has achieved a favorable outcome and defense verdicts in over 90% of his cases.

RMJ continually supports dynamic organizations that foster professional and personal development in our legal community, as well as in our local communities.

Congratulations, Dan, on this rewarding endeavor with the TADC!

Another Defense Verdict In Multiple Fatality/Fire Case - Santa Fe, NM
September 22, 2016
Jeff Ray, along with the RMJ trial team of Deena Buchanan and Paco Casas (IT Support), obtained a complete defense verdict in a multiple collision (8 vehicles) and multiple death (7 deaths) case in a lengthy trial in Santa Fe, New Mexico. Although a number of parties settled claims prior to trial, other parties chose to try the lawsuit against Saia Motor Freight, one of the largest trucking companies in the U.S.

The accident occurred on May 22, 2014 on I10 near Lordsburg, NM. A dust storm slowed traffic and all of the drivers later experienced a blinding dust storm event. The Saia driver impacted a car from behind, which resulted in a pileup of many vehicles, including 2 additional 18-wheelers and several passenger vehicles. A raging fire ensued immediately after the crash. The plaintiffs argued that Saia caused the chain reaction resulting in the deaths of 7 people, because the Saia driver did not safely reduce his speed, continued to travel in a dust storm at an unsafe speed when he should have exited to the shoulder and violently rear-ended a car in front of him, resulting in the death of the driver of that vehicle. Plaintiffs claimed that a number of the victims were burned alive and could not escape their vehicles.

Expert witnesses for the plaintiffs included Whitney Morgan (FMCSR truck expert), Alan Asay (accident reconstruction), Jerry Cuderman (accident reconstruction), Dr. Lori Proe (Pathologist) and police officers. Expert witnesses for the defense included Dr. Juan Herrera (accident reconstruction), Dr. Elizabeth Austin (Forensic Meteorologist), Anita Kerezman (trucking safety expert) and police officers.

The defense of the case focused on the sudden changing weather conditions that caused drivers to panic, slow down dangerously in the travel lanes, and react differently, causing the sudden pileup. Although the Saia driver continued to drive in the dust storm with limited visibility, he later faced an emergency situation when the dust storm became a microburst condition that blinded all of the drivers.

Plaintiffs demanded $15 million dollars from Saia during trial. Plaintiffs refused a confidential high-low agreement, as well. The jury returned its verdict, after 5 hours of deliberations, and found that Saia did not cause the fatal accidents. The jury, well known in Santa Fe to be a liberal venue, consisted of 9 women and 3 men, most of whom were educated beyond high school.

Victory in Albuquerque Trial!
May 03, 2016
After the plaintiffs presented their case to the judge in this week's bench trial, in the Second Judicial District Court, County of Bernalillo, State of New Mexico, Shannon Parden and Shona Zimmerman made a motion for a directed verdict on behalf of our client. The judge granted the motion, the case is over, and the defense wins! The judge ruled that our client's liability was not proven by a preponderance of the evidence.

The case involved claims for kidnapping, sexual assault, breach of contract, and declaratory judgment as to coverage by our client in an attempt of plaintiff to piggy back her kidnapping and assault claims against the two other plaintiffs with a claim for uninsured motorist (UM) coverage. The overall issue was whether plaintiff was legally entitled to recover damages from the owner or operator of an uninsured or underinsured vehicle because of "bodily injury" sustained by the plaintiff and caused by an "accident," as required for recovery by the Policy. Plaintiff pursued intentional tort claims against two individual defendants for alleged kidnapping and sexual assault that she alleged occurred after she was transported in one of the defendant's allegedly uninsured vehicles. She also pursued uninsured motorist recovery from the defendant insurer pursuant to a policy issued to her parents. At trial, the Court dismissed the kidnapping claim and found that there was an act(s) of independent significance between the use of the vehicle and the alleged harm suffered by the Plaintiff, then a minor. The Court also ruled that the defendant operator of the car could not be liable for the statutory rape of the passenger defendant, thereby precluding any liability on the part of the insurer for the passengers' actions.

Jeff Ray Named Course Director for 2015 Texas State Bar CLE
September 05, 2015
Jeff Ray is this year's Course Director for the 2015 Prosecuting and Defending Truck and Auto Collision Cases Course sponsored by the Litigation Section of the State Bar of Texas. The seminar will be held in San Antonio, Texas on November 12-13, 2015. Jeff Ray, Joseph G. Pena and Marisa Ybarra will speak at the seminar.

RMJ Attorneys Named 2015 Super Lawyers and Texas Rising Stars
September 01, 2015
2015 Texas Super Lawyers:
Chris M. Borunda - David S. Jeans - Jeffrey T. Lucky
John W. McChristian, Jr. - Jeff Ray

2015 Texas Rising Stars:
Joseph G. Pena - Marisa Y. Ybarra

Dan Hernandez Named to Executive Board of El Paso Bar Association
August 31, 2015
Dan Hernandez has been named to the Executive Board of the El Paso Bar Association and will serve on the board for a 5-year term

Jeff Ray and Teammates Honored by Fox Sports Southwest
August 10, 2015
Jeff Ray was a team captain of a back-to-back state championship football team in South Texas, The Cuero Gobblers. He and some of his colleagues from Cuero are being honored in a documentary series called "The Legends of Texas High School Football," which features Texas' best all-time high school teams. The documentary is expected to air late fall on Fox Sports Southwest and Fox College Sports.

Dan Hernandez and Marisa Ybarra Obtain Complete Defense Verdict
July 28, 2015
Dan Hernandez and Marisa Ybarra obtained a surprise defense verdict from an El Paso County jury after a 2-week trial in the 34th Judicial District Court. Plaintiffs were represented by Jim Scherr, Sam Legate and Maxey Scherr. Plaintiffs claimed $5 million dollars in damages. Our client was found guilty of manslaughter for participating in the death of the Plaintiff in a previous criminal trial. Nevertheless, the jury found no negligence on our client in the civil case. Jurors noted that our client was "railroaded" in the criminal trial and finally got justice in the civil defense of the death trial.

Jeff Ray Prevails in Multi-Million Dollar Business/Divorce Verdict in El Paso County
July 12, 2015
Jeff Ray and the trial team of Robert Edwards and Noemi Lopez represented a client with property in Mexico and Texas acquired during a 19-year period. Jeff's client was offered virtually no business assets. After a lengthy trial in the 388th District Court of El Paso County, Texas, the jury awarded $23.7 million dollars to our client.

Jeff Ray and William Powers Named 2015's Best S.A. Lawyers by San Antonio Scene Magazine
June 01, 2015
As published in San Antonio Scene Magazine, two of our lawyers have been named San Antonio's Best Lawyers for 2015.

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Albuquerque Jury Finds for Doctor and Hospital in Medical Malpractice Wrongful Death Case
May 29, 2015
John W. McChristian, Jr. and Deena Buchanan received a complete defense verdict in a medical malpractice death case tried in Bernalillo County, New Mexico. The deceased fell and hit his head. He was then transported to the hospital for treatment. His family claimed that improper treatment and diagnosis lead to his death from catastrophic intracranial hemorrhage that occurred 48 hours later. A jury found that the medical team and hospital were not negligent and a zero verdict was obtained.

EPYLA Presents Award to David Jeans
May 02, 2015
The El Paso Young Lawyers Association presented to David Jeans the award for Outstanding Senior Lawyer at the El Paso Bar Association's Annual Law Day Dinner on May 2nd.

David's many years of legal achievements and contributions to the legal community have made him an outstanding lawyer. Not only is David recognized locally by his peers, but also nationally by the legal community. In 2015, he was recognized by Martindale-Hubbell for his 30 Year Anniversary, AV Preeminent Lawyer rating.

The AV Preeminent rating is the "highest possible peer review rating in legal ability and ethical standards," and is presented only to those who earned this professional excellence through a strenuous Peer Review Rating process monitored by Martindale-Hubbell.

MDA Jail Bird Jeff Ray Needs your Muscle Support!
April 24, 2015
Jeff Ray has been accused of having a big heart. Make a muscle and help him raise funds for the Muscular Dystrophy Association before May 3rd, 2015 to avoid jail time. Your contribution will help those impacted by the muscle affecting disease, Muscular Dystrophy.

MDA is the nonprofit health agency dedicated to finding treatment and cures for muscular dystrophy, LS and other muscle wasting diseases. The Association also provides comprehensive health care and support services, advocacy and education. MDA provides unparalleled health care services through its network of approximately 200 hospital-affiliated clinics; advocates for the families it serves; and invests significant resources educating the medical and scientific communities, as well as the general public about neuromuscular diseases affecting more than 1 million Americans today.

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Two of our Lawyers Named Rising Stars by Texas Super Lawyers
March 21, 2015
Congratulations to Marisa Y. Ybarra and Joseph G. Pena for their selection as Rising Star by Texas Super Lawyers Magazine in 2015. Joseph is also selected as one of the Best Lawyers in San Antonio and as Rising Star by S.A. Scene Magazine.

The Rising Stars recognition is presented to no more than 2.5 percent of the lawyers in Texas. The annual selections are made using a multiphase process that includes a statewide survey of lawyers, an independent research evaluation of candidates, and peer reviews by practice area. Texas Monthly published the list of Rising Stars in its April 2015 issue.

RMJ Announces New Shareholder Marisa Y. Ybarra
January 30, 2015
Congratulations to Marisa Y. Ybarra on being selected as a Shareholder of Ray, McChristian & Jeans. Marisa is an outstanding young trial attorney who has represented Fortune 500® companies in a variety of business disputes and discrimination/employment cases. Fortune Magazine featured her in its second annual edition of Legal Leaders, Women Leaders in the Law 2014.

Marisa Y. Ybarra Featured in Fortune Magazine's Women Leaders in the Law 2014
October 10, 2014
Fortune Magazine featured trial attorney Marisa Y. Ybarra in its second annual edition of Legal Leaders, Women Leaders in the Law 2014. Marisa is an outstanding young trial attorney with Ray, McChristian & Jeans, P.C. She has represented Fortune 500® companies in a variety of business disputes and discrimination/ employment cases.

RMJ Welcomes Attorney Noemi V. Lopez
October 10, 2014
Please welcome our newest attorney, Noemi V. Lopez, to our El Paso office. Noemi is a former staff attorney with the Texas Eighth District Court of Appeals. She was born and raised in El Paso.

In 2002 Noemi received a B.A. in Spanish, summa cum laude, from St. Edward's University in Austin. She graduated with distinction from the University of New Mexico with an M.A. in Spanish and Southwest Literature in 2006. She graduated from Penn State University, The Dickinson School of Law, receiving her J.D. in 2011. Additional honors in law school include Dean Scholarship Recipient 2008-2011, Certified Miller Center Public Interest Advocate and CALI Excellence Award: Legal Writing.

Contact: [email protected]

The El Paso Mexican American Bar Association Honors Jeff Ray for his Generosity
September 27, 2014
By Jeff Ray

RMJ Firm is proud to announce that its president Jeff Ray was honored with an "inspiring generosity" award during the Mexican American Bar Association's banquet held on September 27, 2014. This award recognizes outstanding community leaders for their continuous contributions to society and the legal profession. Also honored during this event where Mayor Oscar Leeser of El Paso, Texas, Hon. Angie Juarez Barril of the 346th Judicial District Court of Texas, and Hon. Maria Salas Mendoza of the 120th Judicial District Court of Texas. With the keynote speaker being Justice Eva Guzman of the Texas Supreme Court.

Jeff's sustained commitment and significant contributions to the State Bar and the El Paso Bar Association, particularly its Mentorship Program, is of unmeasurable value and inspires a new generation of young lawyers.

Jeff is licensed in Texas and New Mexico and has tried many cases to verdict on the Defense and Plaintiff's side for corporations in the U.S. and abroad. He has tried a number of cases receiving regional and national attention by CNN, USA Today, Fox and ABC. He recently recorded the top business fraud verdict in Texas totaling over $20 million. It is also one of the top verdicts in the U.S. for 2012.

Jeff specializes in civil litigation defense, commercial litigation, products and premises liability. He is AV Preeminent Rated, Board Certified in Personal Injury Trial Law, and is a frequent speaker for the State Bar.

Contact: [email protected]

Six RMJ Attorneys Recognized by Super Lawyers®
September 14, 2014
RMJ congratulates Chris M. Borunda, David S. Jeans, Jeffrey T. Lucky, Jeff Ray, and John W. McChristian Jr. for their inclusion in the 2014 Super Lawyers® list. In addition, Joseph G. Pena was selected in the 2014 Texas Super Lawyers® Rising Stars list.

Nationally known as an outstanding trial firm, the firm's clients include publicly and privately held corporations as well as individuals. RMJ's skilled litigators have successfully defended clients in catastrophic personal injury cases, highly publicized/high-exposure cases and business litigation throughout Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, Arkansas and the Southwest. These have included cases extensively reported on by news outlets such as CNN and USA Today.

The firm maintains a state-of-the-art communication system, library and research facility to provide litigation support. A stellar and skilled staff assists the attorneys.

RMJ attorneys are sought-after writers and lecturers on topics related to litigation, professional development, trial practice and legal practice and have held leadership positions within the legal and local communities.

More Information on Super Lawyers ® and Rising Stars ®:

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Jeff Ray Receives National Attention in Applebee's Defense Verdict
May 05, 2014
Following a two-week trial and seven-hour deliberation, Jeff Ray and his team obtain a defense verdict
for their client Applebee's. The team's accomplishment received regional and national coverage.

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18th Annual Civil Trial Practice Seminar
December 20, 2013
El Paso Bar Association presents:
18th Annual Civil Trial Practice Seminar
February 13, 14 & 15, 2014
Laura Enriquez, Moderator
Daniel Hernandez, Course Director
14 hrs of MCLE, Including 2.5 hrs of Ethics, applied for
at The Declan Suites San Diego, San Diego, CA
Join us for a Weekend of Fun & Education

For a full schedule and registration information visit: www.elpasobarcle.com

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Texas Super Lawyers 2013
December 20, 2013
EXCELLENCE IN REPRESENTING CLIENTS IN CIVIL LITIGATION

The attorneys of Ray, McChristian & Jeans, P.C. provide every client prompt, efficient and effective service. With four fully staffed offices in Texas and New Mexico, the firm is uniquely equipped to represent clients in civil litigation throughout the region. Outstanding service has made RMJ a premier litigation firm representing clients in the insurance, product manufacturing, retail and wholesale sales; transportation; and construction and development industries.

Businesses as well as the legal profession regularly recognize the accomplishments of the firm. Five of the firm's attorneys are included on the Super Lawyers list and one on the Rising Stars list\emdash evidence of the exemplary quality of legal service provided. RMJ congratulates Chris M. Borunda, David S. Jeans, Jeffrey T. Lucky, Jeff Ray, John W. McChristian Jr. and Sunny Smith for this recognition. For Jeans, this represents his 11th consecutive acknowledgment.

Nationally known as an outstanding trial firm, the firm's clients include publicly and privately held corporations as well as individuals. RMJ's skilled litigators have successfully defended clients in catastrophic personal injury cases, highly publicized/high-exposure cases and business litigation throughout Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, Arkansas and the Southwest. These have included cases extensively reported on by news outlets such as CNN and USA Today.

The firm maintains a state-of-the-art communication system, library and research facility to provide litigation support. A stellar and skilled staff assists the attorneys.

RMJ attorneys are sought-after writers and lecturers on topics related to litigation, professional development, trial practice and legal practice and have held leadership positions within the legal and local communities.

More Information: http://www.superlawyers.com/about/selection_process.html

Shannon A. Parden & Deena Buchanan Williams Have Joined The Firm
October 23, 2013
Shannon A. Parden has joined Ray, McChristian & Jeans, P. C. as a shareholder in the Albuquerque, NM office. She continues her practice in Civil Litigation Defense, Commercial Litigation and General Negligence and Insurance Law. Shannon practices in both state and federal court. She is a former attorney law clerk for the Honorable Juan G. Burciaga in U.S. District Court and the Honorable William Bivins on the New Mexico Court of Appeals. She has been in private practice as a defense attorney since 1993. She is licensed to practice in the State of New Mexico, as well as the United States District Court for the District of New Mexico and the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals. She is a member of the Claims and Litigation Management Alliance ("CLM"), New Mexico Defense Lawyers Association, American Bar Association, and the Defense Research Institute.

Deena B. Williams has joined Ray, McChristian & Jeans, P. C. as a shareholder in the Albuquerque, NM office. She continues her practice in Civil Litigation Defense, Commercial Litigation, Construction Litigation, Labor & Employment Law, Liquor Liability, Pharmaceutical Malpractice, Product Liability, Professional Malpractice, and Transportation. In the past, she was in private practice at large law firms in both New Mexico and Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. She enjoys representing municipalities, state agencies and private companies in all aspects of litigation in state and federal court and before administrative agencies, mediators and arbitrators. Her professional memberships and activities include The American Bar Association, Litigation Section, New Mexico Defense Lawyers Association Claims & Litigation Management Alliance ("CLM") and National Association of Professional Women.

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Hernandez Appointed to El Paso Bar Board of Directors
September 30, 2013
Dan H. Hernandez has been appointed to the El Paso Bar Board of Directors in which he will oversee the Annual Civil Trial and Practice Seminar CLE Committee.

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Landlord - Tenant Law symposium
July 03, 2013
Todd E. Marshall, a shareholder of Ray, McChristian & Jeans, is a speaker at the 2nd Annual Landlord Tenant Law symposium being held on August 21, 2013 at the Holiday Inn El Paso. For information and registration discounts, contact Ann Holt at 915-832-7200 or [email protected]

The Top 100 Verdicts of 2012
April 30, 2013
Every year, The National Law Journal's VerdictSearch affiliate scours the nation's court records in search of the largest verdicts; it also consults with practitioners and with additional ALM Media LLC publications. The key here is what the jury awarded; this list does not account for judicial reductions, offsets or appeals. RVMJ No.95.

Click here to see article

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Unanimous defense jury verdict for Kiewit New Mexico Co. Inc.
April 01, 2013
New Mexico Defense Lawyers Association
Trial Decision: Member Verdict

Please join NMDLA in congratulating colleagues on success!
Court
Federal Court

County
Western District of Texas,El Paso Division

Judge
Honorable David Briones

Defense Counsel
Daniel H. Hernandez

Plaintiff Counsel
Douglas Dollinger and Corey Harbour-Valdez

Trier
12 Person Jury

Style
Gregory Martino v. Kiewit New Mexico Co. Inc. and Martin Gomez, cause number EP11CV0128DB. U.S. District Court, Western District of Texas, El Paso Division.

Statement of Facts
A unanimous defense jury verdict for Kiewit New Mexico Co. Inc. in a construction worksite accident in a case involving a Plaintiff whose foot and lower leg were crushed by an operator of heavy equipment. The Plaintiff,an employee of another subcontractor, had entered the construction zone area where Kiewit was operating machinery and walked behind the machinery.

Verdict
Defense

Comments
The project involved the construction by Kiewit of the U.S. International Border fence with Mexico and plaintiff was an archealogist with Zia Engineering & Environmental, a Las Cruces company hired to monitor digging and trenching operations. The jury consisted of 9 members.

Experts
Dr.Juan Herrera, accident reconstructionist for the defense.
Dr.Floyd L. Pacheco, Jr., with New Mexico Orthopedics, a podiatrist, for Plaintiff.

RVMJ congratulates the Trial Team of Jeff Ray
December 01, 2012
Ray, Valdez, McChristian & Jeans congratulates the Trial Team of Jeff Ray (Lead Counsel), Jeff McElroy (Co-Counsel), Paco Casas (Trial Tech Support), and their Co-Cousel: Jack Crews (Baird, Crews, Schiller & Whitaker, P.C. | Temple, Texas) on our Jury Verdict in Bell County Totaling $19,940,000.00.

Cause No. 236117-B - Helen Purser, et. al. v. Jerry W. Scarbrough, et. al.
in the 146th Judicial District Court of Bell County , Texas.

Texas Super Lawyer 2012
October 01, 2012
RAY, VALDEZ, MCCHRISTIAN & JEANS, P.C.
EL PASO / SAN ANTONIO / FORT WORTH

One firm with three offices covering the lone star state.

With three fully staffed offices in Texas, Ray, Valdez, McChristian & Jeans is uniquely equipped to represent clients in civil litigation cases throughout the region with promptness, efficiency, honesty and integrity. These hallmarks of service have made RVMJ one of the state´s premier law firms representing clients in the insurance, product manufacturing, retail and wholesale sales, transportation, construction and development industries.

The firm´s diverse team of talented, experienced attorneys handles issues ranging from business litigation, personal injury and health care to employment law, toxic tort and environmental law, and they do so with the full support of an outstanding legal staff, including licensed investigators, registered nurses and technology experts. The firm maintains a state-of-the-art communication system, library and research facility to provide litigation support for courtroom presentations.

RVMJ´s lawyers respect every client´s unique interests and concerns, and their dedication has led to the firm´s reputation in the legal community and success in the courtroom. The firm´s lawyers possess high academic credentials and have been recognized by top professional organizations for their experience and skill, including listings in The Bar Register of Preeminent Lawyer and The Best Lawyers in America Martindale-Hubbell´s AV-Rating, and membership in the American Board of Trial Advocates.

RVMJ congratulates Chris M. Borunda, David S. Jeans, Jeff Lucky, John W. McChristian Jr., Jeff Ray and Robert E. Valdez for their selection to the 2012 Texas Super Lawyers list.

Krueger and Parks have joined the firm
August 01, 2012
Stephanie M. Krueger and Jeffrey D. Parks have joined the firm.
August, 2012

Stephanie M. Krueger

Stephanie received a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science with a minor in Spanish, magna cum laude from Luther College in 2008. In 2011, she received a Doctor of Jurisprudence, magna cum laude, from Michigan State University College of Law.

While in law school, Stephanie clerked at the Ingham County Probate Court and worked at a Tax Clinic. Before joining Ray, Valdez, McChristian & Jeans, Stephanie was an associate with a real estate law firm in Dallas, Texas where her practice centered on foreclosure and real estate law.


Jeffrey D. Parks

Jeff received a Bachelor of Arts in Public Policy Studies from Duke University in 2006. In 2011, he received a Doctor of Jurisprudence from Baylor University School of Law.

While in law school, Jeff clerked for the U.S. District Attorney's Office and for the U.S. Federal Public Defender's Office. Before joining the firm, Jeff practiced family law at a Southlake firm. Prior to law school, Jeff was a litigation clerk, specializing in patent litigation, at an IP law firm in Washington D.C.

Brie Franco & Nicole Anchondo have joined the firm
May 20, 2012
RVMJ take pleasure in announcing Brie Franco & Nicole Anchondo have joined the firm in the El Paso, Texas Office

BRIE FRANCO, Shareholder

Brie received a Bachelor's in International Relations from Stanford University in 1998 and a Juris Doctorate from the University of Texas School of Law in 2001. Prior to joining the law firm of Ray, Valdez, McChristian & Jeans, Ms. Franco was a VP-General Counsel for an Austin based credit union with over 70,000 members, five branches, and over 150 employees. She also served as the General Counsel for State Senator Eliot Shapleigh of El Paso from 2001-2006. She was a leading advisor on school finance in the Senate and budgetary appropriations.

NICOLE J. ANCHONDO, Associate

Nicole received a Bachelor's in Political Economy with a minor in Spanish from Georgetown University in 2006. While at Georgetown University, Nicole was a general course student at the London School of Economics. She received her Juris Doctorate from the University of Texas School of Law in 2011. Nicole was a legal intern for the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Western District of Texas and with the Honorable Kathleen Cardone, District Judge, U.S. District Court for the Western District of Texas.

RVMJ Proudly Announces Jim Mounts has joined the firm in the EL Paso, Texas Office
March 15, 2012
JIM MOUNTS, Shareholder
Jim has maintained an active trial docket of cases in the transportation, products liability and general liability areas throughout West Texas, for over 20 years. He has defended serious motor vehicle accidents for various trucking and insurance carriers, first and third party litigation for automobile and homeowner insurance carriers, premises security cases, construction cases for owners and contractors, business disputes, deceptive trade practices cases for business and industrial entities, and employment related cases

Texas Super Lawyers for 2010
October 01, 2010
RAY, VALDEZ, MCCHRISTIAN & JEANS, P.C.
El Paso | San Antonio | Fort Worth


Outstanding Attorneys. Exceptional Firm. Satisfied Clients

FOR OVER 20 YEARS, THE FIRM HAS PROVIDED EXCEPTIONAL courtroom representation to local, regional, national and international businesses. At Ray, Valdez, McChristian & Jeans, P.C., pride is taken in the fact that the firm's clients receive effective and efficient services through a dedicated and diverse team of proven trial attorneys. The firm represents publicly and privately held corporations, health-care providers, product manufacturers, insurance carriers, retailers, the transportation industry, construction companies and municipalities throughout Texas, New Mexico and the Southwest. With three fully staffed offices in Texas, the firm is equipped to address a range of legal needs in a variety of areas including complex business, personal injury, health care, employment and environmental law. The firm is known for its outstanding trial success and its commitment to its clients. State-of-the-art technology, graphics and visual presentations are created in-house by technicians working directly with the trial lawyers. The firm also employs nurses and other professional staff that assist with case preparation in order to best serve each client's specific needs.

"Each client has unique interests and goals. We must understand and continually communicate objectives," says Jeff Ray.
"Our clients deserve excellent quality and communication at a good value. Integrity, innovation and hard work provide the best
opportunity for success in today's litigation." The firm is honored that Jeff Ray, Robert E. Valdez, John W.
McChristian, Jr., David S. Jeans, Jeff Lucky and Chris Borunda have been named to Texas Super Lawyers ®. The firm is proud to
announce that Sunny Smith has been named to Texas Rising Stars.

RAY, VALDEZ, MCCHRISTIAN & JEANS, P.C.
5822 Cromo Drive, El Paso, TX 79912
PH: (915) 832-7200 • FX: (915) 832-7333
1250 NE Loop 410, Suite 700, San Antonio, TX 78209
PH: (210) 341-3554 • FX: (210) 341-3557
101 Summit Ave., Suite 705, Fort Worth, TX 76102
PH: (817) 335-7201 • FX: (817) 335-7335
www.rvmjfirm.com

Reprinted from the special advertising section in the October 2010 issue of TEXAS MONTHLY. \\\\'a9 2010 Super Lawyers®, a Thomson Reuters business. All rights reserved.

Texas Super Lawyer for 2009
January 01, 2009
By Super Lawyers

Outstanding Attorneys,Exceptional Firm,Satisfied Clients

FOR OVER 20 YEARS, THE FIRM HAS PROVIDED EXCEPTIONAL courtroom representation to local, regional, national and international businesses. At Ray, Valdez, McChristian & Jeans, P.C., pride is taken in the fact that the firm's clients receive effective and efficient services through a dedicated, diverse team of proven trial attorneys. The firm represents publicly and privately held corporations, health-care providers, product manufacturers, insurance carriers, retailers, the transportation industry, construction companies and municipalities throughout Texas, New Mexico and the Southwest. With three fully staffed offices in Texas, the firm is equipped to address a range of legal needs in a variety of areas including complex business, personal injury, health care, employment and environmental law. The firm is known for its outstanding trial success and its commitment to its clients. State-of-the-art technology, graphics and visual presentations are created in-house by technicians working directly with the trial lawyers. The firm also employs nurses and other professional staff that assist with case preparation in order to best serve each client's specific needs.

"Each client has unique interests and goals. We must understand and continually communicate objectives," says Jeff Ray. "Our clients deserve excellent quality and communication at a good value. Integrity, innovation and hard work provide the best opportunity for success in today's litigation."

The firm is honored that Jeff Ray, Robert E. Valdez, John W. McChristian, Jr., David S. Jeans and Chris Borunda have been named to Texas Super Lawyers.

Contact: http://www.superlawyers.com

Texas Super Lawyer for 2008
January 01, 2008
By Super Lawyers

Ray, Valdez, McChristian & Jeans, P.C. is based in El Paso, San Antonio and Fort Worth, representing clients throughoutTexas, New Mexico and the Southwest.

ABOUT THE FIRM
For nearly 20 years, the firm has represented businesses in the courtroom in complex business, personal injury, health care, employment and environmental litigation. The firm is known for its outstanding trial success and its commitment to its clients. State-of-the-art technology, graphics and visual presentations are created in-house by technicians working directly with the trial lawyers. The firm also employs nurses and other professional staff to assist with case preparation.

SERVICE TO CLIENTS
"Each client has unique interests and goals. We must understand and continually communicate objectives,"
says Jeff Ray. "Our clients deserve excellent quality and communication at a good value. Integrity, innovation and hard work provide the best opportunity for success in today's litigation." The firm's clients include publicly and privately held corporations, health-care providers, product manufacturers, insurance carriers, retailers, the transportation industry, construction companies and municipalities.

SPECIAL ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
The firm is honored that Jeff Ray, Robert E. Valdez, John W. McChristian Jr. and David S. Jeans have been named to Texas Super Lawyers®. Ray and Jeans provide leadership in El Paso, McChristian supervises the Fort Worth office, and Valdez is in charge of the San Antonio office. The firm also congratulates Kris Bird for being selected to this year's Super Lawyers list. Kris is currently on medical leave, but the firm looks forward to her recovery and to her return to the firm's labor and employment department in the San Antonio office.

Contact: http://www.superlawyers.com

Texas Super Lawyer for 2007
January 01, 2007
By Super Lawyers

Ray, Valdez, McChristian & Jeans, P.C. is based in El Paso, San Antonio and Fort Worth, representing clients throughoutTexas, New Mexico and the Southwest.

ABOUT THE FIRM
For nearly 20 years, the firm has represented businesses in the courtroom in complex business, personal injury, health care, employment and environmental litigation. The firm is known for its outstanding trial success and its commitment to its clients. State-of-the-art technology, graphics and visual presentations are created in-house by technicians working directly with the trial lawyers. The firm also employs nurses and other professional staff to assist with case preparation.

SERVICE TO CLIENTS
"Each client has unique interests and goals. We must understand and continually communicate objectives,"
says Jeff Ray. "Our clients deserve excellent quality and communication at a good value. Integrity, innovation and hard work provide the best opportunity for success in today's litigation." The firm's clients include publicly and privately held corporations, health-care providers, product manufacturers, insurance carriers, retailers, the transportation industry, construction companies and municipalities.

SPECIAL ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
The firm is honored that Jeff Ray, Robert E. Valdez, John W. McChristian Jr. and David S. Jeans have been named to Texas Super Lawyers®. Ray and Jeans provide leadership in El Paso, McChristian supervises the Fort Worth office, and Valdez is in charge of the San Antonio office. The firm also congratulates Kris Bird for being selected to this year's Super Lawyers list. Kris is currently on medical leave, but the firm looks forward to her recovery and to her return to the firm's labor and employment department in the San Antonio office.


Contact: http://www.superlawyers.com

Romance in the Workplace - A Dangerous Proposition
November 04, 2005
By Kris Bird

In a startling development, the California supreme court unanimously recognized sexual favoritism as a violation of its state law equivalent to Title VII. Miller et al. v. Dept. of Corrections et al., 36 Cal. 4th 446 (Cal. 2005) ("Miller"). In Miller, the female plaintiffs worked in various managerial capacities as subordinates to a chief deputy warden who then became warden of another facility, Lewis Kuykendall. While at two separate facilities, Kuykendall carried on affairs with three other women whom he promoted to various positions of power in each correctional facility.

When each of the plaintiffs made complaints both to Kuykendall himself as well as administratively, acts of retaliation were carried out against each female plaintiff, including, demotions, failures-to-promote, and, in one instance, a physical assault and battery by one of the paramours. Both plaintiffs, as a result of seven years of working under these circumstances, resigned their positions and filed administrative charges of discrimination. In a summary judgment proceeding, the Department of Corrections prevailed before the trial court and the court of appeals, arguing generally that sexual favoritism is not a violation of Title VII, and hence, the California Fair Employment and Housing Act ("FEHA").

The California supreme court recognized sexual favoritism as sexual harassment under FEHA under the following conditions:

...[W]e conclude that, although an isolated instance of favoritism on the part of a supervisor toward a female employee with whom the supervisor is conducting a consensual sexual affair ordinarily would not constitute sexual harassment, when such sexual favoritism in a workplace is sufficiently widespread it may create an actionable hostile work environment in which the demeaning message is conveyed to female employees that they are viewed by management as "sexual playthings" or that the way required for women to get ahead in the workplace is by engaging in sexual conduct with their supervisors or the management. ...

Miller at 451.

In this case, numerous employees came forward in a Department of Corrections' internal investigation and commented upon the brazen activities of the three female lovers, who made no pretense of their romance with Kuykendall, nor the favors he bestowed upon them in many of the promotions and transfers to higher paying positions that they received. Indeed, the California supreme court noted the pervasiveness of an attitude of having to provide sex as a means, in some employees' perception the only means, for advancement at the facilities managed by Kuykendall.

Even the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission's ("EEOC") policy statement on the issue of sexual favoritism supports the California supreme court's decision. See Policy Guidance on Employer Liability under Title VII for Sexual Favoritism (Jan. 21, 1990) No. N-915-048 in 2 EEOC Compliance Manual. The EEOC's policy statement echoes the holding set forth above "...widespread sexual favoritism may create a hostile work environment in violation of Title VII by sending the demeaning message that managers view female employees as 'sexual playthings' or that 'the way for women to get ahead in the workplace is by engaging in sexual conduct.'" Id. Moreover, because the paramours were abusive in their roles as supervisors over the two plaintiffs, the hostile work environment elements were fulfilled - - that is, the conduct was found to be sufficiently severe or pervasive to alter the conditions of the plaintiffs' employment and create an abusive working environment.

In the U. S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, sexual favoritism is not considered a violation of Title VII. Recently, the court of appeals in Wilson v. Delta State Univ., 2005 U.S. App. LEXIS 16964 (5th Cir. August 12, 2005) ("Wilson") specifically affirmed that an alleged preferential treatment of a woman because she was having an affair with a male supervisor was not gender discrimination against the male plaintiff because "preferential treatment of a paramour, while obviously unfair, is not gender discrimination for the simple reason that such treatment discriminates not only against men, but also against all other women in the world except the one paramour." Wilson at *4.

What does this mean for Texas' employers? For those dealing with isolated incidents of sexual favoritism, there should be no violation of the Texas Commission on Human Rights Act or Title VII. However, when an environment is created where the favorite employee is in such a position as to create an abusive working environment, coupled with the perception that sexual favors are the only way to advance in the workplace, possible claims might survive summary judgment. Employers would do well not to allow relationships such as these to exist in the workplace. In addition to possible claims of sexual harassment, certainly other tort claims could be alleged by those rejected for promotions or demoted within the context of a tortious interference with business relationship action. Additionally, there are bound to be workplace confidence problems associated with any sort of favoritism, much less sexual favoritism. In response to just these non-legal concerns, many employers have implemented nepotism policies to protect against issues such as these. These policies go a long way in safeguarding an employer's legal and morale concerns in the workplace and should be considered by employers faced with these issues.

Contact: [email protected]

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United States Supreme Court Endorses Disparate Impact Claims Under ADEA
October 02, 2005
By Kris Bird

In a decision that surprised many seasoned employment law practitioners, the United States Supreme Court, on March 30, endorsed another theory of proving discrimination on the basis of age under the Age Discrimination in Employment Act ("ADEA"). Although the Supreme Court affirmed the Fifth Circuit's judgment in Smith v. City of Jackson, Miss., 2005 U.S. LEXIS 2931 (U.S. Mar. 30, 2005) ("Smith"), it reversed the lower court's dismissal of the disparate-impact claim. In Smith, a group of older officers filed suit under the ADEA claiming that they had been adversely affected by an employee pay plan. The City of Jackson had granted raises to all police officers and police dispatchers with less than five (5) years service at a proportionately higher rate than those with more seniority. Most officers over the age of forty (40) had more than five (5) years of service and, as such, received proportionately smaller pay raises. The City justified the higher percentage pay raises to those with Less seniority on the basis that the City needed to make junior officers' salaries more competitive with comparable positions in the surrounding labor market.

Twenty-four (24) years ago, the Supreme Court recognized the "disparate-impact" theory of liability under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 ("Title VII") in Griggs v. Duke Power Co., 401 U.S. 424 (1971) ("Griggs"). There the Court considered whether Title VII prohibited an employer from requiring a high school education or passing two general education tests as a condition of employment for janitorial jobs when neither the high school education nor the tests were shown to be significantly related to successful job performance. This was especially so when both requirements operated to disqualify African-American applicants at a substantially higher rate than White applicants. Recognizing that the motivation of the employer was immaterial to this type of discrimination, the disparate-impact theory of discrimination focused on the effects of the neutral policy on the minority employees since the policy excluded them at higher rates than non-minorities.

Writing for the Court in Smith, Justice Stevens observed that the ADEA and Title VII used virtually identical language in certain sections of each act that would permit the advancement of the disparate-impact theory in an ADEA action. Significantly, however, the ADEA does narrow the applicability of disparate-impact cases by permitting otherwise illegal or prohibited actions, policies, or procedures where the differentiation is based on reasonable factors other than age ("RFOA"). Therefore, when there are employment practices, which are facially neutral in their treatment of different age groups, (i.e., under the age of forty (40) versus over the age of forty (40)), but that, in fact, fall more harshly on the older age group, an employer may avoid liability if that adverse or disparate impact is attributable to a reasonable factor other than age.

Another protection provided to employers facing disparate-impact age claims is the ADEA's exclusion from the Civil Rights Act of 1991. The Civil Rights Act of 1991 expanded the coverage of Title VII under the disparate-impact theory, when the Act, in effect, overturned the Supreme Court's decision in Wards Cove Packing Co. v. Atonio, 490 U.S. 642 (1989). Wards Cove set a more stringent test for establishing adverse impact claims by relaxing an employer's burden of proof. As the Supreme Court points out in Smith, however, the Civil Right Acts of 1991 did not amend the ADEA. As such, the more stringent requirements of Wards Cove facing a plaintiff bringing a disparate-impact ADEA action still survives. So, for example, the burden of proof that existed in Wards Cove requiring plaintiffs to isolate specific employment practices which cause an adverse impact to those over the age of forty (40) is still required along with establishing an alternative employment practice which has to be equally as effective as the employer's chosen employment procedure. This would include factors such as the cost or other burdens of a proposed alternative employment practice or selection device.

The fact that the RFOA defense does not require the employer to determine the effectiveness of other ways to achieve its goal makes it the better of the two (2) defenses. In fact, under the RFOA defense, the only burden that an employer must meet, after disparate-impact is established, is to demonstrate that the factors upon which its employment policy or practice is based are reasonable, and nothing more.

For Texas employers, Smith also signals the demise of the Austin Court of Appeals decision in Texas Parks and Wildlife Dept. v. Gearing et al., 150 S.W.3d 452 (Tex. App.--Austifl 2004, pet. denied) ("Texas Parks and Wildlife") which held that disparate-impact claims were not cognizable under the Texas Commission on Human Rights Act ("TCHRA"). The TCHRA required court interpretation to determine the viability of an age-based disparate-impact claim. The Austin Court of Appeals extensively analyzed and adopted the Fifth Circuit's disparate-impact ADEA conclusions in Smith v. City of Jackson, Miss., 351 F.3d 183 (5th Cir. 2003). That reasoning is now no longer valid. As such, employers facing age discrimination claims under the TCHRA will now also face the possibility of disparate-impact claims. Unfortunately, Texas employers do not have the RFOA defense as it is not included in the State act. Additionally, the State legislature adopted the Civil Rights Act of 1991's amendments eviscerating Wards Cove and made the more-onerous disparate-impact burden of proof provisions applicable to age claims.

Practically speaking, employers should always analyze policies, procedures and actions (such as layoffs) for an adverse impact on minorities or age-protected employees. The simple 80% test used by the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs ("OFCCP"), the agency that reviews affirmative action plans prepared by federal contractors, is the easiest to perform. The minority or less-favored group (i.e., those over the age of forty (40)) have experienced an adverse impact if their ratio in the employment action, policy or procedure is less than (or more than, depending on the type of employment action), 80% of that experienced by the favored group. However, before implementing any procedure or policy that may adversely affect an older group of employees, companies may want to retain their employment Law counsel to analyze the impact so as to preserve confidentiality under the attorney-client privilege.

In summary, employers should anticipate more age discrimination claims now that older employees may use the effects of an employment action or policy to establish, potentially, liability under the ADEA. This is especially so under the TCHRA which offers plaintiffs the best avenue for pursuit of disparate-impact age claims.

Contact: [email protected]

Arbitration - A Sign Of The Times?
October 02, 2005
By Kris Brid

I. Introduction

What do the following employers have in common \endash USAA, Zachry Construction Company, Valero Energy Corporation, and H.E.B? Each of these aompanies, among San Antonio's largest employers, has instituted a program of alternative dispute resolution which utilizes, as its centerpiece, arbitration.

II. Benefits of Arbitration

In the last ten years, EEOC charges have more than doubled. Charges increased in 2002 to
their highest levels in seven years. Employment litigation has increased significantly to now represent forty percent of the federal civil docket.

Employment dispute resolution programs /arbitration have become recognized as a growing trend in the employment arena. Why?

- Resolution of disputes more equitably, expeditiously and economically;
- Reduction of legal and settlement costs/decreased expenditure of management time;
- Greater privacy and confidentiality;
- Reduction of claims/legal exposure to large jury awards/class actions;
- Maintenance of working relationships and decreased turnover;
- Retention of employees;
- Employee relations/public relations benefits, and;
- Possible insurance premiums discounts.

III. Pitfalls of Arbitration

To be sure, arbitration does have its draw backs.

1. Cost;

2. Perceived arbitrator tendencies;

3. Limited review and;

4. Trial by ambush.


IV. Successful Employee Dispute Resolution Programs

A. Elements

Each organization is faced with the task of determining what type of employee dispute resolution program it wishes to implement. For example, there can be several steps which can occur prior to or in place of arbitration such as:

1. Informal resolution \endash an informal internal process involving human resources and/or management for facilitating early resolution of problems with an employee.

2. Internal or external mediation \endash a program whereby a mutually selected mediator from outside the organization acts as a facilitator to assist the parties in reaching a quick and mutually acceptable solution.

3. Arbitration \endash the more formal proceeding similar to a trial or hearing where witnesses can be called and evidence submitted to an external neutral arbitrator who renders a binding, final written decision. Some companies, however, use non-binding arbitration.

4. Mandatory jury-trial waivers \endash as an alterative to mandatory arbitration, some employers use mandatory jury trial waivers in an effort to avoid the downside of both arbitration and jury trials yet preserving the protection of a court of law.

Once the steps have been selected for an employee dispute resolution program, an employer must next determine the scope of that program. In this regard, employers need to determine what types of claims are to be included within the confines of the program. Typically, companies will exclude claims such as worker's compensation, unemployment claims, benefit claims and unfair competition claims from an arbitration process. This is because either the claim cannot be resolved through arbitration by virtue of law or an injunction may be needed which cannot be obtained through the arbitration process.

Another item which must be discussed by management is that of cost sharing. For example, in the event an employer chooses mediation as part of its employee dispute resolution program, will the costs of mediation be split between the parties? With respect to arbitration, court decisions as well as rules of the American Arbitration Association ("AAA") typically require the employer to pay the lion's share of the filing fee as well as the arbitrator's fees and expenses associated with conducting the hearing and pre\endash arbitration matters.

B. Succesesful Arbitration Agreement/Programs

In the case of In re Halliburton, the Texas Supreme Court decided in 2002 that a program put in place by an employer, which altered the at\endash will employment contract between employer and employee was not unconscionable and was otherwise enforceable under general contract principles. Halliburton had sent notice to all of its employees by mail enclosing the Employee Dispute Resolution program and advising them that arbitration had been designated as exclusive method for resolving all disputes between the company and its employees. The notice informed the employees that by continuing to work after January 1, 1998, they would be accepting the new program.

The legal principle Halliburton relied upon was succinctly outlined in 1986, when the Texas Supreme Court set forth the manner in which an employer may change the terms of an at-will employment contract. The employer must establish, the court advised, that employees received (1) notice of the change, and (2) accepted the change. To prove notice, an employer asserting a modification must prove that it unequivocally notified the employee of definite changes of employment terms. When an employee continues to work with knowledge of the changes, the Texas Supreme Court recognized that the "[employee] has accepted the changes as a matter of law."

In connection with its program, Halliburton promised to arbitrate its employment claims against the employee which made it equally bound to the employee's promise to arbitrate employment claims. Significantly, under the Halliburton program, no amendment or change to the program was to apply to a dispute until after ten days notice to employees. Moreover, the amendments could never apply retroactively, only prospectively, upon effectuation of the ten day notice period.

V. Conclusion
All and all, arbitration is the wave of the future. More and more employers are turning to the private, confidential and customized format that arbitration provides in the event of disputes with their employees. The benefits to having programs of this nature are significant. Likewise, there are some drawbacks and each employer is left with the sole decision that it must make when determining if this is their appropriate dispute mechanism.

Contact: [email protected]

Promises...Promises...Promises
September 19, 2005
By Kris Bird

Can an employer's express oral promise not to fire an employee under specific circumstances stand as an exception to the employment at-will doctrine? Absolutely, said the Houston court of appeals in El Expreso, Inc, v. Zendejas, 2005 Tex. App. LEXIS 2395 (Tex. App. \endash Houston [1st Dist.] March 31, 2005), affirming an approximately $163,000.00 jury verdict. Although this case is unique in a number of aspects, employers should be very cognizant of promises made by their managers of continued employment under any circumstances.

The plaintiff, Mr. Zendejas, began working for a bus company ultimately acquired by Coach USA, beginning in 1992. At the time that Coach purchased the company, El Expreso, Mr. Zendejas had been promoted to Lead Operations Manager. He was laid off in 2000 due to downsizing, but returned to work in May 2001 to serve as Manager of Scheduling and Charters. Mario Pedraza held Mr. Zendejas' former position as Director of Charters and Bus Operations.

Shortly after he commenced working for El Expreso, several El Expreso bus drivers complained to Zendejas that they were being coerced into violating safety regulations by driving their buses too frequently or too long. Zendejas tried to bring these issues to the attention of Mr. Pedraza, Jorge Martinez, Manager of Safety and Training, and the company president, Joe Escobedo, in one-on-one conversations or meetings between all four. His efforts were rebuffed by all.

Zendejas eventually contacted Kathy Wagner, the Regional Safety Director at Coach, regarding his concerns about safety compliance. Wagner requested Zendejas' assistance in bringing El Expreso into compliance with safety laws and regulations. When Zendejas expressed trepidation that he might be terminated if he followed her instructions, Ms. Wagner assured Zendejas that he would not be fired for complying with safety regulations. Wagner then conducted an audit of El Expreso and discovered fairly substantial deviations from safety laws, including driver log fraud. As a result, Mr. Pedraza was reassigned to the position of Director of Terminal Operations.

Wagner continued to request Zendejas' help concerning El Expreso's compliance with safety logs and regulations. He was repeatedly assured that he would not be terminated from employment if he ensured that drivers complied with safety regulations. With this in mind, Zendejas canceled bus routes when eligible drivers were unavailable and sought outside sources to fulfill the need for drivers not able to work within the safety regulations. Zendejas was ultimately promoted within about six (6) weeks of his hire to his former position as Director of Charters and Bus Operations, a position previously held by Pedraza.

During this time frame, the personal relations between Zendejas, Pedraza, and Escobedo deteriorated, especially in light of the fact that a number of bus runs had been canceled which, in Escobedo's mind, was causing the company to lose money. Two months after he had been promoted, Zendejas was notified that a bus driver had complained that another driver was committing safety violations. Zendejas was requested to keep the report confidential, but ultimately confronted the driver suspected of violating the safety rules. Soon after, Escobedo asked Zendejas about the matter, and Zendejas replied that the matter was now in the hands of the Safety Department. Later that month, the employee making the complaint to Zendejas complained to the Director of Safety that he had been exposed as the source of the complaint. The Safety Department then informed Ms. Wagner that its investigation had been compromised because Zendejas had approached the suspected driver. Although denying that he had told the suspected driver who had reported the suspected safety violations, Zendejas' employment was terminated on September 12, by Escobedo.

The parties clashed repeatedly at trial over the issue of at-will employment. Significantly, though, Ms. Wagner testified that she told Zendejas several times that he would not be fired for assuring El Expreso's compliance with safety laws. Moreover, Zendejas testified that he had relied on Wagner's promise that she would not allow him to be fired for compliance with safety laws and regulations.

In Montgomery County Hospital District v. Brown, 965 S.W. 2d 501 (Tex. 1998), the Texas supreme court held that, absent a specific agreement to the contrary, an employer or employee may end their employment at-will relationship for a good cause, a bad cause, or no cause at all. Id. at 502. Specifically, in order to modify the at-will status of the relationship, the employer must unequivocally indicate a definite intent to be bound not to terminate the employee under specific circumstances. Id. The agreement to modify the at-will employment relationship must be (1) expressed rather than implied, and (2) clear and specific. El Expreso at *10. The Texas supreme court also held in Brown, an employer's oral statement may not modify an employee's at-will status unless there is a definite, stated intention to do so. Id. at 501. Thus, according to the court in El Expreso, "[t]he critical factor in determining the validity of an agreement to modify at-will status, is whether an employer has 'unequivocally indicated a definite intent to be bound not to terminate the employee except under clearly specified circumstances.'" (citation omitted) Id. at *11.

The Houston court of appeals also recognized a similar holding made by its sister court of appeals in Houston. In that case, a supervisor made a promise to a secretary that certain events would not cause her termination in violation of the employer's conflict of interest policy. The other court of appeals found that particular statement did not contain ambiguous terminology or require one to speculate as to the parameters of the purported agreement. Miksch v. Exxon Corp., 979 S.W. 2d 700,705 (Tex. App. - - Houston [14th Dist.] 1998, pet. denied). As such, the employer there was also held to have orally modified the secretary's at-will employment status. The Houston court of appeals, Fourteenth District, like the First District court of appeals, recognized that in Brown, the Texas supreme court had left open the possibility that such verbal statements could, under certain circumstances, be sufficient to create an enforceable agreement. Id. at 704.

What then can employers do to protect themselves from situations such as these? Policies need to be put in place which recognize that the only individual who may modify the employment at-will status is a specified executive officer, typically the president of the company or business, and even then only in writing, not orally. While many employment applications contain this proviso, a number of handbooks or policy manuals that discuss employment at-will do not contain this limitation on authority. Prudent employers would reexamine their policy manuals or handbooks in order to ensure that this limitation on authority to expressly modify the employment at-will status is in place and that current employees have acknowledged having read and agreeing to abide by such policies. This policy should also be stressed in new employee orientations as well as any annual human resource training programs.

Contact: [email protected]

Successful Workers Compensation Seminar
September 05, 2005
By Dan Hernandez

Please join me in thanking Chris, Yvonne, and our team for their excellent work on two recent seminars that we have presented in the last year and one other last year. Their good work has been recognized by the those who have attended the seminar. See attached brochure and attendee evaluations. The Council on Education in Management has now asked us to continue presenting the seminars due to the positive feedback. This has provided exceptional marketing opportunities for us and we have also received an honoriam for our efforts. Thanks.

Contact: [email protected]

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