Notable Cases

Jeffrey R. Bale
Shareholder
281-295-6000
281-295-6010(fax)
1600 Highway 6 South, Suite 200
Sugar Land, Texas 77478
jbaleatbalelawdotcom  (jbaleatbalelawfirmdotcom)  

Attorney Profile

Cases:

NOTABLE CASES HANDLED BY JEFFREY R. BALE

Successfully defended American Home Assurance Company in an alleged bad faith insurance and Texas Deceptive Trade Practices Act and Insurance Code violations lawsuit involving the partial sinking of a tugboat while moored at a dock.  The M/V ROBYN S was purchased by Pelican Refining and maintained at its facility in Channelview, Texas.  During the year in which Pelican Refining owned the tug, it operated the vessel on four separate occasions.  The prior owner of the vessel had cut holes in the bulkheads of the void spaces below deck in order to run conduit and wire.  The day prior to the sinking, the vessel was moved to another facility and the captain who navigated her to that location said she appeared to be watertight and seaworthy to him at the time.  During the night, the unmanned vessel experienced a storm and was observed to have waves crashing over the stern.  By morning, the vessel was partially sunk.  Following presentment of the claim, underwriters assigned a surveyor to inspect the vessel and, upon review of his findings, denied coverage.  Pelican Refining sued American Home Assurance Company and, prior to trial, demanded $1,500,000.00 in settlement.  The case proceeded to trial in the United States District Court for the Southern District of Texas, Galveston Division, and was tried to a jury in hurricane-ravaged Galveston less than a year after Hurricane Ike.  For this reason, and because AIG was a named defendant and was in the news daily in the midst of the TARP bailout controversy, the firm recommended the use of a jury consultant, which was agreed by the client.  The case was tried for a week and the jury returned a verdict in favor of American Home Assurance Company finding that the loss was not due to a covered peril under the policy.  During the evidentiary phase of the case, the firm’s attorneys were able to demonstrate that the vessel had been slowly sinking over a period of time through the testimony of the marine biologist who pointed to scientific evidence and photographs that showed the growth of barnacles and algae above the freeboard.  Through the testimony of expert marine surveyors, the Defendant was able to establish that the watertight integrity of the vessel had been severely compromised and the vessel was neither seaworthy on the occasion in question nor at the inception of the policy.  Following trial on the merits, and based upon the jury’s findings at the close of the evidence, judgment was entered that the Plaintiff take nothing.

Successfully defended The Offshore Drilling Company, TODCO Management Services, Inc., Hercules Offshore, Inc., Hercules Offshore Corporation, Hercules Offshore Drilling Co. and Cliff’s Drilling Company (“Hercules Defendants”) in a Jones Act personal injury lawsuit filed by a crane operator, his wife and children in state district court in Galveston County, Texas.  The crane operator suffered substantial injuries, including brain damage, when the crane he was operating on a jack-up rig detached from the pedestal and fell approximately 35 feet while the rig was dry-docked and being brought back into service.  Though the plaintiff operated the crane in a manner that may have caused it to shock-load, liability experts opined that the actual cause of the fall was the poor condition of the nuts and bolts inside the slewing bearing.  The crane had recently been subjected to an annual inspection by Defendant Offshore Equipment Solutions, which declared it to be in “great, safe running condition.”  Based on Offshore Equipment Solutions’ own documents that were produced in discovery, it is likely that the inspector did not actually inspect the crane but instead made affirmative misrepresentations about its condition. As a result of a Master Service Agreement between the Hercules Defendants and Offshore Equipment Solutions, Hercules was required to indemnify Offshore Equipment Solutions for negligent and grossly negligent actions that caused personal injury to Hercules employees. Hercules challenged the indemnity obligation by alleging fraud and misrepresentation based on the fact that the crane inspection was likely not done as represented.  This challenge survived summary judgment.  Prior to trial, the Hercules Defendants entered into a high-low agreement with Plaintiffs guaranteeing that the Plaintiffs would receive a minimum of $750,000 and a maximum of $5,000,000 from Hercules. These numbers were based on an extensive review of the circumstances, potential liability and the severe injuries suffered by the Plaintiff-crane operator, which resulted in a life-care plan for the Plaintiffs’ expert of over $13 million.  After six days of trial, the parties settled. Offshore Equipment Solutions dropped its claims for indemnity against the Hercules Defendants and the Plaintiffs accepted $1,250,000 from the Hercules Defendants, with an additional $3,750,000 being paid by Offshore Equipment Solutions.

Defended State National Insurance Company in an insurance lawsuit filed in state district court in Jefferson County, Texas, in which the Plaintiff alleged bad faith insurance practices, insurance code violations, and unfair and deceptive trade practices, as well as breach of contract of the policy.  The Plaintiff’s boat had been damaged in a fire and the Defendant agreed to have the vessel repaired following adjustment of the claim.  In the interim, the vessel sank and the policy expired.  The Plaintiff presented a new claim for diminution of value in accordance with the policy’s terms.  Following such demand, the Plaintiff almost immediately filed suit.  The case settled immediately before jury selection for significantly less than the Plaintiff’s pre-trial demand.

Successfully defended International Marine Services in a Jones Act personal injury lawsuit in which the Plaintiff alleged he slipped on the back deck of a supply boat on “oil, grease or algae.”  The parties proceeded to trial in the face of the Plaintiff’s demand of $500,000.00.  In advance of trial, the Defendant offered a cost of defense settlement.  The parties proceeded to trial and, immediately following the cross-examination of the Plaintiff, the case settled prior to the beginning of testimony on the second day of trial for the pending cost of defense offer made by the Defendant.

Defended International Offshore Services, LLC and International Marine, LLC in a case involving an allision with a production platform in the Gulf of Mexico.  The platform owner made significant repairs to the platform, and in particular, to the riser below the water line.  The platform owner did not invite International Offshore Services, LLC and International Marine, LLC to participate in a post-casualty survey.  Therefore, the firm’s attorneys retained various experts and engaged in a thorough analysis of underwater video of the platform taken prior and subsequent to the casualty, performed an analysis of tidal states and damage locations on both the vessel and the platform.  Even though the investigation revealed that the riser likely was damaged as a result of the allision (which constituted the bulk of the damage claim), the firm was able to negotiate a mediated settlement of well over $100,000.00 below the platform owner’s documented damages in the case.

Successfully defended Diamond Offshore Services Company and Diamond Offshore Management Company in a Jones Act personal injury lawsuit filed by a twenty-two year old roustabout in state district court in Harris County, Texas. The roustabout alleged he sustained injuries during a personnel basket transfer in rough sea conditions. At trial, the sea estimates ranged from 4-6 feet to 6-8 feet. Plaintiff claimed that the crane operator snapped the basket off the deck too quickly causing him to lose his grip on the netting of the basket, which resulted in him falling from the rapidly-rising basket from a distance of 3-4 feet above the deck of the crew boat from which he was being offloaded during a regularly-scheduled crew change. Prior to trial, the Plaintiff underwent surgery to his right shoulder to correct an impingement syndrome. He then underwent a neck fusion at the C5-6 level. His treating physician also recommended a two level low-back fusion, which had not been scheduled and concluded as of the time the case proceeded to trial. Prior to trial, the Plaintiff demanded $995,000 to settle his case. After a multi-day trial, the Court found in favor of Diamond Offshore on the issues of negligence and unseaworthiness and entered a take-nothing judgment against the Plaintiff on liability.

Successfully defended Cementnatie, a Belgian stevedoring company in a personal injury lawsuit filed by the driver of the yard hustler during discharge operations.  The case was tried to a jury in federal court in Galveston, Texas.  Cementnatie was hired to stuff three containers with reels of coiled steel for shipment to the United States.  The containers were delivered and loaded for transport to Houston, Texas from Antwerp.  During the voyage, the vessel encountered a few days of near gale and gale force winds and seas (Force 7 and 8 on the Beaufort Wind Scale).  Two of the containers were offloaded without incident.  However, the Plaintiff had the third container discharged onto the chassis he was pulling behind his yard hustler.  After driving it approximately 3,000 yards to the drop area, he found a slot into which to back the container.  While backing in, the container flipped, causing the yard hustler to raise up into the air and slam down with such force that it caused the windshield to shatter.  Plaintiff initially complained of hip, leg and arm pain, but several weeks after the incident he began to complain of low back pain.  All Co-Defendants in the case settled with Plaintiff in the days preceding trial.  Plaintiff claimed that the reels of steel tubing were inadequately secured and stowed, causing them to shift within the container, resulting in the chassis and container overturning while the Plaintiff was backing in at a safe and prudent speed.  Through photographic evidence and expert testimony, the firm’s lawyers were able to show that the rolls had not moved laterally on the dunnage during transit across the Atlantic Ocean and the chassis did not lean when the container was loaded onto it, in addition to the fact that there were no problems moving the load from dockside to the drop point, even though the Plaintiff made 2 or 3 90-degree turns in route.  One of Plaintiff’s expert marine surveyors when pressed on cross-examination admitted that, based on the physical evidence of the reels and packing materials inside the container following the turnover of the load, the reels were in the same position at the time the container was placed on the back of the Plaintiff’s chassis as they were in when the container left Antwerp.  Defendant asserted that Plaintiff jackknifed the chassis while parking, thus causing the chassis and container to flip.  Plaintiff made a settlement demand of $650,000.00 which was countered by Defendant with a $30,000.00 offer.  Prior to jury selection, Plaintiff’s attorney reduced their settlement demand to $250,000.00.  The case was presented to the jury in a three day trial and a verdict was rendered in favor of Defendant, resulting in a take nothing judgment. 

Successfully defended PGS Onshore, Inc. in a case alleging damage to ninety-nine homes as a result of work being done in connection with an urban vibrosies project in Hidalgo County, Texas. The case was filed by prominent plaintiffs’ attorneys in Hidalgo County, a notorious plaintiffs’ venue in the Rio Grande Valley. After taking GPS coordinates of each home and overlaying the vibrosies data and vibe points on the grid developed by the firm’s staff and expert witnesses, PGS was able to demonstrate to the Court that there was no reasonable scientific basis to the claim and obtained a summary judgment in its favor. As a result all of the Plaintiff-home owners’ claims were dismissed with prejudice. Additionally, PGS recovered one-half of the attorneys fees it expended in the case through a declaratory judgment action based on indemnity obligations and other contractual undertakings assumed by another party to the project, even though that party convinced the Plaintiffs’ attorney to dismiss it from the case at an early stage of the litigation.

Successfully defended Valero Refining Company of Texas in a refinery release/toxic exposure lawsuit involving more than 5,000 Plaintiffs, pending in Galveston, Texas. The firm obtained a summary judgment and dismissal in its entirety. The firm was able to contain the potentially overwhelming size of the case by filing a Lone Pine Motion, which sought to have the Plaintiffs come forward with proof on causation. The use of this tool at a very early stage of the case framed the issues for the trial judge and raised serious questions about the merits of the Plaintiffs’ case. The firm also eventually convinced the court to use a Bellwether Selection Process for the selection of trial plaintiffs, which necessitated a statistical analysis so that representative Plaintiffs would be selected for trial purposes. When 2200 Plaintiffs failed to respond to questionnaires, propounded by the Defendant under the auspices of the trial court, they were dismissed for want of prosecution. After a group of 20 “Trial Plaintiffs” was assembled, the firm worked up those cases. At the end of discovery, the firm filed a Daubert challenge to the Plaintiffs’ experts, which was presented to the court in a full-blown evidentiary hearing. This motion was granted in part and denied in part, and importantly, it set the table for Defendant’s motion for summary judgment. The trial court eventually granted Defendant’s motion dismissing the claims of the Trial Plaintiffs. It then subsequently granted Defendant’s no evidence motion for summary judgment as to all other Plaintiffs.

Successfully defended EGL, Inc., and Eagle Maritime Services, Inc. in a case involving claims for fraud resulting from the alleged misdelivery of several sea-going containers of cargo. The Plaintiff’s pleadings sought actual damages in the amount of $700,000 and punitive damages in the amount of $10,000,000, plus attorney’s fees and court costs. During the litigation, the Plaintiff made a time-limited settlement demand of $900,000. When the time limit on the demand expired, Plaintiff’s counsel wrote the firm’s attorneys advising that the case would “never settle for less than seven figures.” On the eve of trial, the case settled for a contribution of $100,000 from the firm’s client that was far less than the attorney’s fees expended in the defense of the case.

Successfully defended Odfjell Terminals (Baytank), Inc. in a toxic exposure case in which the Plaintiff alleged an exacerbation to a pre-existing lung condition which required treatment with massive doses of steroids. Plaintiff also alleged that he became steroid dependent because of the decline in his lung function, which resulted in severe myopathy and osteoporosis. As a result of his osteoporosis, the Plaintiff suffered a T-6 vertebral fracture, causing him to be paralyzed from the chest down. The Plaintiff incurred $900,000 in medical bills and demanded $5 million to settle the case. When that demand was rejected, the Plaintiff increased his settlement demand to $20 million, which was also the amount of the award sought from the jury at trial.  Due to the magnitude of the uninsured exposure in the case, the firm recommended and implemented a jury focus group to validate and refine its defensive theories in the case.  The case was tried to a jury for two weeks in Harris County. After 11 hours of deliberation, the jury returned a verdict in favor of the Defendant, finding the Plaintiff 70% at fault for his own injuries, thus precluding any recovery under Texas’ modified comparative negligence statute. In response to an unpredicated damages question, the jury awarded damages of $150,000, which were not assessed against the Defendant because of the jury’s other findings.

Successfully defended a crude oil supplier which sold crude oil that was allegedly contaminated with highly corrosive organic chlorides to a refinery in Louisiana. The refinery claimed that the high chloride levels in the crude delivered to its facility caused rapid corrosion in a heat exchanger in the refinery’s naphtha unit. The corrosion caused a breach in a heat exchanger which led to an explosion and fire causing massive damage to the unit and surrounding areas. The refinery sued the crude oil supplier under theories of negligence and breach of warranty. The refinery asserted claims for physical damage to its facility and consequential losses for down time and loss of production, resulting in a claim of nearly $30 million in damages for losses sustained as a result of the explosion and fire. While the crude oil supplier was able to demonstrate that the refinery was ill-maintained and in poor condition, evidence of “contributory negligence” would not have been permitted to offset any recovery under the refinery’s breach of warranty theory. Therefore, the firm’s attorneys aggressively battled the refinery’s damage model.  The case ultimately settled for $12 million, which was less than half of the damage model developed by the refinery in preparation for trial.

Defended PGS Exploration (U.S.), Inc., Velodyne Shipping and Seabird Ship Management in a Jones Act case filed in the United States District Court for the Southern District of Texas, Galveston Division. The Plaintiff, a 36 year old seaman, alleged injury during a regularly scheduled fire drill. Shortly after the drill, he reported having a pain in his left shoulder. He was treated by the vessel’s medic and was placed on light duty. After leaving the vessel, the Plaintiff sought medical care ashore. During the course of his treatment, his doctors identified a labral tear and a multi-lobulated cyst in the glenohumeral notch that compressed the nerves in the infraspinatus distribution. The Plaintiff underwent two surgeries to repair these conditions. After the Plaintiff filed suit, he claimed that he had run out of fire hose during the drill, which stressed his shoulder thereby causing the injuries sued upon. At trial, it was undisputed that the Plaintiff had a permanent injury to his left shoulder that caused weakness limiting him to “light duty” work. Prior to trial, the Plaintiff demanded $850,000 to settle the case. After a two day trial, the Honorable Samuel B. Kent found negligence on both PGS and the Plaintiff and awarded $154,000 to the Plaintiff, following a reduction in damages due to the Court’s finding that the Plaintiff was 50% at fault for his own injuries. Seabird was dismissed for lack of personal jurisdiction. Velodyne was dismissed due to a finding of no unseaworthiness and lack of personal jurisdiction.

Successfully defended Basis Petroleum in an alleged retaliatory discharge case where the Plaintiff claimed that he was fired for filing a workers’ compensation claim. The Plaintiff and a co-worker were physically injured in Basis Petroleum’s Texas City Refinery naphtha unit when a valve ruptured when they were trying to close it. The Plaintiff escaped the unit but could not locate his co-worker. At risk to his own life, the Plaintiff went back into the unit that was being flooded with highly flammable liquid naphtha and located his co-worker who had suffered major injuries to both arms such that he could not get up and get out of the unit. The Plaintiff then carried his co-worker to safety.  Thereafter, the Plaintiff underwent orthopedic treatment for injuries sustained in the incident, as well as psychological counseling for post-traumatic stress disorder. He also filed for workers’ compensation benefits. After being released from the care of his doctors, the company insisted that the Plaintiff return to work. The Plaintiff did not respond to the company’s job offer and was terminated. Upon receipt of the termination notice, the Plaintiff immediately responded to the job offer and asked the company to reconsider his termination. That request was declined. The Plaintiff filed suit in Galveston County. The case was tried for six days. During trial the Plaintiff demanded $275,000 in settlement. After deliberating for an hour and a half, the jury returned a verdict in favor of the Defendant. Judgment was entered that the Plaintiff take nothing. The judgment was later affirmed on appeal.

Successfully defended U.S. Liquids of LA., L.P. and Oilfields GP Holdings, Inc. in a maritime wrongful death case filed in the United States District Court for the Southern District of Texas, Galveston Division.  The decedent was a deckhand working in Port Fourchon, Louisiana when he was crushed between a rinse rack placed on top of a chemical disposal barge and his vessel during mooring operations preparatory to discharging pent fluids from offshore facilities.  The barge was owned and operated by Defendants.  Plaintiffs alleged that the rinse rack sitting atop Defendants’ barge was improperly placed, as it created a dangerous pinch point between the rack and vessels being moored to it.  Decedent’s widow and children brought a lawsuit against the Defendants.  Plaintiffs were able to establish through deposition and trial testimony that the rinse rack could have easily been rotated thereby alleviating the pinch point, while maintaining its functionality.  Plaintiffs’ economist offered a damage model totaling $347,441.00 in past and future economic losses (the Plaintiffs’ Decedent was approaching retirement at the time of death).  Plaintiffs sought additional money for Decedent’s conscious pain and suffering.  Plaintiffs’ initial demand was $500,000.00, which was reduced to $350,000.00 immediately prior to trial.  Defendants chose to try the lawsuit to the bench, in front of the Honorable Samuel B. Kent.  Defendants were able to prove through documents obtained through third parties that the Decedent had been demoted approximately 28 weeks prior to his death, thereby minimizing the future earning capacity opined by Plaintiffs’ economist.  Further evidence was developed through an exhaustive search of medical records and emergency medical technician reports which showed that the Decedent was coherent, alert and in no apparent distress until the last few minutes prior to suffering cardiac arrest as a result of a ruptured aorta, thereby negating Plaintiffs’ claims that the Decedent suffered excruciating pain for approximately one hour prior to his death.  During trial the parties engaged in a settlement conference with the Court and Plaintiffs accepted Defendants’ offer of settlement in the amount of $95,000.00, with the Decedent’s widow receiving $75,000.00, and Decedent’s two children receiving $10,000.00 each.  Defendant had offered $75,000.00 prior to trial.

Successfully defended Valero Refining in a mass tort toxic exposure lawsuit filed in Marshall, Texas, involving over 1,000 Plaintiffs and numerous Defendants.  The Plaintiffs alleged that Valero Refining had provided quantities of xylene and toluene to the facility at which they worked in East Texas, which allegedly caused and or contributed to multiple symptoms the allegedly suffered due to chemical exposure.  Evidence in the case revealed that Valero’s MSDSs were present at the facility, indicating that product had been delivered to the facility as alleged.  The firm achieved settlements with the Plaintiffs that averaged $93.97 per person out of a total settlement contribution of $10,000 from Valero.  The total settlement amount was far less than the budgeted amount for defense costs for the ensuing fiscal quarter.

Successfully defended Smith Maritime in the arrest of its vessel, the ELSBETH II.  Smith Maritime had been hired by a shipbreaker in Brownsville, Texas, to transport two aged U.S. Navy destroyers from Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, to Brownsville, Texas, to be scrapped at its facility.  The vessels were owned by the United States Navy and the shipyard was hired by the United States Government to scrap the vessels.  During transit, one of the destroyers started taking on water and began to sink while attached to the Elsbeth II’s tow line.  In the face of this exigency, the crew of the Elsbeth II went aboard the floundering destroyer and prepared it for scuttling and sinking so that it could be detached from the tow line and sunk so that it would not pose a hazard to navigation.  Upon arrival in Brownsville, Texas, the shipyard seized the Elsbeth II and demanded security in the amount of $1 million, alleging that Smith Maritime had wrongfully scuttled the vessel and had deprived the shipyard of its opportunity to earn its contractually-stipulated income for breaking the vessel.  The firm’s attorneys filed an answer to the lawsuit, posted a bond, obtained release of the Elsbeth II, filed a counterclaim and demand for counter-security for the Elsbeth II’s tow hire and for wrongful seizure.  At the evidentiary hearing on Smith Maritime’s request for counter-security, one of the officers of the shipyard admitted on the witness stand that the shipyard did not own the vessel that was sunk and that its claim related solely to its claim for economic loss associated with the sinking.  The firm’s lawyers argued that the claim was precluded under the economic loss rule established in Robins Dry Dock.  Thereafter, the firm’s lawyers obtained summary judgment decreeing that the Plaintiff take nothing on its original complaint and obtained findings that eventually forced the Plaintiff to pay $365,000.00 to Smith Maritime on its counterclaim for wrongful arrest and tow hire.  The trial court’s findings dismissing the shipyard’s claims and entering judgment on liability in favor of Smith Maritime, were affirmed by the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit in an interlocutory appeal and led to the eventual resolution of the case.

Successfully defended Gulf Stream Marine, Inc., a stevedore, in a maritime cargo case in which the Plaintiff alleged that it sustained damages to a cargo of various steel products loaded in Turkey.  Prior to discharge in Houston by GSM, a survey revealed that some of the cargo had arrived in “in a damaged condition.”  During the discharge of the cargo a load was dropped when the vessel’s wire sling parted.  A survey report stated that there were “some bent pieces” but did not state that those “bent pieces” were bent during discharge or whether they were among the many other pieces bent due to the “rough, careless and/or improper handling during loading operations as well as faulty stowage aboard the ocean carrier, as alleged by Plaintiff.”  The surveyor did not fault GSM for the incident and even noted that GSM had difficulty in placing the slings around bundles “due to limited space between tiers” because inadequate dunnage was used to stow the cargo.  On these facts, the firm successfully obtained the dismissal of GSM on summary judgment arguing that the Plaintiff had not produced any evidence that created a fact issue regarding the alleged liability of GSM or of any of the damages allegedly attributable to GSM.  The cite to the Court’s published opinion is Commercial Metals Co. v. M/V LINDOS, 390 F.Supp.2d 571 (S.D. Tex. 2005).

Successfully defended Eagle Global Logistics in a cargo case in which the Plaintiff alleged that it sustained damages to a cargo of printing equipment that was shipped from Wisconsin to Houston. Plaintiff’s lawsuit alleged that the cargo was a total loss and that it sustained damages exceeding $120,000 for which EGL was liable under the Carmack Amendment. Plaintiff also alleged that EGL was liable for breach of contract and negligence for failing to insure the cargo as Plaintiff allegedly requested. As a result, Plaintiff also sought recovery of attorney’s fees and prejudgment interest. The firm successfully obtained the summary judgment dismissal of Plaintiff’s state law causes of action for breach of contract and negligence based on notions of preemption under the Carmack Amendment. Thereafter, the firm settled the remaining claims for approximately $6,800.

Successfully defended PGS Exploration (U.S.), Inc. in a maintenance and cure lawsuit involving a ventilator-dependent quadriplegic. The firm was able to suspend the ship owner’s duty to provide maintenance and cure by qualifying the seaman for governmental benefits. The firm then negotiated a nominal settlement with the Plaintiff for any potential future exposure, and sued the United States of America to prevent it from requiring a substantial Medicare Set Aside Trust against the settlement monies and attempting to enforce the Primary Payor provisions of the Medicare statute.

Successfully defended Basis Petroleum and Phibro Energy, subsidiaries of Salomon Smith Barney, in an antitrust/price-fixing/class action Multi-District Litigation lawsuit that involved more than 30 of the largest oil producers, refiners and transporters in the nation. On behalf of the client, the firm’s lawyers negotiated a settlement of $350,000 with the class members whereas another similarly situated company paid in excess of $11 million, as part of a $295 million over-all settlement.

Successfully defended AK Steel in a premises liability lawsuit involving an alleged injury to a subcontractor, who claimed that he fell into a hole that was covered by an improperly maintained and secured manhole cover, which allegedly could not be discovered by a reasonable inspection. Despite a documented herniated disc and fusion operation, the firm obtained a summary judgment and dismissal of the case based on evidence developed during discovery.

Successfully defended Garrett Marine in a limitation action involving an allision with an underwater pipeline. Although substantiated damages were in excess of $650,000, the firm obtained a settlement with all claimants for $75,000 – the value of the limitation fund.

Successfully defended Allseas Marine Contractors in a Jones Act lawsuit filed in Lufkin, Texas ,involving a triple operated lumbar spine and recommendation for insertion of a pain pump that was brought by the ship’s superintendent when he slipped on a ladder after walking through standing water on a landing.  The superintendent had just instructed a crewmember to remedy the condition.  The firm’s lawyers defended the case by alleging the water was an “open and obvious” condition and the superintendent had specific awareness of the alleged danger.  In the face of a $4 million settlement demand, and the posting of a $2.25 million security bond to obtain the release of the client’s pipelay ship, which had been arrested in another jurisdiction by the Plaintiff’s lawyers, the firm tried the lawsuit in Lufkin, Texas.  The court found the Plaintiff 65% at fault for his own injuries, resulting in a net verdict of $368,010.00.  Despite this favorable outcome, the case was appealed and the Fifth Circuit reversed the trial court, thereby completely exonerating Allseas in respect to this judgment.

Successfully defended Action Equipment & Scaffold Company in Beaumont, Texas in a tractor-trailer rig accident in which the Plaintiff, one of the investigating officers, slipped in oil on the roadway which allegedly leaked from the damaged vehicles, which led to injuries requiring low back surgery.  Prior to the accident, a recently installed cargo box on the rig’s trailer fell off causing vehicles taking evasive action to collide.  In the face of a $650,000.00 settlement demand, the firm tried the case for four days to a jury.  Following the cross-examination of the Plaintiff’s experts, the Plaintiff accepted the Defendant’s offer of $50,000.00, which had been made at mediation four weeks before trial.

Successfully defended PGS Exploration (U.S.), Inc. in a back injury claim, in which the Plaintiff alleged that he also developed deep vein thrombosis as a result of his immobility aboard the vessel, at the hospital in Brazil and due to the immediate long flight back to the United States following his release from the hospital.  Prior to trial, the Plaintiff’s attorney demanded $1.5 million in settlement.  Defendant countered with an offer of $25,000.00.  While awaiting assignment to trial during the trial term in which the case was set, the Plaintiff’s demand plummeted.  While the case did not get reached for trial, it settled shortly after the trial term expired for $75,000.00.  PGS and its P&I Club agreed to pay this amount due to costs associated with preparing for trial a second time and the potential of having to incur the expense of transporting witnesses from Norway to testify during trial in Houston.  The firm recommended the use of a jury focus group prior to trial in order to obtain feedback regarding some of the unusual evidentiary aspects of the case.  The firm made its presentation to the mock jury with a bias toward the Plaintiff’s case.  The mock jury affirmed the theories that the firm had developed in its defense of the case.

Successfully defended American Home Assurance Company in a bad faith insurance claim where the Assured alleged $500,000.00 worth of damage to a cargo of escorene during transit from the United States Gulf Coast to the United Arab Emirates.  Mr. Bale was hired to replace American Home’s original counsel of record, who had recommended a settlement of $500,000.00. Upon receipt of the file, the Plaintiff’s demand exceeded $1 million, on the basis of alleged bad faith and statutory treble damages exposure.  Within four months, and right before trial, the case settled for $35,000.00 because the firm’s lawyers, through aggressive discovery and motion practice, demonstrated that the Plaintiff could not prove its damages.

Successfully defended Basis Petroleum in a toxic exposure death case pending in Beaumont, Texas in which the Plaintiffs alleged that Plaintiff’s decedent had contracted aplastic anemia secondary to exposures to xylene, toluene and 1,1,1-trichloroethane. In this multi-party case, Mr. Bale took the lead in developing testimony from hospital lab personnel where the Plaintiff died and proved that the Plaintiff, while in remission from aplastic anemia, had died from the effects of the inhalation of cocaine, which caused cerebral hemorrhaging in his weakened state.  The case settled for a $20,000 contribution from Basis Petroleum, which was substantially less than the cost of defense required to take the case through trial.

Successfully defended Genesis Energy, LLC and Genesis Crude Oil, L.P. in a refinery explosion case in which a refinery worker was burned over 86% of his body with second and mostly third-degree burns.  The Plaintiff alleged that Genesis had supplied crude oil that was contaminated with chlorinated hydrocarbons which led to rapid corrosion of a heat exchanger in the naphtha unifiner unit.  Despite the Plaintiff’s demonstrable and significant injuries, Genesis and its underwriters were able to settle with the Plaintiff for $2.4 million at mediation, which started with the Plaintiff’s opening settlement demand of $23.5 million.  The amount paid by Genesis was among the lowest amounts paid by any Defendant in reported Texas cases for similar injuries in the ten years prior to the settlement. 

Successfully recovered $4.5 million for the Western Company of North America and its subrogated underwriters for a well operator’s breach of indemnity and additional insured obligations embodied in the IADC Daywork Drilling Contract. The operator and its underwriters had assumed the defense of the Western Company of North America in a Jones Act brain injury case and reneged on these undertakings shortly before trial. Western hired Fulbright & Jaworski to negotiate a settlement of the claim, which they did successfully. Mr. Bale was retained by Western and its subrogated underwriters to sue the operator, its underwriters and attorneys to recover for breach of the provisions of the IADC Daywork Drilling Contract.

Successfully defended Justice Life Insurance Company in a case alleging wrongful denial of health insurance benefits where the Plaintiff sustained a brain injury and submitted his bills to the insurance company. Mr. Bale tried the case to verdict in Richmond, Texas and obtained findings that the Plaintiff’s injuries were due to intoxication, which fell within an exclusion under the policy. The jury also found that the Plaintiff and his wife had made material misrepresentations in the application process regarding the Plaintiff’s previous medical history concerning alcoholism, which affirmed Justice’s prior decision to rescind the insurance policy. The jury answered questions about material misrepresentation favorably to Defendant.  Judgment was entered that the Plaintiff take nothing.

Successfully defended Maritime Overseas Corporation in a Jones Act lawsuit involving a brain injured seaman. In the face of the Plaintiff’s demand for a high/low settlement agreement of $1 million/$10 million, Mr. Bale tried the case to verdict in state court in Galveston, Texas, for 2 weeks, after which the jury awarded the Plaintiff only $350,000.

Successfully defended SeaRiver Maritime in a Jones Act lawsuit involving a recommended cervical fusion to a seaman.  Prior to trial, the Plaintiff’s demand was $2 million. Thereafter, Mr. Bale was hired to try the case only 45 days before trial. He then tried the case to verdict in federal court in Houston, Texas, where the jury awarded the Plaintiff $50,000 after finding him 95% negligent in causing his own injuries.

Successfully prosecuted a products liability claim for Exxon Corporation, Chevron Corporation, and Arco stemming from a system-wide power outage caused by the malfunctioning of an allegedly defective circuit breaker manufactured by Hitachi, Ltd. The power outage led to physical damage to the refineries operated by Exxon, Chevron and Arco, as well as business interruption losses. After conducting significant discovery in the case, the lawsuit settled for 100% of the clients’ pre-suit settlement demands. The resulting settlement exceeded $6 million.

Successfully prosecuted a claim for Exxon Corporation against Houston Lighting & Power Company for negligence in conducting maintenance on a loop line leading into Exxon’s Baytown refinery.  The power company locked out a segment of the service line to the refinery for maintenance, but dispatched its maintenance crew to another line segment.  While attempting to perform maintenance work, the crew, which had been dispatched to a live line segment, tripped the remaining power to the plant, thereby causing a full-blown power outage to the Baytown refinery, which, at the time, was the largest refinery on earth.  Despite the terms of Houston Lighting & Power Company’s tariff provisions, which limited its liability to acts of gross negligence and limited recoverable damages to those sustained by a customer’s appropriately designed and protected electrical equipment, the case settled for more than $1 million in consequence of property damage and economic losses suffered by Exxon.  In addition, the power company agreed to install a third line to the Exxon Baytown refinery to prevent similar incidents from occurring in the future.