Investigation Continues in Houston Ship Channel Collision

Jeffrey Raizner

A federal judge on Friday ordered seizure of the cargo ship that collided with a fuel barge causing the oil spill in Galveston Bay.

On March 22, the Summer Wind was en route to the Port of Houston when it collided with a barge owned by Kirby Inland Marine. The barge was being towed by the tugboat Miss Susan and was headed from the Port of Texas City to the Intracoastal Waterway (ICW).

Spanning 3,000 miles (4,800 km), the ICW provides a preferred shipping route consisting of channels, lagoons, rivers and man-made canals along the Atlantic Ocean and Gulf of Mexico. Navigating heavy commercial traffic amidst narrow pathways forces vessels to often maneuver in close proximity with obstructed vision. Any form of negligence can easily cause accidents in these situations.

The vessels collided where the Texas City channel and ICW intersect. The collision resulted in the spill of more than 168,000 gallons (4,000 barrels) of heavy fuel oil into the bay.

Every mile of the ICW is governed by the Inland Navigation Laws but the legal framework is far more complex as Federal admiralty and maritime law overlap with state law and special inland area laws. Though the investigation regarding fault in the Houston wreckage is still ongoing, under federal law, Kirby Inland Marine is designated as the responsible party since the spilled oil came from its barge.

If you or someone you know has been involved in an offshore accident, finding a maritime lawyer who is experienced in these legal complexities is paramount. Contact the law office of Doyle Raizner where we have extensive experience with offshore and ICW injuries.

- Via Galveston County The Daily News

Doyle Raizner Files Jones Act Lawsuit against Nippon Steel

Jeffrey Raizner

Doyle Raizner LLP has filed a Jones Act and general maritime lawsuit in Harris County against Nippon Steel & Sumitomo Metal (“Nippon Steel”) on behalf of an injured seaman. The seaman, a Field Project Manager and Supervisor, was engaged in sandblasting a Nippon-operated pipe lay barge when he suffered debilitating injuries to his neck and arms.

As owner and operator of M/V KUROSHIO, Nippon Steel was obligated to maintain a vessel of seaworthy conditions and fit for its intended purpose. This obligation was violated as the plaintiff, serving as a member of the crew, and servicing the vessel, was injured due to the company’s failure to provide adequate crew, proper equipment, operations, and other supportive elements.

This harmful condition violates the laws and regulations of the United States of America for vessels. Nippon Steel further breached its obligations of timely maintenance and cure payments to our client. This entailed a delay of medical evacuation from the vessel after the injury and failure to provide compensations required by law. This denial, despite the plain indications of the necessity, can only be described as willful, arbitrary, and capricious.

Doyle Raizner stands behind this client in his fight against a company refusing to honor its obligation as our firm continues to successfully represented clients against some of the largest maritime employers in the world.

If you or someone you know has been involved in any type of offshore accident, contact the experienced maritime lawyers of Doyle Raizner to discuss your options.

Doyle Raizner Represents Vets in KBR Poisoning Case

Jeffrey Raizner

Doyle Raizner is proud to represent a number of former US and coalition troops in the fight against KBR Inc. for exposing soldiers to toxic burn pits at forward operating bases in Iraq and Afghanistan. We’ve been putting up a vigorous fight in these cases, and we’ve now reached the Ninth Circuit.

An Oregon federal jury found in November 2012 that KBR negligently exposed the guardsmen to sodium dichromate at Iraq’s Qarmat Ali water facility, in violation of a government contract with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers that obligated KBR to safeguard personnel from environmental risks. The jury ordered the contracting firm to pay the National Guard members $85 million for their emotional distress.

In May 2013, U.S. Magistrate Judge Paul Papak reduced the total damage award to $81 million based on statutory limits, but rejected KBR Inc.’s bid for a new trial according to court documents. KBR appealed the verdict and asserted a number of defenses that suggested they were immune from responsibility, a position which we disagree with.

The guardsmen argued Monday that Judge Papak had erred, asking the Ninth Circuit to reinstate the $4.2 million he removed after determining the $850,000 awarded to each plaintiff for noneconomic damages exceeded Oregon’s $500,000 statutory cap for such awards. They also believe they should be allowed to introduce additional evidence in the case.

In their cross-appeal reply brief challenging the reduction of the award, the 12 Oregon-based National Guard members alleged KBR exposed them to large amounts of the carcinogenic compound sodium dichromate while they worked at the Iraqi facility. They told the appellate court that they should be allowed to introduce a U.N. spreadsheet showing how much of the toxic chemical was used at the facility, as well as an indemnity agreement KBR secured on the eve of the Iraq War.

The guardsmen rebuffed KBR’s argument that it had told the United States Army Corps of Engineers and

Doyle Raizner Moving Offices in June

Big changes are coming to Doyle Raizner, as we prepare to move into a new office building. We’re saying goodbye to the Central Business District downtown and moving to a new location in June in Montrose.

The address will be 2402 Dunlavy St., a 10,000 square foot office building in the Montrose area that was built in 2009. We will own and occupy the entire building.

The primary reason we chose this location is because it will provide a great work environment for our employees, and give our clients a more convenient place to visit. Montrose is an energetic location in Houston near Midtown, and we’re looking forward to enjoying this new space as our firm’s permanent home.

Another reason that drove the decision to move is high rents and low vacancy. The CBD has the largest concentration of law firms in Houston, but according to JLL, our buyer’s agent, many firms are beginning to migrate away from this area because the CBD has some of the highest rents in Houston.  After many years downtown, we are looking forward to the move.

We look forward to seeing you in our new office space in June. Once again, the address is 2402 Dunlavy St.

Were you Damaged in the Hail Storms?

Last week, a series of huge storms swept through the Midwest and Texas, leaving a trail of tornadoes and hail in their wake. In Fort Worth, downed utility poles and damaged roofs were reported by the National Weather Service. A tornado touched down near Farmersville. Denton experienced large hail twice, with some being the size of baseballs.

Hail can especially cause massive damage to roofs, leading to later leaks, insulation problems, or even outright holes in a weak roof. In a commercial building, these repairs can be very expensive. Commercial structures are held up to a much higher building standard than residential structures. Insuring these buildings is expensive, and it can be difficult to get insurance companies to pay up. This can leave a business with little choice but to shutter the business until repairs can be made out of pocket. That means lost revenue, lost wages for your workers, and potentially a lost business.

Our firm can help you. Doyle Raizner focuses on commercial property case law, and we have represented a number of Houston-area businesses over the past few years. We handle insurance disputes for any type of business, large or small, that need a fair settlement to get back in shape. Call our offices today for a free consultation if you’ve been fighting your insurance company after the recent storms.

Doyle Raizner Attorneys Attend Mega Market Event in Amarillo

The Amarillo Chamber of Commerce recently hosted their Mega Market event on March 27. Doyle Raizner LLC was one of the sponsors of this event, which was designed to help businesses connect with other businesses. Jeff Raizner and Amy Hargis attended the event to give a talk about how insurance companies are supposed to handle claims.

The businesses owners that were present were keenly interested in this information. Many of them had been affected by the May 2013 hail storms and had experience dealing with the insurance companies, for better or worse.
Doyle Raizner specializes in working with businesses, building owners, and developers to ensure that insurance companies fulfill their obligations. Under Texas law, an insurance company has approximately 60 days to respond to and pay legitimate claims. If they fail to do so, or try to claim that damage caused by a weather event was due to normal wear and tear, our firm can help evaluate the claims.

The insurance companies have to do a lot within that 60 day window, including:

Sending someone out immediately to inspect the damage
Fully evaluate it with a knowledgeable eye, and ask for any information they need immediately
Consult with your public adjuster or contractor, if you have one, and they should respect their opinion.
Send you a fair estimate that makes commercial sense
Cut you a check for the agreed-upon amount

When the insurer fails to fulfill their obligations, retaining legal counsel may be appropriate. Sometimes an unscrupulous company might send an inexperienced adjuster, change their cost database so they’ll pay less, or claim that the damage was preexisting.

Our firm works with independent experts and estimators to investigate the claim properly, and place an honest value on the amount of the repairs. If the insurance company fails to budge despite this independent analysis, we can and will take legal action on your behalf to fight them. In the past 18

Texas Commercial Property Insurance Suit Filed Against Church Mutual Insurance Company

Doyle Raizner LLP has filed a commercial property insurance lawsuit in Hidalgo County, Texas, on behalf of a church. The insurance company that the church contracted with has failed to properly pay the church after the 2012 hail storms in Hidalgo County.

The plaintiff contracted with Church Mutual Insurance Company and was paying premiums. The hailstorms that swept through the county caused extensive damage to the structure, including the HVAC system, roofing, and interior damage. The plaintiff filed a claim against the damages with Church Mutual.

According to the plaintiff, the company sent untrained adjusters to examine the damage, and was offered a payment amount well below the costs of damages. The plaintiff asked for a second opinion from a second claims adjuster and asked them to work with Church Mutual. However, the insurance company has failed to pay out any form of payment for months.

Church Mutual accepted premium payments from the First Presbyterian Church but failed to provide the coverage it sold to First Presbyterian Church when actually needed, in violation of their insurance contract.  When Church Mutual continued to remain in violation of its legal and contractual obligations, despite repeated attempts to work with them in good faith by the plaintiff, they retained legal counsel.

In failing to honor its contractual and legal obligations, Church Mutual may be liable for both the costs of repairing the church, but also interest, attorney’s fees, and other damages allowed under the law.

Doyle Raizner is working tirelessly on behalf of our client against this insurance provider that failed to live up to their end of the bargain. If you have been dealt with unjustly in a commercial property insurance case, contact one of our attorneys so we can examine your case.

Mike Doyle Interviewed Regarding March 24, 2014 Oil Spill in the Port of Houston

Local 2 (KPRC-TV) interviewed attorney Mike Doyle of Doyle Raizner LLP about the oil spill that occurred on Monday, March 24, 2014. in the Port of Houston.

According to the report, the accident happened when the Miss Susan, a tow vessel, collided with a barge that was carrying 924,000 gallons of fuel oil. The Miss Susan was moving from Texas City to the Bolivar peninsula when the collision occurred. The US Coast Guard believes that at least 160,000 gallons of the fuel oil spilled into the Houston Ship Channel. The six crewmembers aboard the Miss Susan have been accounted for, though two were sent to the hospital for hydrogen sulfide exposure.

Both ships were owned by Kirby Inland Marine. Investigators are currently trying to figure out exactly what happened to cause the tow vessel and the barge to collide. Data collection is key, according to Mr. Doyle. “Depending on how they’re equipped… there may be black box information that you could look at. There’s also radar information. The port has its own systems for monitoring vessels in the port, and they’ll try to grab that data, as well as interviewing people involved.”

This is not the first time the Miss Susan has been involved in an incident. She had been involved in two other collisions and 11 incidents in the past. It is unknown whether the same captain in these incidents was piloting the Miss Susan at the time of the wreck. Investigators are also looking into the possibility of weather-related circumstances, as there was fog in the channel at the time of the wreck.

Cleanup crews are already at work to sop up the oil, but it is clear that this is a major spill that will require extensive investigation and a long court battle. Doyle Raizner LLP has experience in maritime accident law, and has fought companies like Kirby Inland Marine and others in the

Wrestler’s Brain Studied after Suicide and Showed Similar NCAA Head Injury Symptoms

Jeff Avery

Chris Benoit killed his wife and son then committed suicide in 2007.  This tragic incident rocked both his family and the industry he had worked in for 22 years. His brain was donated to the same research institution studying football players’ brains for signs of CTE (Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy).

Benoit began wrestling at age 12 and was a professional wrestler by age 18. He spent six and a half years working for the WWE. His father discussed the use of props by the WWE and the fact they are not fake replications of real items.

The brain damage found by the researchers was extensive and across multiple areas of Benoit’s brain. The damage was evidence of years of repeated blows to the head indicating severe brain damage. Benoit reportedly suffered from insomnia, mood swings, depression and alcohol abuse; all are indicators of brain damage. Many NFL and NCAA players report the same symptoms.

CTE affects many athletes after repeated concussions and sub-concussions. Although symptoms vary in individuals, CTE commonly affects mood, cognition, behavior and motor disturbance. CTE manifests physically through a reduction in brain weight associated with atrophy of the front and temporal cortices. Under a microscope, the brain tissue shows abnormalities such as neuronal loss, tau deposition and white matter changes.

Litigation against the NCAA for their failure to warn student-athletes of the dangers of repeated head injuries has been consolidated in the Northern District of Illinois. The NCAA litigation differs from NFL litigation in that student-athletes are not paid as professional players are. They do not have negotiation power or workers compensation coverage. The NCAA presents itself as governing body acting in the best interests of student-athletes in order to protect them and advance their goals. Their lack of action and protocol for concussion management left many student-athletes with long-term health issues without medical monitoring.

If you or someone you love played sports in the NCAA and suffered

Emergency Rescue for Supply Ship Crewman

Patrick Dennis

A Coast Guard helicopter rescued a supply ship crewmember whose foot was severed after it was caught in a line. The injured crewman was flown to a Lake Charles hospital.

The accident occurred five miles off the coast of Louisiana. The Coast Guard sent a Houston-based helicopter to medevac the crewmember. At this time, no updates on his condition have been made available.

Maritime and Jones Act laws protect seaman injured in situations like this. The laws guarantee injured offshore workers will be provided medical treatment and lost wages. For maritime law, this is called maintenance and cure.

If you or someone you love has been injured while aboard a rig or vessel and have been denied maintenance and cure, please contact the attorneys at Doyle Raizner.

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