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Helping is Rewarding

Posted on Monday, October 3rd, 2011 at 11:04 am    

Salvador Juarez was diagnosed with mesothelioma in June of 2007.  After spreading God’s word as a pastor for several decades, he developed this deadly form of cancer related to his exposure to asbestos.  He was exposed to asbestos as a merchant marine in the late 1940s and early 1950s, then again while doing work at the homes of members of his congregation that needed help and in building and remodeling churches.  He fought hard against this cancer, but lost the battle in October, only 4 months after the diagnosis.  He was determined to have his family donate a portion of the funds received as settlements in his lawsuit to his church, directly across the street from his house.  They did, and on Sunday, August 23, 2009, I was invited to the dedication of the newly remodeled fellowship hall for the church.

I was happy just to be invited and brought my camera to take pictures of the event to show others in my office who also worked on Mr. Juarez’s case.  Imagine my surprise when I was asked to cut the ribbon for this dedication.  As happy as the church and family were with the work we did on the case, it doesn’t compare to the happiness in knowing what you do on a daily basis can help in so many ways.

Whether its a newly remodeled church, a college education for a grandchild, much needed home repairs, or a much-needed vacation to see family or friends just one last time, the settlements we are able to obtain can do a lot of good for people whose lives have been irreversibly changed, through no fault of their own.

Popcorn for Thought

Posted on Monday, October 3rd, 2011 at 11:02 am    

I read an article online a few days ago about a new advertising campaign to hit theaters.  Don’t be surprised to see ads for lawsuit abuse when you sit down to see the newest movie of your choosing at your local movie theater.  The point of this campaign, apparently, is to “educate” the popcorn-eating public about frivolous lawsuits.   What you likely won’t hear in these ads are the various state rules prohibiting the filing of frivoulous lawsuits, and the consequences for doing so to the filing party and the attorney.

In Texas, “Attorneys or parties who shall bring a fictitious suit as an experiment to get an opinion of the court, or who shall file any fictitious pleading in a cause for such a purpose, or shall make statements in pleading which they know to be groundless and false, for the purpose of securing a delay of the trial of the cause, shall be held guilty of a contempt.  If a pleading, motion or other paper is signed in violation of this rule, the court, upon motion or upon its own initiative, after notice and hearing, shall impose an appropriate sanction…upon the person who signed it, a represented party, or both.”  Tex. R. Civ. P. 13.  Ample case law exists on this topic.  And most attorneys will not file lawsuits that could violate this rule.

That said, there are a handful who will, and they tend to give the entire profession a bad name.  And there are others who file lawsuits, whether or not valid, that sound ridiculous to most people.  Take, for example, a recent lawsuit filed against the Oakland A’s for excluding men in a Mother’s Day promotion.  Really?  Did the lawyer want a floppy hat from Macy’s?  No, he was obviously looking to make a buck.  The reason these cases make headlines is because they are out-of-the-ordinary.  They enrage listeners, including most lawyers.

The reason lawyers are referred to as “counselors” is because that is part of the job – we counsel people, oftentimes, to advise them they do not have a claim that we can file.  Even the sponsor of the ads to be released in theaters has a section on its website dedicated to the “most ridiculous lawsuits.”  There will always be a small number of people who will file the most outrageous lawsuits.  And some of the “facts” section is based on public perception of lawsuits.  When the worst-of-the-worst lawsuits make headline news, of course public perception is going to be skewed.

This coverage, and the ads coming to your movie theater, will take the focus far from any wrongdoing of defendants in legitimate lawsuits.  It victimizes the victims all over again.  Yes, of course there are companies who are wrongly sued.  But more often, companies are sued because they have or haven’t done something to protect someone from getting hurt.  When someone is injured or killed because of the actions or inactions of another person or a company, they or their family deserve their day in court.  It is a right granted to every citizen of this country.  I would urge the popcorn-eating public not to support organizations that are working to minimize or take away our rights.

To Treat or Not to Treat

Posted on Monday, October 3rd, 2011 at 11:00 am    

I learned this week that my English Pointer, Claire, has a form of cancer.  It cannot be resected from her leg, and it has spread to her lymph node in that leg.  I was faced with 2 options: do nothing and see what happens or put her through chemo.  She is an 11-year-old dog, but as spunky as ever and not in any pain from the cancer.  Before learning that the cancer had spread, I thought chemo would be a bit extreme.  But the fact that it spread concerns me.  Several years ago, our black lab, Katie, died unexpectedly at the age of 3, with no warning.  She just collapsed and died.  There was nothing I could do about it.  Well, there is something I can at least try for Claire.  She was rescued off the street – literally (Westheimer) – when she was about a year old, and has been a sweet girl ever since.  I would like for her to live a long happy life, and to me, that means trying to stop the spread of her cancer.

As I was debating on what to do about my dog, I thought about the decisions our mesothelioma clients must face.  I can only imagine the hours of time these victims’ families spend talking to doctors, researching the internet, talking to other friends and family, and praying for an answer as to what they should do.  Mesothelioma (meso for short) is such a terrible disease.  Some patients respond well to chemo and radiation.  Others are too frail to treat, and are sent home for care with their families or hospice just to make sure they are comfortable.  Dr. Roy Smythe at Scott & White has performed extra-pleuralpneumonectomies on some of our clients, but it is rare for a meso victim to be in a position that such a drastic surgery would be recommended.  It involves removing various organs and tissues in an effort to get rid of the cancer.  It is not a cure, and is painful, but it is also a way to lengthen life for some victims of this terrible disease.

For my dog, chemo will only be a shot, a pill and an IV drip, if I understand correctly.  Side effects are less severe in dogs than in humans.  My decision wasn’t too difficult.  A meso victim has a much more difficult decision to make.  Everyone is different.  As an attorney who represents meso victims every day, I can understand each and every treatment decision made by clients.  There is no right or wrong.  I hope the decision I had to make for Claire will be the only cancer treatment decision I ever have to make.  I wish she could speak and let me know what she wants to do.  Then again, I remember an old Far Side cartoon where all the people were wearing headsets called canine decoders, and all the dogs were just saying “Hey!” “Hey hey hey!”

Williams Kherkher Salutes Pearl Harbor Survivor Frank Curre

Posted on Sunday, October 2nd, 2011 at 9:22 pm    

Frank Curre"What happened that day is tattooed on my soul.  I don't know why the good Lord saved me that day and not them boys to either side of me.  I figure maybe he wanted me to be a messenger, so we might never forget, and so that something like this might never happen again. So I am going to tell our story as long as I have breath in my body.  I owe it to the ones who never made it home." 

Boson's Mate Curre was barely 18 years old on December 7, 1941, and according to Frank, "Never thought he'd live to see 18 and a half."

Now, 87 years old, Frank Curre is losing the breath he needs to tell his story.  In November, this otherwise healthy and very active Pearl Harbor survivor was diagnosed with Mesothelioma, a rare form of cancer caused by asbestos.  Mesothelioma disproportionately strikes our Navy veterans due to exposure they suffered to asbestos used as insulation throughout naval ships.   Frank survived the attacks on December 7, 1941, but now faces a more determined enemy, one that has never signed an unconditional surrender, and one not susceptible to the will of a nation hell bent on retribution, if not its very survival.  Mesothelioma has claimed the lives of thousands of our Greatest Generation, and many more from the generations that followed.  It is an insidious and invariably fatal cancer whose origin is found as much in the search for profit as in the magic mineral itself.  Frank Curre offered his life to his country many years ago, now, so many decades later, those who profited from the sale of asbestos will take it.

Frank CurreFrank has made it his life's mission to "always remember, and to never forget, those brave and magnificent men with whom [he] had the God-given honor to serve."  Frank explains, "I tell the story to the children at schools and I tell it in a way they won't read about in history books, not in a sanitized way, but with all the graphic and vivid detail that is seared into my memory.  I want them to know how bad it really was, so that maybe they will never have to experience anything like it ever again." 

We are all better for the Frank Curre's of the world.  Frank demurs, "I ain't no hero, the heroes are them boys that never made it home. I just want everybody to know them, if even for a moment, through my own experiences." 

Frank wants you to understand he is a fighter, a believer in causes greater than himself, and a follower of what he knows is a compassionate and loving God.  So he wants you to know he intends to tell those who will listen what so many went through on that fateful day in 1941, and in the months and years that followed.  And he will do so for as many days as he is allowed to do so, he feels he owes it to his friends who could not be here to tell the story themselves.

Government Doctor Gets Caught in Lies Testifying for Defendants in Asbestos Litigation

Posted on Sunday, October 2nd, 2011 at 9:00 pm    

A former doctor at the National Institutes of Heath has recently been found guilty of a felony by violation of 18 USC §1001, Making a False Statement on his Financial Disclosure Forms. Dr. Jack W. Snyder faces a sentence of one year of probation, a $200,000 fine, and 160 hours of community service after pleading guilty to the charges. While working as a government employee, Dr. Snyder was not allowed to hold any other outside jobs without the permission of his boss and ethics officals within the National Institutes of Heath. Dr. Snyder ignored this rule and began testifying on behalf of companies involved in asbestos litigation. A full summary of his actions can be seen in this document.

According to supporting documents, Dr. Snyder was paid around $600,000 from these clients, who were commonly defendants in asbestos litigation. Dr. Snyder posed as an expert witness in at least six cases and claimed that the asbestos his clients used in their products was incapable of causing mesothelioma. His employer, the National Institute of Health, has quite a different take on the danger of asbestos and its ability to cause mesothelioma. In fact, asbestos is currently the only known cause of mesothelioma.

The blatant lies that Dr. Snyder made under oath outraged me. I promptly sent letters to Dr. Snyder's boss, the Director of the National Institutes of Health, Dr. Elias Zerhouni, and the Office of Inspector General.  We called for an immediate investigation into Dr. Snyder's side work as a consultant.

My letter eventually caught the eye of the U.S. Attorney and an official investigation was launched to uncover the legality behind of Dr. Snyder's actions. According to the investigation, Dr. Snyder was running a private consulting practice out of his government office and home, and was earning a higher income testifying for asbestos product manufacturers than he ever had as a government doctor. Dr. Snyder was recently convicted of one count violating 18 USC §1001, Making a False Statement on his Financial Disclosure Forms.

Other Supporting Documents

For more information, contact the mesothelioma lawyers of Williams Kherkher by calling (888) 380-6376.

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