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Trade Secret Theft Verdict May Result in 393 Million Dollar Judgment

A Texas jury has recently rendered a verdict in a case against a subsidiary of SouthWestern Energy Co. relating to a 2005 confidentiality agreement it had entered with two oil and gas consultants. The case of Tovah Energy LLC and Toby Berry-Helfand v. David Michael Grimes et al was heard in the 273rd District Court in Shelby, Texas.

The Shelby County jury sided with the plaintiffs, who claimed that SouthWestern Energy Production Co. (SEPCO) stole their trade secrets and profited from them. The jury awarded the plaintiffs $11.4 million in compensatory damages, finding that SEPCO had violated the Texas Theft Liability Act by misappropriating trade secrets and had committed fraud related to a confidentiality agreement in 2005 pertaining to two oil and gas prospects in East Texas.

In addition, the jury found that, for purposes of disgorgement, SEPCO’s profits were $381.5 million, which the court may or may not order SEPCO to pay to the plaintiffs as part of any judgment.

The history of this dispute goes way back to the late ’90s, when Berry-Helfand and Muncey developed an allegedly exclusive method for gathering and analyzing data from many wells in the region, estimated to be over 100. The two and another geologist and defendant, Leon Wells, devised a method that could allegedly determine the prime locations for booming horizontal gas well drilling.

The attorney who represented the plaintiffs in the case, said “In a nutshell, they came up with a very sound method to determine the actual [well] locations, called the sweet spots, of where you would want to drill horizontal gas wells in this formation.”

An amended petition filed by SEPCO alleged that the defendants violated the law and breached their fiduciary duty along with breaking confidential relationships with SEPCO relating to the two prospects in the Texas James Lime formation.

SouthWestern has indicated it will consider appealing any judgment from the 273rd District Court. In the past six months, SouthWestern has lost approximately 17 percent of their market value.

Gregory D. Jordan is an Austin business attorney, Austin employment lawyer, and Austin business litigation lawyer. To learn more, visit Theaustintriallawyer.com.

Texas Employment Lawyer Discusses Finding the Right Attorney for a Discrimination Claim

Texas employers or employees concerned about a potential discrimination claim should consult with an experienced and knowledgeable discrimination lawyer practicing in Texas.

The state of Texas is an “employment at will” state, which means an employee can resign at any time for any reason. An employer can also choose to terminate an employee at any time for any lawful reason. There are, however, numerous laws that prohibit discrimination on the basis of one’s age, race, religion, gender, national origin or disability. Some of these laws are quite complex. Some have tight “deadlines” and some require that a claim must first be made with an administrative agency instead of a court. It is in the best interest of both employers and employees to consult with a lawyer who is experienced and knowledgeable about Texas and federal discrimination laws if an employment termination has occurred or is being considered.

“Because of the complexity of employment laws, if an employer who is considering terminating an employee and is concerned about a potential discrimination claim, the employer would be well advised to have an employment attorney review any matters that may raise concern, as well as make educated recommendations to minimize potential litigation,” said Austin business attorney Gregory D. Jordan. “If a problem in the workplace is suspected, an employer may further wish to consult with a firm that knows how to conduct internal workplace investigations. Finding an employment attorney who knows and can explain the law is paramount.”

On the other hand, employees who believe that they have been discriminated against should also find a knowledgeable, experienced and successful discrimination attorney who can explain the laws, advise as to whether your employer has engaged in illegal conduct, inform the employee of his or her rights and options, intercede with the employer when appropriate, represent the employer before the Texas Workforce Commission or Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, and aggressively prosecute a lawsuit if the case cannot be reasonably settled.

If an employer who is considering terminating an employee and the employee who has been terminated believes discrimination may be alleged or may have occurred, they should locate qualified legal counsel in their area to learn their rights. A great deal may ride on the decision.

To learn more visit, http://www.theaustintriallawyer.com.

Nurses Win in Hospital Whistleblower Case

Austin whistleblower attorney and business lawyer, Gregory D. Jordan, comments on a recent case involving Winkler County Memorial Hospital staff.

Austin, Texas – A medical doctor who was the subject of a whistleblower complaint recently had an arrest warrant issued for him and was placed on probation by the Texas Medical Board.

In 2009, registered nurses Anne Mitchell and Vickilyn Galle filed an anonymous letter with the Texas Medical Board about their co-worker Dr. Rolando Arafiles, Jr., MD, in regards to what they perceived as patient care issues at Winkler County Memorial Hospital in Kermit, Texas. When the doctor learned about the letter, he had the county sheriff determine who had written it. The nurses were then charged with a third-degree felony alleging misuse of official information. The hospital also fired the nurses. The charge against one of the nurses was dismissed and the other nurse was acquitted at trial. The nurses brought a whistleblower suit against the doctor, the hospital and others which was settled last fall with the agreement that each nurse would be paid $375,000.

The tables have turned and now Dr. Arafiles, Winkler County Sheriff Robert Roberts, Jr., his friend that helped find the nurses who filed the letter, as well as the Winkler County hospital administrator could face criminal charges related to the prosecution and firing of the nurses. The Texas Medical Board has now placed Dr. Arafiles on probation for four years, fined him $5,000, and ordered him to enroll in a remedial medical education program.

Dr. Arafiles was no stranger to the Texas Medical Board as he previously had restrictions placed on his license. Last year, the board charged him with failure to maintain adequate records, overbilling, poor medical judgment, non-therapeutic prescribing, witness intimidation, and other alleged violations.

“This case shows that ultimately nurses who complain about inadequacies in patient care can be vindicated,” said Gregory D. Jordan, Austin whistleblower lawyer. “It is not always easy to blow the whistle on corruption or unsafe practices, but it is the right thing to do. Having an experienced whistleblower attorney in your corner can help protect you.”

An experienced whistleblower lawyer should not only have extensive knowledge in this area, but should also be willing to aggressively prosecute each case and counsel individuals on their rights, options, just compensation, and pertinent laws such as the Texas Whistleblower Act. “A whistleblower attorney must not be afraid to take on the biggest governmental entities or corporations. It’s part of our job,” notes Jordan.

To learn more visit, http://www.theaustintriallawyer.com.

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