2011 | The Law Offices of Gregory D. Jordan

New Eminent Domain Laws in Texas Critical for Eagle Ford Shale Landowners to Know

Landowners and communities stand to greatly benefit from the oil and natural gas boom that is happening in the Eagle Ford shale area in south Texas. With attractive figures to lease land, negotiate mineral rights, and have land appreciate quickly, landowners are lining up to attract oil and gas companies. But with that comes oil and gas companies that want to exert their influence through their powers of eminent domain.

The laws recently changed on September 1 of this year so that oil and gas companies cannot be as cut-throat with landowners as they have been in the past couple of years. Public and private companies now have new requirements and deadlines under Texas law when they want a landowner’s easement for the coveted natural resources. Overall, companies must register with the Texas Comptroller by December 31, 2012 to keep their eminent domain powers. Otherwise, a company will lose their right to condemn a piece of land on September 1, 2013.

The new law also allows landowners to build a street or road above a pipeline easement on their land. Landowners must still adhere to size, construction material, and road direction regulations according to the state laws. The road cannot interfere with a pipeline operation or the ability to maintain it; but this also is a benefit to the landowner in his or her negotiations with a natural resources company.

Landowners should be happy to learn that the new law requires pipeline and power companies to give them a good faith offer before any lawsuit is filed to obtain an easement on their land. Companies must offer an amount that is at least equal to a current appraisal of the land desired. Landowners will have more time to review the offer and are allowed legal representation to help negotiate for the fairest offer. When landowners have an oil and gas offer or dispute, they need to promptly contact an experienced Texas oil and gas lawyer. To learn more, contact Austin oil and gas attorney Gregory D. Jordan at (512) 419-0684.

Wrongful Termination Sabine Pilot Claims Are a Hot Topic in Employment Law

A wrongful termination Sabine Pilot claim can be made when an employee is fired for refusing to commit an illegal act. Such claims have been in the spotlight because of a case recently argued by Austin employment attorney Gregory D. Jordan in front of the Texas Supreme Court, Safeshred, Inc. v. Louis Martinez, III.

As a result of the Martinez case, the Texas Supreme Court should soon decide whether an employer can be held liable for punitive damages if it fires an employee for refusing to engage in illegal conduct. In order to deter reprehensible conduct that promotes illegal activity, such damages should be allowed.

There are at least two basic concepts that every employee or employer in Texas should know about Sabine Pilot claims. First, if an employee is fired for refusing to do something illegal, that employee may have a cause of action against his employer. Second, even if the employee is a lower paid employee, he may be able to recover very significant damages if the Texas Supreme Court decides that punitive damages can be recovered in this type of case.

To learn more about employee and employer rights, contact Austin employment lawyer and Austin business attorney Gregory D. Jordan who handles Sabine Pilot matters for both employees and employers at (512) 419-0684.

Legal Counsel and Expert General Contractors Often Critical to Austin Businesses

Business disputes can take many forms, but some of the more stressful ones can involve disagreements with the City over permits, inspections, and zoning. Especially for businesses wanting to open by a certain timeframe or needing to expand, delays and disputes can equal substantial lost income and a burden on other parts of the business.

What can be even more frustrating is when city authorities approve a plan but then reverse their decision. Businesses can go to great lengths and expense to pursue construction and development only to have their plans halted. Austin code ordinances require city approvals in regards to zoning, subdivision restrictions, site plans, and building permits. Each category has various restrictions. Qualified general contractors, subcontractors, and legal counsel can often help expedite the approval of new construction and building improvements.

Often before a property can be changed or developed, a site plan is reviewed by the City to determine if the idea meets zoning and land development restrictions. City personnel review the plans for their effects on matters that might include transportation, water issues (such as runoff), subdivision standards, and more. There can sometimes be unpredictability in the process and the City may require a business to amend its plans or respond to concerns about certain elements. Violations of zoning rules may involve the need to get zoning variances or modify the parts of a site plan that are in violation. Sometimes special licenses and permits are required when structures fall into the city’s right of way.

Austin business attorneys know that it may be risky for a business to rely on solely an oral approval by the city in construction or development matters. If city personnel visit a site and give oral approval, a business is usually well advised to wait for the formal documentation to initiate the next step of construction. Approval of a site plan is often critical to building permits that then allows a business owner to bring in the relevant workers to do their trades. Usually a structure cannot be used for its intended purpose until the city inspects it and issues a certificate of occupancy.

Business owners should consider having construction experts and a qualified business attorney on their side to minimize the risk of delays, disruptions and potential fines that could occur on new construction or remodeling of existing structures. To learn more, contact Austin business litigation lawyer, Austin construction litigation lawyer and Austin business attorney Gregory D. Jordan at (512) 419-0684.

Steps An Employer Can Take to Discourage Discrimination Claims

Employers should consider having an anti-discrimination policy and conducting anti-discrimination training for appropriate personnel. A written policy makes the company’s position clear. Training makes sure that employees know how to apply such policy. Training on-site can help workers understand how their actions and subconscious decisions can negatively affect others in the workplace. Stereotypes, bias, and false assumptions can cause discrimination that hurts not only the individuals affected, but also workplace productivity.

Adequate training and continuing education can help prevent and correct discrimination from occurring. Workplaces should reflect fairness and equal opportunity; but if discrimination occurs, an employer can face discrimination charges and further claims of harassment, retaliation, and hostile work environment. Businesses may want to seek the guidance of an experienced discrimination attorney to explain the law and best practices, and incorporate these steps into company handbooks, training, and continuing education.

Keeping thorough employee records also helps to deter discrimination claims or at least make them more defensible. Poor job performance and disciplinary actions that are adequately recorded can go a long way toward defeating a discrimination claim. Employers may wish to take preventative steps to be sure any job changes will not be perceived as discriminatory. While that is not always possible, a few minutes of preemptive thought may save a nasty dispute and prevent tens of thousands of dollars in attorney’s fees. Managers, for example, may want to think through any modifications of a worker’s role, hours, and future opportunities with human resources, their supervisor and/or legal counsel before an actual change occurs. A good rule of thumb is, when a manager is in doubt that something could be misperceived as discrimination, that manager should talk with his or her boss, HR or legal counsel.

Employers should have a knowledgeable Austin employment lawyer on their side when faced with discrimination, retaliation, and harassment claims. To learn more, contact Austin employment attorney and Austin business lawyer Gregory D. Jordan at (512) 419-0684.

Subsurface Rights and Trespass Concerns a Frequent Issue in Texas Oil and Gas Industry

Subsurface trespassing is an all too common issue in oil and gas disputes. Everything might seem well on the surface, but part of owning property and exercising one’s rights is having the ability to exclude trespassers from invading a piece of land. This includes the surface and the subsurface. When a subsurface trespasser is draining your minerals, the result can prove extremely costly and even lead to environmental degradation. When there is a concern of a subsurface trespass, it is often critical to obtain legal representation to research property rights, titles and deeds, and agreements that govern tracts of land for use in oil and gas production.

Monetary awards may be given in regards to how a trespasser has made money from the subsurface minerals and, in some instances, how that area has declined in value due to the damage done. Remediation costs may also be taken into consideration depending on whether environmental damage has been caused.

In directional trespass cases, plaintiffs may be able to prove a bad-faith conversion of oil and gas. The value of the converted minerals or hydrocarbon may be assessed. If the defendant alleges that the conversion of oil was done in good faith – meaning that party did not know they were trespassing – some courts will deduct the cost of drilling and production and only award net value of the converted oil or gas. Sometimes the valid landowner will receive royalties rather than net profits.

Directional and horizontal trespassing is generally deemed neither necessary nor reasonable. When you have an oil and gas litigation concern, consider enlisting an experienced Texas oil and gas lawyer to help you. To learn more, contact Austin oil and gas attorney Gregory D. Jordan at (512) 419-0684.

Workers’ Comp and FMLA Issues 101 for Employers & Employees

If an employer carries workers’ compensation insurance, an employee has a right to seek workers’ compensation benefits for medical bills, lost earnings, and vocational rehabilitation as needed. When a worker files a claim in good faith, that worker is protected by state laws while he or she recovers. Employees should promptly make their supervisor, human resources, and other appropriate employment contacts aware of any work-related injury issue. Promptly filing a claim will ensure it is disclosed within the proper time constraints. Individuals should almost always consult a company manual to see if it outlines the procedure to report a workplace injury.

Employers cannot retaliate, fire, or harass a worker for filing a workers’ comp claim. Employees who assist a colleague are also protected. Wrongful termination, harassment, and other forms of workplace aggression against an employee who files a worker’s compensation claim are not tolerated by the courts.

Of equal importance is the Family and Medical Leave Act (“FMLA”). Businesses generally must allow workers to take up to 12 work weeks of unpaid leave when they or a family member is dealing with a serious medical condition. Workers are allowed this type of leave leading up to and after a pregnancy, and for child adoption, surgery and when care is needed by an immediate family member. Businesses of more than 50 workers are typically required to follow this guideline.

The FMLA generally entitles a worker to return to their previous or equivalent position with equal pay, benefits, terms, and status. Employers cannot retaliate against workers for going on or returning from FMLA leave. Discrimination, termination, and other forms of retaliation are strictly against FMLA laws. Some employers may not be as well versed on FMLA leave, so if there is any question or concern with an FMLA situation, employers are strongly advised to consult legal counsel on how to institute a fair FMLA policy to ensure compliance with appropriate laws.

Employees and employers should have a knowledgeable Austin employment lawyer on their side when faced with worker’s compensation or FMLA issues. To learn more, contact Austin employment attorney Gregory D. Jordan at (512) 419-0684.

Legal Representation Upholds a Landowner’s Oil & Gas Rights and Interests

Oil and gas leases are complex agreements that a landowner should obtain legal guidance before signing. Every week Texas courtrooms are filled with land and mineral rights owners being denied royalties or payments, and having their property not properly being drilled. Oil and gas leases define each party’s rights, obligations, and privileges. A recent news story out of Jefferson County, Texas highlights how even though there was a lease agreement in existence since 1933, seven people have allegedly been denied payments by BP and Cimarex Energy. BP has already requested a change of venue, and all the while, these individuals wait for their share of the royalties from the oil and gas produced on their 156 acres.

Without good legal representation, unfortunately many people can experience similar problems. The terms and conditions of an oil and gas lease are lengthy, and one nuance can negatively impact not only the landowner but future generations for many years to come. Oil and gas leases oftentimes change owners multiple times before the land is drilled. A qualified Texas oil and gas attorney can review a lease to make sure it adequately compensates a landowner and will be environmentally responsible with their land.

There are numerous areas that an experienced Austin oil and gas lawyer may be able to assist you with. Some of the questions that a skilled Austin, Texas oil and gas lawyer can help you consider are:
– What is the identity of the company acquiring the lease?
– What is their experience and operator history through the Texas Railroad Commission?
– What types of bonuses, royalty fractions, primary terms, delay rentals and shut-in royalties are appropriate in your area?
– Are these terms properly defined and are there proper lease termination provisions in place? Have you optimized your ability to obtain and collect royalties if there is production?
– Are the royalties being paid on the appropriate terms, as opposed to net proceeds from the well?
– Has the land been properly described so that it does not absorb contiguous tracts of land you may own?
– Has the lease been restricted to only oil and gas, or does it cover other mineral rights?
– Have drilling operations been properly defined?
– What rights are there with respect to pooling and depth severance?
– Are there surface rights that need protecting and have adequate protections been put in place?
– Are pipeline requirements sufficient for your intended use of the property?
– Is a surface damage agreement appropriate and does it adequately compensate for inflation?
– Will you be provided with information that the lessee should make available to you?

Having oil and gas on a piece of property can mean big financial gains for a landowner. But as this blog shows, it is critical to get a skilled Texas oil and gas lawyer to make sure a landowner’s rights and best interests are upheld. To learn more, contact Austin oil and gas attorney Gregory D. Jordan at (512) 419-0684.

Dr Pepper Lawsuit Highlights the Complexities of a Licensing Agreement

As Dr Pepper takes one of its bottlers to court, it brings up the importance of franchisees knowing the ins and outs of their licensing agreement. In Dr Pepper/Seven Up, Inc. (DPS) v. Dr Pepper Bottling Company of Dublin, Texas, the parent company says that Dublin Dr Pepper is violating its licensing agreement. DPS owns the brand and trademarks associated with the popular soda. It has relationships with 170 bottlers throughout North America, and allows them to sell the soda with approved bottles and cans with strictly authorized logos and trademarks.

In its complaint, DPS claims the actions of Dublin Dr Pepper, “…harm the brand and its trademarks by creating confusion as to the quality, source, and origin of the brand and its trademarks and creating the potential for erosion of the trademark and brand recognition, loyalty, and value.” Dublin Dr Pepper is selling retro bottles with six different designs that remind consumers of soda fountains, use patriotic and Texas designs, and promote Dublin, Texas. The Dublin bottler is the oldest DPS bottler in the U.S. and wants to emphasize the fact that it has been open since 1891 and still uses cane sugar to sweeten the soda.

DPS acknowledges that from time to time it has special campaigns with retro and unique logos, but asserts that Dublin Dr Pepper has done this for too long and additionally sells unapproved merchandise with the coveted logo. DPS also has issue with the fact that Dublin is selling its goods online and throughout the U.S., encroaching on other bottlers’ defined territories.

When it comes to operating an entity that licenses products from another, it is important to have legal representation so that questions related to intellectual property, license agreements and contracts, and actions with competitors are addressed early on before disputes arise.

Licensing agreements can be extraordinarily complex as there are many factors and competing concerns that must be addressed. Furthermore, situations change with time. For an entity like Dublin Dr Pepper that has been in business since 1891, this can mean vast changes over the life of the business.

If a dispute arises over a licensing agreement that your business is involved in, it is recommended to retain a skilled business litigation attorney who is experienced in this area. To learn more, contact Austin business litigation attorney and Austin business lawyer Gregory D. Jordan at (512) 419-0684.

Recent Texas Oil and Gas Lawsuit Alleges Misrepresentation and Negligence

A recent Texas oil and gas lawsuit involves claims that relate to a well that turned out to be a dry hole. Fort Apache Energy, Inc. filed a suit in July in the Harris County District Court against Ventum Energy, LP, Old World Management, Inc., Ventum Management Inc., William Bippus, and Mitchell Veh. Fort Apache says that in early 2009, it was approached by Ventum and its agents to invest in the Ramerio Creek Prospect, an oil and gas drilling venture in Live Oak County.

Veh and Bippus were reported to be responsible for the engineering, geological, and geophysical work on Ramerio. They allegedly made the Ramerio Prospect seem like a viable well, a lucrative project, and enticed Fort Apache to spend $200,000 on Ventum’s professional services. As more work ensued, Ventum explored Ramerio with a test well, the Sjolander #1 Well, that turned out to have no oil and only a zone “occupied by saltwater”.

Fort Apache contends it later learned that Ventum and its agents made false representations and prepared estimates based on a nearby well, the Tenneco Well. Fort Apache says that, “Had all of the scout tickets and historical information been evaluated in creating the Estimation, it would have been obvious that the targeted sands as seen in the Tenneco Well would not be productive in the Sjolander #1 Well.”

According to the brief, Ventum allegedly knew all along that the Ramerio was not a good investment. Fort Apache is charging Ventum and its agents with professional negligence, negligent misrepresentation, common law fraud, failure to disclose facts, vicarious liability, and Texas Securities Act violations. This suit will likely prove to be a complex case involving multiple disciplines in the oil and gas industry.

Austin, Texas oil and gas attorney Gregory D. Jordan not only understands the oil and gas industry from a legal perspective, but also knows the business from his time as a petroleum landman and petroleum engineer. Disputes over leases, royalties, property damage, and contracts happen frequently, and unfortunately some individuals and companies resort to unscrupulous tactics in the quest for profits. Jordan gives businesses, landowners, and individuals legal counsel in all such situations. He has more than 30 years of experience with the oil and gas industry. To learn more, please go to https://www.theaustintriallawyer.com or call (512) 419-0684.

Electronic Trading Card Patent Lawsuit Filed Against Big Gaming Companies

Electronic trading card games are more than a way to trade your favorite sports hero. From kids to adults, these cards and electronic games can cover any topic you have an interest in – the recent Royal Wedding, Star Wars, and even your favorite city. The latest statistics show that trading cards and their associated games raked in $2.1 billion worldwide. Social gaming in the U.S. alone is targeted to earn $2 billion by 2012.

As game companies, developers, and all the employees in the electronic gaming industry line up to get their share of the profits, there are inevitably some struggles over creativity, intellectual property, and fair competition. Protecting a company’s creative assets often becomes mission number one. No wonder we’re seeing lawsuits such as the one filed by Wildcat Intellectual Property Holdings, LLC against some of the biggest names in gaming.

In the suit filed in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Texas, Marshall Division, Wildcat alleges patent infringement of its 2001 U.S. Patent No. 6,200,216 for an “Electronic Trading Card” for use in consumer digital media. The alleged infringers include: 4Kids’s and Chaotic’s Chaotic online trading card game; Electronic Arts BattleForge videogame; Konami’s Marvel trading card videogame; Yu-Gi-Oh! Online Duel Accelerator videogame; Nintendo’s and Pokemon’s Pokemon Trading Card GameOnline; Panini’s NFL Adrenalyn XLonline game; SCEA’s The Eye of Judgment Legends videogame; SOE’s Legends of Norrath online trading card game; Topps’ Toppstown online trading card game; Wizards’ Magic Online game; and, Zynga’s Warstorm game.

This patent case may be extremely relevant to gaming companies involved with packaged software games, mobile games, online social games, gaming consoles and devices. The alleged Wildcat infringers are said to be using the patented card format and code segments to electronically trade scarce cards and games. This case “…could affect the future direction of the [trading card] hobby”, some say.

As more people gravitate to virtual and electronic cards, not to mention the potential for future augmented reality cards, those who own the programming and backbones behind such a digital card can be as important as the final product. With so much at stake, there is clearly a need for a skilled patent attorney to counsel clients involved in patent, copyright, or trademark disputes in this area.

Austin patent lawyer Gregory D. Jordan has years of experience representing businesses and individuals in intellectual property disputes. To learn more, please contact Austin patent attorney and Austin business litigation attorney Gregory D. Jordan at https://www.theaustintriallawyer.com or call (512) 419-0684.

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