Recently, Ron Fox made a presentation to members of the marine industry at the Propellor Club meeting for the Port of Paducah. The topic was proactive things that employers can do to prevent Jones Act claims and suits. Ron provided useful information in a variety of areas, including improved practices for the hiring process, managing vessel personnel, and handling issues associated with vessel employees when they first suffer an injury.
Ron Fox has been asked to be among the speakers at the Greater New Orleans Barge Fleeting Association River and Marine Industry Seminar to take place on April 23, 24, and 25, 2007, in New Orleans, Louisiana. Ron has been asked to speak on the use of various company forms, including pre-employment applications, pre-employment physical examination medical histories, accident reports, crew sign on/sign off forms, and the U.S. Coast Guard Form 2692. Ron will address these various forms and how they can be used to screen applicants, to evaluate accidents in litigation, and otherwise assist in reducing expenses associated with injury claims.
This will be the fourth time Ron Fox speaks at this widely attended national marine seminar.
Jon Garside and Katie Fowler of Fox Smith won a nearly unanimous defense verdict in St. Louis County Circuit Court for a client accused of consumer fraud. The plaintiff was receiving outpatient infusion services from Fox Smith’s client (a health care provider), and claimed he told the provider he was covered under Medicare and asked that Medicare be billed for his treatments. For several years prior, the plaintiff had been having the health care provider bill two private health insurance policies for his treatments and obtaining refunds for the second payment. He claimed he would have been able to continue receiving refunds from one of his private policies if Fox Smith’s client had billed Medicare.
But the health care provider denied plaintiff had ever mentioned his Medicare coverage and maintained its billing practices were fair. Fox Smith’s attorneys carefully reviewed the client’s telephone customer service records and found several entries that supported the client’s version of events. In addition, over plaintiff’s objection, Fox Smith subpoenaed plaintiff’s private insurance records and found various misrepresentations plaintiff had made to his insurer, which Jon Garside then used to effectively cross-examine plaintiff at trial. Katie Fowler, serving as second-chair trial counsel, redrafted plaintiff’s proposed jury instructions using the judge’s own computer in his chambers, and the court submitted the instructions as revised by Katie.
The jury deliberated for only 40 minutes before returning a nearly unanimous verdict in favor of Fox Smith’s client, with only one juror abstaining. Plaintiff filed no post-trial motions and has decided not to appeal the verdict.
Fox Smith placed #1 in a recent survey of St. Louis law firms’ minority hiring and retention. While the firms that were surveyed averaged just 3% minority attorneys, Fox Smith had 20%. The Mound City Bar Association Report stated Fox Smith, “does an excellent job recruiting and hiring quality African American attorneys.”
John Smith was asked by the St. Louis Daily Record about how Fox Smith came to be the leader in this area: “We don’t see diversity as a mysterious problem that can’t be solved. We just go out and hire and attempt to retain people who are reflective of our community.” The Mound City Bar Association Report can be found at www.moundcitybar.com or by clicking here (37MB PDF file). Click here to see the St. Louis Daily Record article.
Fox Smith legal nurse consultant Donna Clements, RN, lectured to a group of paralegals at seminars in Springfield and St. Louis, Missouri, in April 2007. Donna discussed recent issues involving the impact of HIPAA and other privacy acts as well as strategies for obtaining, organizing, and evaluating medical records. Fox Smith attorney Tom Smith spoke at the St. Louis seminar about strategies and techniques for organizing and managing medical records for use at trial. Both Donna and Tom are frequent speakers to attorneys, paralegals, and medical professionals on issues dealing with risk management, pretrial discovery, and trial strategies.
Steve Menz lost his left arm when his 1976 Ford tractor rolled over and pinned him to the ground, trapping him there for several hours. The accident occurred in 2002, and Mr. Menz and his wife sued Ford in state court the next year, asserting claims of negligence and strict product liability.
Fox Smith removed the case to federal court, arguing that the local tractor dealership sued by plaintiffs had been fraudulently joined to defeat federal jurisdiction. An initial investigation conducted by John Smith revealed that Menz had made significant changes to the accident scene and the tractor, and also that the tractor had been modified since its original sale. Jon Garside took several depositions of plaintiffs’ expert mechanical engineer, laying the groundwork for a motion to exclude the expert under federal evidence rules and a motion for summary judgment. Meanwhile, Katie Fowler prepared a motion for sanctions, arguing that the case should be dismissed as a result of plaintiffs’ destruction of evidence.
The district court granted Fox Smith’s motion for sanctions, dismissing the case with prejudice. Plaintiffs appealed that ruling, as well as the district court’s initial determination that it had jurisdiction. Although the appellate court found an insufficient record to support the district court’s sanctions ruling and remanded the case for additional proceedings, it upheld the jurisdictional ruling, keeping the case in federal court.
The Fox Smith team pushed forward with additional discovery, deposing a new expert disclosed by the plaintiffs and preparing detailed dispositive motions. These included a motion for summary judgment based on plaintiffs’ changes to the scene and modification of the tractor, as well as a motion to exclude plaintiffs’ main liability expert under Daubert. In November 2006, less than a month before trial, the district court granted the motion for summary judgment and partially granted the motion to exclude, ruling that Menz would not be able to prove his product liability case because of the changes to the tractor, his inability to prove its condition at the time of sale, and the unreliable nature of his expert’s opinions. Plaintiffs are appealing the second judgment against them.
Fox Smith’s founding partners, Ron Fox and John Smith, have been selected as Missouri Super Lawyers by Law & Politics. Only 5% of lawyers are listed as Super Lawyers after a selection process that involves the mailing of more than 23,000 ballots and evaluation based on the background, experience, peer recognition, and professional achievement of each candidate. Candidates are then peer reviewed by a blue ribbon panel from their practice areas before final selections are made. Mr. Fox was selected for inclusion in the Transportation/Maritime category, and Mr. Smith is included for his work in Civil Litigation Defense.