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Case Summaries

Commercial Law

[05/04] G & W Warren's, Inc. v. Dabney
In a case concerning the scope of a guaranty given to secure a buyer's obligations under a master agreement and various subsidiary agreements involving the purchase and sale of a motorcycle dealership and the circumstances under which the liability of the guarantor, by virtue of subsequent actions by the seller, may be exonerated, the trial court's judgment is reversed where the court erred in concluding that defendant was liable under the Guaranty for Assignee's obligations under the covenant not to compete and two consulting agreements.

[04/14] Goethel v. US Dep't of Commerce
In a commercial action, brought by a commercial fisherman challenging various provisions of the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act, the district court's grant of summary judgment to the government is affirmed where plaintiff's suit was not filed within the thirty-day statute of limitations.

[04/06] McGill v. Citibank
In a dispute between a consumer and a credit card company involving the validity of a provision in a predispute arbitration agreement that waives the right to seek the statutory remedy of public injunctive relief in any forum, the Court of Appeals' decision is reversed where: 1) such a provision is contrary to California public policy and is thus unenforceable under California law; and 2) the Federal Arbitration Act (FAA), 9 U.S.C. section 1 et seq. does not preempt this rule of California law or require enforcement of the waiver provision.

[04/05] Maloney v. T3Media, Inc.
In an brought by former student-athlete plaintiffs, alleging that defendant exploited their likenesses commercially by selling non-exclusive licenses permitting consumers to download photographs from the National Collegiate Athletic Association's Photo Library for non-commercial use, the district court's order granting defendant's special motion to strike and dismissing plaintiffs' claims without leave to amend is affirmed where: 1) the federal Copyright Act preempts the plaintiffs' publicity-right claims and the derivative UCL claim; and 2) in light of that holding, plaintiffs' cannot demonstrate a reasonable probability of prevailing on their challenged claims.

[03/29] Expressions Hair Design v. Schneiderman
In a challenge to New York General Business Law section 518, which provides that no seller in any sales transaction may impose a surcharge on a holder who elects to use a credit card in lieu of payment by cash, filed by merchants who wish to impose surcharges for credit card use, arguing that the law violates the First Amendment by regulating how they communicate their prices and that it is unconstitutionally vague, the Second Circuit Court of Appeals' conclusion that section 518 did not violate the First Amendment because price regulation alone regulates conduct not speech, is vacated and remanded where: 1) the Court's review is limited to whether section 518 is unconstitutional as applied to the particular pricing scheme that plaintiffs seek to employ (a single-sticker regime, in which merchants post a cash price and an additional credit card surcharge); 2) section 518 prohibits the pricing regime plaintiffs wish to employ; 3) section 518 regulates speech; and 4) section 518 is not vague as applied to plaintiffs.

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Insurance Law

[05/03] Friedman v. AARP, Inc.
In an action brought by a plaintiff Medicare beneficiary who purchased private supplemental health insurance through a group Medigap policy, alleging that AARP Insurance Plan transacted insurance without a license in violation of the California Insurance Code, the district court's Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6) dismissal of the complaint is reversed where plaintiff stated a plausible claim at the motion to dismiss stage that AARP 'solicits' insurance without a license, and, as a consequence, committed an 'unlawful' act in violation of the California's Unfair Competition Law (UCL),Cal. Bus. & Prof. Code section 17200.

[05/02] People v. International Fidelity Ins. Co.
In a bail bond forfeiture case, the trial court's denial of surety-defendant's motion to vacate the forfeiture under Penal Code section 1305 and grant of summary judgment against defendant are affirmed over defendant's contention that, without its knowledge or consent, the trial court added conditions to defendant's bail that materially increased its risk under the bond.

[05/02] In re: The Trustees of Conneaut Lake PArk, Inc.
In a bankruptcy case involving 40 Pa. Stat. section 638, which prohibits insurance companies from paying fire insurance proceeds to a 'named insured' unless the local municipality certifies that no delinquent taxes are owed on the property where the insured structure was located, the District Court's judgment reversing the Bankruptcy Court grant of summary judgment to the Taxing Authorities and holding that 'named insured' as used in Section 638 includes only those who own the structure at issue and are responsible for the delinquent taxes, is reversed where this interpretation contravenes the text of the statute.

[05/01] Gerasimos Petratos v. Genentech Inc.
In a qui tam action under the False Claims Act involving a multi-billion dollar cancer drug, Avastin, which was developed by defendant, flied by the former head of healthcare data analytics for defendant, alleging that defendant suppressed data that caused doctors to certify incorrectly that Avastin was 'reasonable and necessary' for certain at-risk Medicare patients, the district court's dismissal of the suit for failure to state a claim is affirmed on alternate grounds where plaintiff failed to satisfy the False Claims Act's materiality requirement.

[04/27] Cuevas v. Contra Costa County
In an action brought by plaintiff's guardian ad litem for medical malpractice against defendant the County of Contra Costa arising out of injuries he sustained at birth, the trial court's entry of a jury verdict awarding plaintiff the present cash value of his future medical and rehabilitation care expense is reversed where the trial court erred in excluding evidence that health insurance benefits under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA) (Pub.L. No. 111-148 (Mar. 23, 2010) 124 Stat. 119) would be available to mitigate plaintiff's future medical costs.

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Oil & Gas

[05/11] Central Valley Gas Storage v. Southam
In an appeal arising out of a condemnation action in which defendant sought to introduce evidence of the value of their land for an underground natural gas storage project based on reservoir volume, the trial court's in limine ruling, excluding defendant's valuation approach based on evidence all independently operated gas storage projects in California compensate landowners based on surface acres contributed to the project, is affirmed where: 1) the court did not err in factually distinguishing the holding in Pacific Gas & Electric Co. v. Zuckerman (1987), 189 Cal.App.3d 1113 that was decided at a time when there was not yet a developed market in California for natural gas storage leases; 2) defendant has not established his entitlement to cross examine an expert before that expert may give a declaration in support of a pretrial motion; and 3) defendant forfeited the remainder of his arguments for failure to develop the argument, to cite any legal authority, or to provide any citation to the appellate record.

[05/01] Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela v. Helmerich & Payne Int'l Drilling Co.
In a suit involving the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act (FSIA), 28 U.S.C. section 1604, brought by an American parent company of a Venezuelan subsidiary that supplied oil rigs to oil development entities, alleging that Venezuela had unlawfully expropriated the subsidiary's rigs by nationalizing them, the D.C. Circuit's decision that the claims fell within the expropriation exception is vacated where: 1) the nonfrivolous-argument standard is not consistent with the FSIA; 2) a case falls within the scope of the expropriation exception only if the property in which the party claims to hold rights was indeed 'property taken in violation of international law'; and 3) a court should decide the foreign sovereign's immunity defense '[a]t the threshold' of the action, Verlinden B. V. v. Central Bank of Nigeria, 461 U. S. 480, 493, resolving any factual disputes as near to the outset of the case as is reasonably possible.

[04/21] California Pub. Utilities Comm'n v. Fed. Energy Reg. Comm'n
In a petition for review brought by various entities challenging the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC)'s calculation of certain refunds arising out of the California energy crisis in 2000 and 2001, the petition is: 1) granted in part where FERC acted arbitrarily or capriciously in allocating the refund only to net buyers and not to all market participants; and 2) denied in part as to the question of whether refunds should be netted hourly or a cross the entire refund period where FERC did not act arbitrarily or capriciously in its construction of tariffs.

[03/15] Berkshire Environmental Action v. Tennessee Gas Pipeline Co.
In an unusual petition for review arising out of a state administrative proceeding, involving the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission's (FERC) grant of a certificate of public convenience and necessity required under the Natural Gas Act (NGA), the petition is dismissed where, because the agency itself has not yet finally acted on the matter that is before the court, there is no jurisdiction under 15 U.S.C. section 717r(d)(1).

[03/09] Virginia Electric and Power Co. v. Bransen Energy, Inc.
In a suit arising out of a purchase contract for a coal product which would satisfy rigid specifications and environmental regulations, but the product defendant delivered fell far short of these requirements, the district court's the district court grant of partial summary judgment and judgment to plaintiff and award of damages are affirmed as to both liability and damages where there is no reversible error.

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