March 20, 2020

Employment Law Update – COVID-19 and the Workplace:  An Employer’s Quick Guide

With COVID-19 reaching pandemic status and the total number of cases in the United States surging, it has become critical that employers have a response strategy.  Any response strategy to COVID-19 should consider the current and developing labor and employment laws implicated by the COVID-19 crisis along with the concerns that could arise outside the employment context, including potential tort and contract liability. “A Workplace Free from Recognized Hazards:” The Employer’s Duty to Minimize Risks The critical focus, first and foremost, is employee safety.  Employers should reexamine what their duties are to employees in light of the COVID-19 crisis – and because new developments with the virus seem to trickle in daily – employers face somewhat of a moving target when it comes to employment law compliance. First, nearly all employers in the United States have a statutory duty to comply with the Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA).  Section 5(a)(1), also known as the “general duty clause,” requires employers to provide their employees with a workplace “free from recognized hazards … likely to cause death or serious physical harm.”  This standard requires employers to take reasonable steps to ensure a safe and healthy work environment.  Such reasonable steps could include providing information regarding the COVID-19 crisis to employees, developing a flexible and responsive safety and health policy, communicating with employees on the policy, and effectively enforcing it.  Employers may wish to review OSHA’s Guidance on Preparing Workplaces for COVID-19, found here. In addition to OSHA, employers must remain mindful […]

March 19, 2020

Gault and Ritchie Complete Successful Jury Trial

Win Gault and Spencer Ritchie completed a successful jury trial for an international oil field supply company in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Mississippi.  The plaintiff claimed almost $10 million for property damage to its business and clean-up costs resulting from a spill of hydrochloric acid.  After a successful partial motion to dismiss, a partial motion for summary judgment, and an eight day jury trial, the jury awarded plaintiff 5% of the original damage claim.

March 18, 2020

Coronavirus: FWK Operational Update

March 18, 2020 Clients and Friends, As we monitor, assess, and respond to rapidly-evolving developments related to the spread of COVID-19, the safety and health of FormanWatkins employees, their families, and our communities is our most important objective. This is an unprecedented time filled with unique challenges. To meet these challenges, the Firm has taken a number of actions to protect the safety of our team while ensuring continued service to our clients. We continue to follow the recommendations and directives of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, as well as State and Local government, for reducing the spread of COVID-19. With very limited exceptions, our entire team is now working remotely. All such employees have the technology to seamlessly work remotely through the coming weeks. While our offices are closed to client meetings, we continue to receive mail at each of our locations. Thankfully, as of today, no FormanWatkins employees have been diagnosed with COVID-19. The Firm is confident it will provide uninterrupted service to its clients during this time. This confidence is rooted in our core strength–the over 150 attorneys and staff whose can-do attitudes shine brightest when faced with challenges. We remain vigilant and prepared to respond as conditions evolve. Stay safe and healthy. Forman Watkins & Krutz LLP

March 4, 2020

Maron, Metcalf, and Giallourakis Win Summary Judgment

FormanWatkins attorneys Ruth Maron, Joshua Metcalf, and Nick Giallourakis worked with attorneys from Bullivant Houser Bailey to obtain summary judgment in a King County, Washington living mesothelioma case on February 28, 2020.  FormanWatkins and Bullivant Houser convinced Judge John Ruhl that plaintiffs’ claims should be dismissed because neither the plaintiffs nor plaintiffs’ experts had offered sufficient evidence of exposure to our client’s product.  Judge Ruhl determined that plaintiffs had not actually testified to exposure to our client’s product and further rejected an affidavit from plaintiffs’ expert, Dr. Arthur Frank, as too speculative and conclusory to create a genuine issue of material fact.  Our client was one of only two remaining defendants, and the case is set for trial on April 6, 2020.

March 2, 2020

FormanWatkins Runs the Mississippi Blues Marathon

Congratulations to all finishers of the 2020 Mississippi Blues Marathon, especially the FormanWatkins relay team (Simine Reed, Mitch McGuffey, Patrick Fields, and Ruth Maron) and FormanWatkins runners of the half marathon, 10k, and 5k. Pictured Left to Right: (Back) Ruth Maron, Simine Reed, Patrick Fields, Jackie Conway, Mitch McGuffey, Chad Welch (husband to Jean Folsom); (Front) Beth Wilkins, Jean Folsom (with baby Fox), and Lucy Chappell. Not pictured: Danny Mulholland and Sam Kapoor.

February 28, 2020

Forest Products Team Wins Summary Judgment

In another win for our forest products team, on February 21, 2020, FormanWatkins won summary judgment on all counts on behalf of a dimensional lumber manufacturer in a case involving a plaintiff’s alleged childhood exposure to softwood dust in his father’s hobby woodshop. FormanWatkins argued that because it was not reasonable to foresee that exposure to wood dust could cause sinonasal cancer, the manufacturer had no duty to warn the plaintiff of such risk. FormanWatkins also argued that regardless of the manufacturer’s duty, any alleged failure to warn was not the proximate cause of the plaintiff’s injury. The Eastern District of North Carolina agreed and dismissed the case. In her in-depth opinion, Judge Flanagan reasoned that based on state of the art, wood dust was not a known cause of sinonasal cancer during the exposure period, and the manufacturer therefore had no duty to warn. Furthermore, there was no foreseeable risk of cancer from wood dust to a retail consumer of mostly softwood products, such as the plaintiff’s father. In addition, the Court held that the plaintiff failed to establish proximate causation, as it was speculative to assume that the plaintiff’s father would have taken any different action or avoided wood dust exposure if an additional warning had been provided. Congratulations to FormanWatkins team members Joshua Metcalf, Alison McMinn, Tanya Ellis, Ruth Maron, Courtney Hunt, and Sam Kapoor, who all contributed to the win.

February 27, 2020

Gault and Ritchie Win in U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit

Win Gault and Spencer Ritchie recently won in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, where the Court affirmed the District Court’s ruling that awarded our client contractual damages, attorney fees, pre-judgment interest, and post-judgment interest totaling more than $900,000. In January 2019, Win and Spencer obtained a bench trial verdict in favor of our client, an oil and gas company, in a contractual indemnity action pending in the Eastern District of Louisiana. Win and Spencer presented oral argument before the Fifth Circuit in December 2019. The Court issued its opinion in February and designated it for publication.

February 5, 2020

FormanWatkins Attorneys Attend DRI 2020 Women in the Law Seminar

FormanWatkins attorneys Chelsea Favret, Elizabeth Penn, and McCann LeFeve participated in the three-day DRI 2020 Women in the Law Seminar in Scottsdale, Arizona, during January. The program gathered outstanding women from law firms and corporate legal departments around the United States. Attendees received instruction in communication and negotiation skills through interactive workshops and attended small-group networking events. Other highlights included panel discussions on how to build business by “getting uncomfortable” and how to bridge the generational gap in communication. The FormanWatkins Women’s Initiative proudly supports events such as the DRI WITL Seminar, which foster the advancement of women in law.

January 24, 2020

Upchurch, McGuffey, and Kapoor Selected to MBJ 2019 Leadership in Law Class

FormanWatkins is proud to announce that Caroline Upchurch, Mitch McGuffey, and Sam Kapoor have been selected by the Mississippi Business Journal as part of the 2019 Leadership in Law class. Each year the Mississippi Business Journal recognizes a select group of 40 attorneys who exhibit both the legal success and the qualities of character that exemplify this honor. In December, a reception and awards celebration was held to recognize the 2019 honorees. Here is a little bit of information about the FormanWatkins honorees: Two things inspire Caroline Upchurch every day: the client and the puzzle. Each case is uniquely important to Caroline, because it’s a chance to form a personal relationship with a client and also to use her naturally analytical brain to solve problems. Caroline always works three steps ahead, avoiding surprises and creating well thought out solutions for her client. With an eye for efficiency, Caroline is able to quickly assess situations to decide the best approach and enjoys crafting innovative strategies for her clients. She enjoys the daily puzzles and challenges that walk through her door. Caroline is admitted to practice in Mississippi and Alabama, and she is a member of The Mississippi Bar and the Capital Area Bar Association. Caroline has been recognized by The Best Lawyers in America® in Product Liability Litigation – Defendants, and has been selected to the Mid-South Rising Stars list since 2014. Caroline graduated magna cum laude from The University of Mississippi School of Law, where she was on the Mississippi Law […]