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Appeals

Petition for a Writ of Certiorari

Conestoga Trust Services, LLC v. Sun Life Assurance Company of Canada

This petition arises from a declaratory judgment action by an insurer seeking to have a life insurance policy declared void ab initio after the death of the insured. The respondent, Sun Life, issued a $2 million life insurance policy to Erwin Collins that was later acquired by the petitioner, Conestoga. After Collins’s death, Sun Life filed a lawsuit in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Tennessee stating that it should not be obligated to pay the policy benefit on the grounds that it was a stranger-originated life insurance policy. Summary judgment was granted in favor of Sun Life and affirmed by the U.S. Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals. Conestoga petitioned the Supreme Court of the United States to review whether a court considering a motion for summary judgment may, under the guise of applying the “reasonable jury” standard, weigh and discredit direct evidence from a disinterested witness that is favorable to the nonmovant and, if believed, would prove the material fact at issue.

Brief of Appellant / Cross-Appellee

Conestoga Trust Serices, LLC v. Sun Life Assurance Company of Canada

This case concerns a Sun Life life insurance policy purchased by Erwin Collins in 2008. Erwin and his wife sold their interest in the policy to Life Asset. The policy was subsequently sold several times and was eventually purchased by Conestoga. When Erwin died, Sun Life refused to pay the proceeds of the policy to Conestoga claiming that the policy was a STOLI policy, and Sun Life instead filed suit alleging that the policy should be declared void. The parties filed cross motions for summary judgment. The district court denied Conestoga’s motion and granted Sun Life’s motion, ruling that the insurance agent who helped Erwin obtain and then try to sell the policy “improperly used Erwin Collins as a conduit to acquire a policy that Life Asset could not otherwise acquire.” Conestoga filed this appeal of both the grant of Sun Life’s motion and the denial of the company’s own motion.

Appellant’s Brief

Nataliya Shahin v. Memorial Hermann Health System

This case involves a Houston, Texas patient (“plaintiff”) who was treated at Hermann Memorial City Hospital (“hospital”) in September 2015. The plaintiff did not have health insurance at the time she presented to the hospital. Before she received emergency care, the plaintiff was required to agree to the hospital’s standard admissions agreement, which agreement said nothing about the charges for the care to be provided. After she was treated and released from the hospital, the plaintiff received a bill based on the hospital’s “Chargemaster” rates, which the plaintiff alleges was several times what the hospital charges if you have insurance. The hospital bill demanded payment in full from the plaintiff and stated that the hospital would initiate collection proceedings against her if no response was received. The plaintiff filed a lawsuit against the hospital seeking a declaratory judgment that the hospital’s form agreement for emergency room care permits only billing for, and collection of, amounts constituting the reasonable value of the treatment the hospital provides, not the “Chargemaster” rates that were listed on the bill she received from the hospital.

Brief of Appellants

Lancer Insurance Co. v. Rhonda Shelton, et al.

This case involved a lawsuit filed on behalf of several families whose children were injured or killed in a vehicular accident while on a bus operated by Rockmore’s Discovery Coaches and Tours. After the victims’ families were awarded a $66 million judgment against Rockmore, the bus company’s insurer, Lancer Insurance Company, filed a declaratory judgment action seeking a declaration from the court that their policy did not provide coverage for the accident in question. After the trial court granted the insurer’s motion for summary judgment, the families of the injured and deceased children appealed. The below appellate brief was filed by Heygood, Orr & Pearson’s Eric Pearson on behalf of one of the families whose child was killed in the bus accident.

Brief of Appellant

Infuturia Global, Ltd. v. Sequus Pharmaceuticals, Inc.

This case involves a lawsuit filed by Infuturia Global, Ltd. in California state court against Sequus, the Hebrew University and Yechezkel Barenholz. The lawsuit charged Sequus with interfering with a license agreement between Infuturia and the Yissum Research and Development Company. Sequus filed a motion to dismiss, claiming that Yissum was a “necessary” and “indispensable” party. Sequus also requested that the case be dismissed for its failure to identify specific products at issue for failure to state a claim. The Court granted the motion to dismiss on June 1, 2009. Infuturia filed an appeal in the case, charging that that the District Court erred in refusing to remand this case to state court, in granting Sequus’ motion to dismiss order for failure to join an indispensable party, and in granting Sequus’ Motion to Dismiss for failure to state a claim.

Brief of Respondent

Lisby v. PACCAR, Inc.

This case was a product liability case against Paccar, Inc. who makes Kenworth trucks. Mr. Lisby was driving a Kenworth water truck on a construction site when it rolled over due to uneven terrain. When the truck rolled onto its roof, the roof failed, crushing in on Mr. Lisby and causing his death. The incident occurred in Texas, but Paccar is headquartered in Washington. The case was filed in Washington by Heygood, Orr & Pearson on behalf of the family of Mr. Lisby. Paccar filed a motion to dismiss under the doctrine of Forum Non Conveniens arguing that Texas was a more appropriate forum since all the witnesses to the accident were in Texas. The plaintiff responded arguing that Washington was the most appropriate forum since the central issue in the case was the design of the truck, and it was designed in Washington. The Court ruled that it would grant Paccar’s motion, but only if Paccar stipulated that the Washington Statute of Repose would apply when the case proceeds in Texas. Paccar applied for a discretionary interlocutory appeal, which was granted. This was the brief submitted by Heygood, Orr & Pearson on the merits of the appeal.

Appellee’s Brief

McDermott v. Life Partners

This case involves a class action suit brought against an investment company known as Life Partners that sells life settlements. A “life settlement” is a life insurance policy that is purchased from the original insured for an amount less than the face amount of the policy (i.e., less than the death benefit). When the insured subsequently dies (called a maturity), the policy proceeds are paid to the purchaser of the policy as opposed to the family of the insured. The idea behind the investment is that the purchaser of the policy retains as profit the difference between the amount paid for the policy and the amount of the policy proceeds upon the death of the insured. Investors that acquire life settlements through Life Partners are required to pay a certain sum to acquire an interest in a given life settlement. However, investors are also required to pay to Life Partners an amount to be deposited into escrow to pay premiums on the policy through the life expectancy of the insured. However, if the insured passes away early, then the investor is to receive a refund of the escrowed funds. In the case of Ms. McDermott and other investors, Life Partners refused to refund these escrowed funds when an insured died early. Thus, a class action was filed by Heygood, Orr & Pearson on behalf of all investors who wrongfully had their escrowed funds for premiums withheld when the insured died earlier than expected.

Respondent’s Answer to Motion for Discretionary Review

Lisby v. PACCAR, Inc.

This case was a product liability case against Paccar, Inc. who makes Kenworth trucks. Mr. Lisby was driving a Kenworth water truck on a construction site when it rolled over due to uneven terrain. When the truck rolled onto its roof, the roof failed, crushing in on Mr. Lisby and causing his death. The incident occurred in Texas, but Paccar is headquartered in Washington. The case was filed in Washington by Heygood, Orr & Pearson on behalf of the family of Mr. Lisby. Paccar filed a motion to dismiss under the doctrine of Forum Non Conveniens arguing that Texas was a more appropriate forum since all the witnesses to the accident were in Texas. The plaintiff responded arguing that Washington was the most appropriate forum since the central issue in the case was the design of the truck, and it was designed in Washington. The Court ruled that it would grant Paccar’s motion, but only if Paccar stipulated that the Washington Statute of Repose would apply when the case proceeds in Texas. Paccar applied for a discretionary interlocutory appeal. This was the brief submitted by Heygood, Orr & Pearson in response to Paccar’s request for appellate review.

Respondent’s Brief on the Merits

American Electric Power v. City of Brownsville

Description: This case is a breach of contract case between a large electric power company and the City of Brownsville, Texas. Heygood, Orr & Pearson represents the City of Brownsville, which filed suit against AEP, seeking more than $40 million in damages for breach of a contract to sell an ownership interest in an electric power plant. AEP argued that the City had released all of its claims in a Termination Agreement and Releases it was forced to sign in order to close the transaction. The City argued that the agreement only released claims for breach of the parties’ 1985 Participation Agreement and not claims for breach of the entirely separate Purchase and Sale Agreement that the City alleged AEP had breached by improperly delaying the sale of the power plant. The trial judge agreed with AEP and granted summary judgment on all of the City’s claims. On appeal, the Dallas Court of Appeals reversed, finding that the agreement did not release the claims at issue, thereby restoring the City’s claims. AEP then appealed to the Texas Supreme Court and Heygood, Orr & Pearson filed this Response. The parties are currently awaiting a ruling.

Respondent’s Answer to Petitioner’s Petition for Leave to Appeal

DiCosolo v. Janssen Pharmaceutica Inc.

This case was a wrongful death claim arising out of the death of Janice DiCosolo due to her use of a defective fentanyl pain patch designed, manufactured and marketed by Defendants. Heygood, Orr & Pearson represented the husband and three children of Janice DiCosolo. After Heygood, Orr & Pearson obtained an $18.5 judgment for the DiCosolo family, the Defendants appealed. They claimed that the verdict was excessive, that Plaintiff’s counsel made an improper closing argument, that the trial court erred in excluding evidence of other drugs the decedent may have taken and that the Plaintiff failed to prove the existence of a non-specific defect. The Court of Appeals rejected all of the Defendants’ argument and affirmed the judgment. The Defendants then appealed to the Illinois Supreme Court by filing a Petition for Leave to Appeal. This Brief was filed by Heygood, Orr & Pearson in response to that Petition. The Illinois Supreme Court subsequently denied the Petition for Leave to Appeal and the judgment in favor of the DiCosolo family became final.