Litigation Lessons from a Top-Flight Expert Witness

Author’s Note: On the one-year anniversary of our trial victory for T. Boone Pickens and Mesa Petroleum Partners, I am sharing an interview with one of our key expert witnesses, Ricardo (‘Rick”) Garza. Rick was an amazing person and loved to share his knowledge of petroleum engineering with lawyers and juries. I am very sad to report that Rick passed away on October 27, 2017. He will be terribly missed.

 

As any good trial lawyer knows, the success of your case is greatly affected by your team, including co-counsel, local counsel, Texas Bar Todayparalegals, jury consultants and expert witnesses, among others. I have had the pleasure of working with Ricardo Garza, one of the best engineering expert witnesses you’ll find anywhere, most recently during a 3½ -week trial in the West Texas town of Pecos. Our team represented Mesa Petroleum Partners LP in the hotly contested case involving oil and gas investments.

That trial ended with a unanimous $146 million jury verdict on behalf of our client, and Rick’s expertise contributed to that impressive win.

A petroleum engineer for more than 40 years, Rick has been an expert in hundreds of lawsuits and has participated in more than 50 trials. I  sat down with Rick to get his insights about trying a case when the subject matter is, to put it lightly, complex. The answer, it turns out, is equal parts expertise and arts & crafts. Read more

Litigation Issues in Area of Mutual Interest (AMI) Agreements

AMI AgreementsAn Area of Mutual Interest (AMI) Agreement is a contract between people or companies who want to jointly explore for oil and gas in a specific area during a given time. It is a common tool for sharing risks of development, along with the associated ownership and profits.

Unlike the standardized Joint Operating Agreement, though, AMI contracts tend to be handcrafted by the parties promoting the deal, and often have unintended flaws and consequences. If you’re an investor or operator who wants to put together an AMI Agreement, what do you watch out for? And what about buying an interest or properties that might be encumbered by an AMI Agreement? Will your due diligence reveal the significant issues associated with AMI obligations? Read more

Castañeda Firm Victory Ranked Among Top Texas Verdicts of 2016 

Dallas trial attorney Chrysta Castañeda and The Castañeda Firm have been recognized on Texas Lawyer’s list of the Top Texas Verdicts & Settlements of 2016 for the firm’s multimillion-dollar oil and gas verdict for legendary oilman T. Boone Pickens and his company, Mesa Petroleum Partners.

The state district court verdict in Mesa Petroleum Partners LP vs. Baytech LLP was the fifth-largest in Texas in 2016, according to Texas Lawyer, which ran the list in its September issue. Read more

The Legal Ramifications of Poorly Conceived Public Statements

Every day, newspapers and social media deliver fresh examples of poorly conceived and badly executed public statements that impact a legal position. As a result, lawyers and communications professionals who pay attention are being treated to a master class on how uncontrolled and undisciplined public statements can tank a case.

Communication Legal RamificationsThe communications missteps we have witnessed in recent months remind us that what is said in the public record – including on social media – can and will be used against the client in a court of law. The Trump campaign’s Twitter statements were used as evidence against the now-President’s travel ban in litigation. The White House’s statement explaining FBI Director Comey’s firing was undercut by the President’s contradictory statements about his motives, possibly inflaming the case for obstruction of justice.

But Washington is not the only source of examples.

 

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Storytelling is No Substitute for Mastery of the Evidence

A lot of trial lawyers extol the virtues of storytelling when they talk about developing winning strategies. And while I love a good story as much as the next lawyer, jurors are being sold short if your trial strategy relies too heavily on a well-told story alone.

Want to know what really sells? Take a look at the display windows at Neiman Marcus, as an example. If you’ve ever strolled by the high-end department store, you may have noticed these elaborate and beautiful glass-encased displays. The next time you walk by, take a closer look and you’ll see it’s more than just pretty. Those windows are actually well-thought-out tableaus, meticulously designed by artists with an appreciation for subtlety, an attention to detail and a facility for subliminal storytelling. They know their audience and the subject matter they have to present.  Read more

Lessons from the John Wiley Price Trial

I recently observed the John Wiley Price public corruption trial as a commentator for Fox 4 News.  Price, a longtime Dallas County Commissioner, was charged with public corruption, mail fraud and tax fraud. After an eight-week trial and eight days of deliberation, he was acquitted on the public corruption and mail fraud charges and the jury deadlocked on the tax fraud charges.

The government had a lot riding on this case.  The FBI had been investigating Price and some of his business associates since the early 2000s. So, it was educational, as a litigator, to watch such a high-stakes case play out and ultimately unravel under the glare of the public spotlight. Read more

Castañeda Firm Victory for Oilman T. Boone Pickens Ranked Among Top U.S. Verdicts

Pecos, Texas, jury awards over $145 million against Midland and Dallas oil companies 

DALLAS –  Dallas trial attorney Chrysta Castañeda and The Castañeda Firm are being recognized on The National Law Journal’s Top 100 Verdicts of 2016 list after winning a multimillion-dollar oil and gas verdict for legendary oilman T. Boone Pickens and his company, Mesa Petroleum Partners.

The state district court verdict against two Midland oil and gas companies and a Dallas-based operator ranked as the 12th highest in the country, according to the National Law Journal. Read more

Fine Tuning Voir Dire

I recently sat through voir dire as a panel member in one of the criminal district courts in Dallas County.  It’s always good to watch other practitioners go about their art; I always learn a lot (or am reminded of what I already know).  To my fellow trial lawyers who read this blog, here are a few reminders: Read more

Should Trial Counsel Speak to the Media?

I’m often asked whether litigation counsel should serve as a media spokespeople when they are handling legal matters of public interest.  As in most things, the answer is “It depends.”  Here are a few key considerations: Read more

Oil Prices are Falling: Get Ready for Litigation

Oil prices are falling and deals are getting scrapped.  As was the case with the last several business cycles, litigation will undoubtedly ensue.  The old-timers refer to this as “drilling at the courthouse.”  Here are five tips for preparing for possible litigation: Read more