The $5.5 million verdict Mark Lanier won for an injured worker last week is nowhere near the Houston trial lawyer’s largest verdict, but the trial holds special meaning for him because it was the first suit he ever tried in his hometown of Lubbock.
Lanier, of Lanier Law Firm of Houston, says it was “really a treat” to try the workplace injury suit in Lubbock. He ate at favorite restaurants, slept at night in his childhood bed in the house he grew up in, and his mother, who has moved to Houston but visits Lubbock on a regular basis, attended part of the trial.
“The courthouse has a lot of friends in it,” says Lanier.
On Nov. 14, a jury in 72nd District Court Judge Ruben Reyes’ court returned a verdict awarding the $5.5 million to former Lubbock resident Charles Robison and his wife. The award includes $5.1 million for Robison and $400,000 for his wife, Cherie. The jury in Charles Robison, et al. v. West Star Transportation Inc. found the defendant was negligent in connection with the accident that injured Robison in 2007.
In their fifth amended petition, Robison and his wife alleged Robison was injured when he was “required” to place a tarp over a piece of gin equipment loaded on a trailer, and he fell off the trailer from 15 to 20 feet high and struck his head on concrete.
Defense attorney Robert Duncan, partner in Crenshaw, Dupree & Milam in Lubbock, declined comment. Partners William J. Wade and Arlene Matthews did not immediately respond to telephone or email messages.
In its second amended answer, West Star denied the allegations and claimed it was entitled to a credit or offset for all payments made to Robison for medical bills, among many things, and claimed the plaintiffs’ damages were caused in whole or part by “the negligent acts, omissions, conditions, or tangible items over which Defendant had no control.” Alternatively, it claimed Robison was the “direct and sole proximate cause of the alleged injuries and damages.” The defendant sought a take-nothing judgment.
Lanier says he doesn’t think the fact he’s a hometown boy influenced the jury, but he believes it helped to “neutralize” the fact that the defendant is a Lubbock company, and its defense lawyers practice at a Lubbock firm.
Lanier, a graduate of Texas Tech University School of Law in Lubbock, says a group of his friends helped him with jury selection for the trial that began on Nov. 5. He says the judge gave both sides the jury questionnaires on Nov. 5, and that evening, Lanier invited a group of friends over to learn what they know about the prospective jurors.
“Out of a jury panel of 45 people, I’d say I had pretty good information on half of them,” Lanier says.
Lanier tried the suit with Judson “Jud” Waltman from his firm, and Lubbock attorney Christopher Carver, a solo practitioner.
-- Brenda Sapino Jeffreys