LAW BRIEFS: Firms add to teams, dip lawsuit

Brackett & Ellis has added Sarah S. Flournoy to the firm’s School Law Practice Group. Before joining Brackett & Ellis, Flournoy worked at Irving ISD as a staff attorney. Within her first year she was promoted to Chief Legal Counsel and continued in that position for over two years. At Irving ISD, she handled all legal matters for the District, provided legal advice and counsel to District officials and the Board of Trustees, represented the District in judicial and/or administrative proceedings, and worked with outside counsel.

Harris, Finley & Bogle P.C. welcomes back attorney J. Nathaniel James. James graduated from Washington and Lee University School of Law in 2011, after which he worked for HFB for several years. Nathaniel rejoined the firm’s appellate and litigation practices after returning to practice in Fort Worth.

Elevator lawsuit

A Fort Worth nurse who was seriously injured by a JPS Hospital elevator has filed a negligence lawsuit against Thyssenkrupp Elevator Co., charging that the company failed to perform routine maintenance that would have prevented the incident in January.

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According to the lawsuit filed by the Law Offices of Frank L. Branson, 56-year-old Carren Stratford was seriously injured when the brakes failed on the hospital elevator. Her body was trapped between the doors as the elevator rose, crushing her. Stratford was unable to breathe and suffered an anoxic brain injury before she could be rescued. More than six months after the tragedy, she remains a patient in a brain injury rehabilitation facility.

“This is a tragedy in every sense because these horrible injuries were 100% preventable,” said attorney Frank Branson. “Had Thyssenkrupp simply performed the routine maintenance work as promised, Ms. Stratford would be caring for her family and serving the community at JPS Hospital like she was before this terrible event.”

According to a review by the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, an examination of hospital and other records reveals chronic problems with elevators at a Fort Worth hospital where a nurse was seriously hurt after stepping onto an elevator that continued to move. The review found at least 80 work orders were issued after complaints of people being trapped in elevators at John Peter Smith Hospital from January 2018 to January of this year.

Hospital executives say the elevator maintenance contractor, Thyssenkrupp Elevators, has been unresponsive to their concerns. But Thyssenkrupp contends the hospital has amplified problems by having hospital workers conduct repairs rather than the contractor.

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An investigation by the Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation blamed the incident on brake failure caused by a lack of routine maintenance and equipment checks. Additionally, investigators reported no visible signs that the machinery had been lubricated as required.

The lawsuit seeks monetary damages of at least $1 million for damages, including medical expenses, physical impairment, physical pain and suffering and mental anguish. The case is In Re Carren Stratford, cause No. 017-308007-19 in the 17th District Court in Tarrant County.

‘I’ll have the Lawsuit Dip, please’

Rarely do people say they’d like to be involved in a lawsuit. Not so at the Horseshoe Hill Cowboy Café in Fort Worth.

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The Bob Armstrong Dip, the tasty, cheesy, yet meaty conconction that has pleased hungry Texans for decades is in court. The dip, named after Texas politician Robert Landis Armstrong, has been served at Matt’s El Rancho in Austin and at Horseshoe Hill Cowboy Café for many years.

Matt’s El Rancho filed a federal lawsuit earlier this year for trademark infringement and related claims. Although representatives for Horseshoe Hill Cowboy Café deny that the claims asserted have merit, Horseshoe Hill Cowboy Café has voluntarily elected to change the name of its dip to the “Famous Lawsuit Dip” to avoid further distraction from the legacy of Cowboy Hills chef Grady Spears’ mentor, Matt Martinez Jr., a giant in the culinary world.

“The claims asserted in the lawsuit lack merit,” said Lance H. “Luke” Beshara, partner of Patel I Gaines PLLC, which has offices in Fort Worth and the lead defense attorney on the case. “Aside from the fact that the plaintiff corporation admits that Grady Spears’ late friend Matt Martinez Jr., created and coined the dish, and Matt gave Grady Spears permission to use the name, there is no viable trademark claim because no consumer could possibly be confused that a queso dip at a restaurant in the Fort Worth Stockyards has anything to do with another dip at a restaurant 200 miles away in Austin,” said Beshara.

A longtime friendship between Matt Martinez Jr., of Matt’s El Rancho and Grady Spears of Horseshoe Hill Cowboy Café included them traveling together and collaborating on TV food segments.

Grady considered Matt his mentor, and Matt treated Grady like a son, according to a news release from Patel I Gaines. In a moment between the mentor and adopted son, Grady told Matt that he would always keep his spirit alive by having his Bob Armstrong Dip on Grady’s restaurant menu, and Matt gave Grady his blessing to serve the dish under the moniker “Bob Armstrong.” Grady has had the Bob Armstrong Dip tribute dish on his menu for more than 15 years across all restaurants that Grady has been a part of, according to the news release.

“Matt Martinez Jr. was the ‘King of Tex Mex’ and served as a mentor to me throughout my career. I continue to honor Matt’s memory in my restaurant, as I promised Matt I would, as he courageously battled cancer prior to his passing. With his blessing, I used the name of ‘Bob Armstrong’ on a queso-based dip inspired by his inimitable culinary style,” said Spears, founder of Horseshoe Hill Cowboy Café. “As a tribute and inspiration, I display many pictures of Matt throughout my restaurant. I’m shocked and saddened that a faceless corporation would attack me for honoring the legacy of my dear late friend, Matt, though I’m glad this hullabaloo has brought his name back into the limelight where it deserves to be. I just hope they don’t demand that I take down Matt’s pictures next,” Spears said.

The lawsuit and dispute remain unresolved. – FWBP Staff