Archive for October, 2017

State Rep. Muñoz Served with a $3 Million Fine in Legal Malpractice Case

Sunday, October 22nd, 2017

After concluding that State Representative Sergio Muñoz Jr. ignored the fact of disclosing an affiliation to state District Judge Jesse Contreras during a case Muñoz took in Contreras’ courtroom a federal judge charged Muñoz to pay $3 million in restitutions.

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According to court record, U.S. District Judge Micaela Alvarez “ordered, adjudged and decreed”, Law Funder LLC in an almost three-year-old lawsuit to recover $2.98 million from Muñoz and the Law Offices of Sergio Muñoz Jr.

Muñoz, D-Palmview, formerly represented the litigation funding company, Law Funder. In May 2011, under the presiding judge Contreras, Law Funder continued legal services of Muñoz for representation in a divorce case.

Numerous motions were filed to disqualify or recuse Contreras because of his corporate connection with Muñoz, court documents said.

Muñoz contacted the executive editor of The Monitor and called this a private matter no further comment has been made. Multiple calls requesting comment were ignored by Muñoz and his counsel.

“At no point did defendants advise Law Funder that they had a pre-existing business relationship or a professional corporation, Contreras & Muñoz P.C., with Judge Contreras,” according to court documents.

State senior District Judge Dick Alcala, of San Antonio, on July 2012, was preceding at the hearing in which the court decided to disqualify Contreras from hearing the divorce case “because of the corporate association with defendant Sergio Muñoz Jr., that was in existence when they were lawyers together and continued through the time Muñoz appeared for Law Funder,” further court documents stated.

Alcala also disqualified Contreras “because Judge Contreras arguably had an interest in the subject matter of the litigation and the court resolved that doubt in favor of disqualification,” stated in court documents.

Law Funder “sustained a significant amount of damages,” according to court documents, which ultimately made Law Funder seek the representation of McAllen attorney Francisco Tinoco. He then therefore filed suit in federal court against Muñoz and his law firm for legal malpractice.

Court documents read Muñoz was served with a preliminary request to provide documents and failed to provide any. Law Funder then filed a motion to force Muñoz to produce, in which Muñoz “promised to act in good faith and turn over appropriate documentation.”

Muñoz was served but never responded to Law Funder’s second request to produce documents in September 2016.

“Defendants and defendants’ counsel have also failed to appear or have arrived late at three hearings held specifically for the purpose of resolving discovery disputes,” according to court documents. “Plaintiff’s counsel also informs the court that defendants failed to ‘produce a single document’ in response to the plaintiff’s subpoena duces tecum . In sum, this case was filed in federal court in December of 2014, and after almost two years, discovery has not been completed.”

Alvarez granted Law Funder’s motion.

“The court grants plaintiff’s motion,” according to court documents, Alvarez ruled. “Defendants’ answer is stricken.”

In Order to Keep Studios at Bay VidAngel Tries a Bankruptcy Strategy

Wednesday, October 18th, 2017

VidAngel, filed for chapter 11 bankruptcy protection, to protect its streaming service that filters out offensive film and television content. Disney, 20th Century Fox and Warner Bros studios’ filed a lawsuit against VidAngel two months before they filed for bankruptcy, accusing the Utah-based company of copyright infringement and also for operating a pirate streaming service by permitting customers to enjoy more family-friendly versions of blockbuster films for a fraction of the cost.

The company’s decision according to VidAngel CEO Neal Harmon, to file chapter 11 was made as a way to “protect [the] company – as well as its creditors, investors, and customers—from the plaintiff’s efforts to deny families their legal right to watch unfiltered content on modern devices.” Furthermore, the company has declared that it needs time to nurture a recently launched streaming platform, which allows the user to filter out content on streaming services such as Netflix, Amazon Prime, and HBO. Usually, companies regularly implement the “bankruptcy strategy” to continue working on the R&D while pushing back plaintiffs.

When chapter 11 reorganization is filed by a corporation or individual that filing prompts an “automatic stay,” so any legal action or lawsuits against the debtor is effectively paused. VidAngel has three of the biggest studios in Hollywood breathing down its neck, and so it’s a good idea they decided to take a break.

“We have millions in the bank, and we’re already making millions on the new system,” Harmon claimed in his official statement. “Business will continue as usual for our customers and our employees and all our team.”

But the defensive bluster of the CEO could be just that – self-protective. The court upheld its preliminary injunction against VidAngel, during the restructuring VidAngel might be wanting to take advantage of the of this stalled period to continue business and capitalize on its profits from its new streaming service since it will continue to operate. VidAngel has already seen its share of legal defeats, and the Hollywood studios will do whatever they can to ensure they get their share of allotted compensations. VidAngel could find itself paying a heavy fine if this ever went to trial.

The full statement made by Harmon:

“We have filed a petition for relief under Chapter 11. It’s an important step to protect our company—as well as its creditors, investors, and customers—from the plaintiffs’ efforts to deny families their legal right to watch filtered content on modern devices. It also gives us breathing room to reorganize our business around the new streaming platform, promote and perfect the new technology, and seek a legal determination that the new system is fully legal and not subject to the preliminary injunction entered in California.”

“It’s important for our fans to know that VidAngel will continue to offer our filtering service, and to add new content and new customers during the reorganization process. We are also actively hiring additional engineers to further accelerate the continued development of VidAngel. Our original series, Dry Bar Comedy, is exploding and has had over 16 million minutes viewed in the last 7 days. Our customers can filter movies on Amazon, Netflix, and HBO on Amazon, and we still have millions in the bank to fight this all the way.”

Time alone will tell if VidAngel’s “bankruptcy strategy” was a good delay approach.

Montana and Wisconsin Men Facing 6th DUI Charge

Thursday, October 5th, 2017

Cascade County District Court is expecting a Montana man, with five prior DUI convictions, to show up on Thursday afternoon for his scheduled initial appearance for his sixth drinking and driving offense.

On September 19th outside Great falls, 59-year-old David Ronald Evans of St. Marie was driving his car while intoxicated crashing his vehicle and the boat he was pulling. Then while in custody of Montana highway Patrol he then allegedly passed out in the squad car’s back seat.

According to court records a citizen called into dispatch because they were concerned for a driver who was driving a Suburban unsteadily swerving on Vaughn Frontage Road.

The complaint filed states the Suburban hit a guardrail, which sent the boat and trailer down a steep embankment while the Suburban continued to head northbound for a few feet before finally coming to a complete stop.

Montana Highway Patrol Trooper arrived 2 minutes after the crash had occurred. Trooper Arnold had been dispatched to answer the complaint of dangerous driving.

Evans, had been drinking Mike’s Hard Lemonade, but after he was in the back seat of the Police vehicle he stated he was not drunk.

While in the car he told the officer that his son had fled the scene of the crash since and that his son was supposedly the one driving and causing the crash.

“When placed in the back of a patrol car, Evans passed out in short order, and we were unable to wake him,” an affidavit by a Montana Highway Patrol trooper states. “Medical was dispatched to the scene, and they were able to rouse him.”

According to court records, Evans had a history of two felony convictions on top of his five prior DUI convictions and he also did not have a license to drive.

Evans was charged with unlawful possession of an open alcoholic beverage which was found in the vehicle, he also did not have insurance or a valid driving license. He was also charged with obstruction of a public servant.

It is also recorded in the court records that Benefis Health System would not release Evans from the hospital due to a risk of Evans committing suicide.

In another multiple DUI case, out of the sate of Wisconsin, James Michael Radack was scheduled to make an initial appearance before District Judge Elizabeth Best on a governor’s warrant.

The warrant issued Sept 18th from Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker to Montana Gov. Steve Bullock included an extradition requisition for the return of Radack to Wisconsin.

In Wisconsin, Radack is charged with a 6th Offense of operating a vehicle while over the legal alcohol limit.

According to court record, Eau Claire County, Wisconsin was notified that Radack had been apprehended in Great Falls, which initiated the warrant for his return.

“I have this day demanded of the governor of Montana the apprehension and return of James M. Radack a/k/a James Michael Radack (“the fugitive”), who is charged in Wisconsin with the crime of Operating with Prohibited Alcohol Concentration-6th Offense and Operate Motor Vehicle While Revoked, and who has fled Wisconsin and is now in Montana,” according to the warrant.

North Texas ER Chain Revived from Bankruptcy Taken over by Hedge Fund

Monday, October 2nd, 2017

Adeptus Health, a Lewisville-based detached emergency room chain is emerging from bankruptcy and has recently been acquired by New York hedge fund Deerfield Management.

In a statement issued Monday, the company announced the news.

After a string of loss earnings, Adeptus, one of the nation’s largest operator of single emergency facilities, filed for bankruptcy in Spring. In March, the company took out a $7.5 million short term loan and when Deerfield acquired them in April, they also acquired about $212 million of its debt.

The financial restructuring plan has been accepted last week according to Adeptus by a Texas judge. The company is now free of all past debt and is now owned by affiliates of Deerfield.

The CEO, Frank Williams, also served as the chief financial officer, and the executive chairman, Gregory Scott, was the former the chairman and interim CEO.

The New York Stock Exchange deleted the ADPT symbol. The 99 stand-alone emergency rooms across seven U.S. industries is no longer publicly traded after being reorganized.

Deerfield states part of their strategy is to increase value and go “beyond capital to seek an evolved health care service paradigm that better aligns with patient and industry needs,” as well as additional networking with hospital organizations to increase accessibility.

Adeptus, was founded in 2002, and after going public in 2014 is quickly grew to an expansive enterprise. Researchers criticized the sites of the for-profit model, consumers were concerned about the high costs, and the company suffered from low patient volumes and billing and collection issues.

The health policy journal Health Affairs, for instance, released a story looking at the production of these stand-alone facilities, they are frequently run as businesses by physician-entrepreneurs and actually outnumber the amount of hospitals in the state of Texas.

Similar studies found that these stand-alone facilities where usually around major metro areas such as Houston, Dallas, and Austin, which consequently already have plenty of accessible emergency departments through hospitals.

Although the business model is “financially favorable” for the entrepreneurs, the study’s writers are concerned it does not benefit areas where access to care remains inadequate and where wait times are high to see physicians.