Month: January 2020

Hartline Barger LLP Begins 2020 with Announcement of New Partners, Houston Merger, and New Mexico Expansion

DALLAS, TX – Hartline Barger LLP, a Southwest-based, nationally recognized law firm specializing in civil litigation and trials, starts 2020 with the promotion of attorneys Roy McKay, Victor Cardenas, and Jennifer Akre to partners; the promotion of Stephanie Roark and Reid Simpson to equity partners; the addition of four Houston attorneys, including partner David Merkley; and the introduction of partner Don DeCandia and two new offices in New Mexico.

Jennifer Akre has handled a wide array of insurance defense litigation including personal injury, premises liability, trucking accidents, products, and contract litigation. Prior to working at another well-respected Houston litigation firm, Jennifer managed a successful solo practice in Missouri. Jennifer has long made it a point to be active in her community, whether it be volunteering her time to local causes or proudly sponsoring charitable organizations.

Victor Cardenas joined Hartline Barger LLP after more than 8 years with a nationally recognized environmental and litigation law firm, where he was a founding member and shareholder. Victor has been instrumental in helping clients recover historic settlements in watershed environmental cases and successfully litigated high-stakes CERCLA contribution actions, railroad cases, contamination cases, and has complex commercial disputes.

Roy McKay joined the firm in 2011. His practice focuses on product liability, personal injury defense; and deceptive trade practices. Roy launched his career as a trial lawyer with a complete defense verdict in a commercial motor vehicle accident case he tried only four months after passing the Bar exam.

“The election of new partners Roy McKay from our Dallas office, and Jennifer Akre and Victor Cardenas from our Houston office, was an easy decision based on their talent and dedication,” says managing partner, Larry Grayson. “They each bring a unique level of commitment and experience to their practice. We are fortunate to have them.”

Stephanie Roark has defended multiple Fortune 500 and large publicly traded companies in both state and federal court. She has extensive trial experience, successfully defending cases including catastrophic injury and death claims against transportation companies and large hospitality companies. Stephanie has been named a ‘Texas Rising Star,’ by Thomson Reuters every year since 2014. Fewer than 3 percent of the attorneys in a state may be named to the list.

Reid Simpson joined the firm in 2010 after graduating from Baylor Law School. He has significant trial and litigation experience, having represented Fortune 50, Fortune 500 and publicly traded companies in both state and federal court. He has obtained numerous dismissals and summary judgments, and has successfully arbitrated for a variety of clients, including government contractors, medical research institutions, energy companies (midstream, upstream, and downstream), transportation companies, and professional service companies.

“Stephanie Roark from our Dallas office, and Reid Simpson from our Waco office, demonstrated the growth and maturity necessary to become equity partners at Hartline Barger,” says Larry Grayson, managing partner. “The future of the firm is in good hands.”

David Merkley is a board certified trial lawyer with a statewide practice involving the defense of catastrophic losses. He is routinely retained to oversee the containment of evidence and investigation immediately following an event, and then manage the litigation and try cases as lead counsel. He is a member of the American Board of Trial Advocates (ABOTA), and was one of the youngest members of the ABOTA Houston Chapter elected to receive this distinction. David’s concentrated areas of practice include oilfield and refinery incidents, trucking and transportation accidents, products and premises liability claims, general maritime matters, and construction-related claims. He also assists clients in drafting and revising corporate safety manuals, training materials, employee handbooks, and other tools designed to improve a company’s overall safety record and risk avoidance.

“We’re thrilled to have David join our team,” says managing partner Larry Grayson. “He’s an accomplished trial lawyer with an impressive record of success and a stellar reputation.”

In addition to David Merkley, three more Germer attorneys, Sarah Jones, Lisa Massey and Selina Contreras, join Hartline Barger’s Houston office as of counsel and associate attorneys.

Of Counsel Sarah Jones has significant experience trying cases from inception to trial throughout the state of Texas. Sarah routinely represents clients in a wide array of litigation matters, including labor & employment, trucking & transportation, products liability, personal injury, premises liability, oil & gas, construction, warranty & DTPA, and insurance defense. Based on her extensive representation of Fortune 500 Companies, Sarah is highly sought after to provide clients with general risk assessment. In conjunction with providing clients with risk assessments, she is often hired to draft and revise corporate policies and procedures, employee handbooks, and safety protocols.

Of Counsel Elizabeth “Lisa” Massey routinely handles complex litigation for clients across a broad spectrum of legal areas, including oil & gas, trucking & transportation, residential and commercial construction, premises liability, products liability, professional liability, and personal injury. Lisa has an established track record of successfully representing her clients in state, federal and appellate courts and administrative bodies across Texas. As a native of Naples, Italy, Lisa is fluent in Italian.

Associate Selina Contreras focuses her practice on commercial litigation, trucking & transportation, personal injury defense, and premises liability. Before shifting her practice to civil litigation defense, Selina represented injured plaintiffs. This was a valuable experience which she now uses to understand opposing counsel’s approach to case strategy and negotiation.

Along with the firm’s new partner promotions and Houston additions, Hartline Barger is proud to announce its expansion into New Mexico with the addition of partner Don DeCandia and two new offices in Albuquerque and Santa Fe.

Don DeCandia joins Hartline Barger as he begins his 30th year of practice. He has litigated complex commercial cases and class actions and has a depth of experience in appellate work. Don believes that listening and attention to detail are key components of a successful practice. Don has handled scores of products liability cases in the vehicle context, including the defense of several tire manufacturers in tire failure litigation. Don’s extensive experience in ERISA litigation includes representation of life, health and disability insurers, HMOs, self-funded plans, plan sponsors, plan administrators, pension plans and third-party administrators.

Don’s team has a great deal of experience at both trial and appellate levels. Their practice areas include all manner of personal injury and wrongful death cases, particularly matters involving products liability, insurance defense, trucking, and premises liability. The team also handles matters related to insurance bad faith and coverage, construction law, and ERISA litigation.

“To better serve our clients we opened offices in Albuquerque, and Santa Fe, New Mexico’s largest city and its state capital, respectively,” says Santa Fe partner, Don DeCandia. “We have a team of attorneys and staff with a wealth of experience in litigation here in New Mexico, and we are excited to be a part of this firm’s future.”

Hartline Barger is a Southwest-based law firm founded in 1994, Hartline Barger LLP serves clients throughout the state and across the country, with offices in Dallas, Houston, Corpus Christi, Waco, Santa Fe, and Albuquerque. The firm is nationally recognized for its work in product liability litigation and a broad spectrum of practice areas—from personal injury defense, commercial litigation and toxic torts to warranty and deceptive trade practice litigation. For more information, visit  



Hartline Barger Partners Melissa Dorman Matthews and David Green achieve appellate victory in Houston Court of Appeals For The First District of Texas

Melissa Dorman Matthews and David Green of Hartline Barger LLP achieved an appellate victory, with dismissal of their Canadian client, Stocksy United, by the Houston Court of Appeals [1st Dist.].  On December 19, 2019, the court of appeals reversed the trial court’s denial of Stocksy’s special appearance, and rendered judgment that dismissed Stocksy from the case.

Stocksy is a platform cooperative that licenses stock photography for advertisements and other commercial uses to purchasers all over the world.  Stocksy is a privately held; it is incorporated under the laws of Alberta, Canada and headquartered in British Columbia, Canada. Stocksy does not have a registered agent in Texas, is not authorized to do business in Texas, does not maintain a place of business in Texas, and does not have any employees or agents who work in Texas.

Texas resident and co-defendant Kristen Curette took photographs of a minor, Savannah Morris (also a Texas resident) and uploaded them to Stocksy’s website.  Morris claimed Curette did not obtain Morris’s effective consent.  While this dispute was pending, Morris became an adult.

Morris sued Stocksy for misappropriation of likeness. Stocksy filed a special appearance, and, in response, Morris argued that Stocksy was subject to specific jurisdiction because Curette acted as Stocksy’s agent when she took the photographs and uploaded them onto the website. The trial court agreed with Morris and denied Stocksy’s special appearance.

When Curette photographed Morris, Curette was a Contributor to Stocksy.  To be a Contributor, a photographer had to submit an application to Stocksy.  Upon approval, Stocksy and the applicant entered into two agreements:  1) the Member Agreement, which was the document by which Stocksy transferred one Class C share of the cooperative to the photographer, thereby making the photographer a Stocksy Contributor; and 2) the Member Supply Agreement, which governed the terms by which the Contributor supplied content for license through Stocksy’s website. Under the Member Supply Agreement, the Contributor took photographs at his or her discretion and without direction or oversight from Stocksy. The only requirements were that the photographs be original work, and that model releases be obtained for the persons depicted in the photographs.

The Member Supply Agreement provided that the Contributor supplied content to Stocksy as an independent contractor.  It specifically disclaimed any relationship of joint venturers, partners, principal and agent, or employer and employee.  The agreement further provided that neither party had the power to bind or obligate the other in any manner.  Both Stocksy agreements contained choice-of law and forum selection provisions that specified Canadian law would apply.

Under Texas law, an agency-based theory of imputed contacts may serve as the basis for the exercise of personal jurisdiction over a foreign defendant. However, the existence of an agency relationship was Morris’s burden to prove, and she failed to do so. The court of appeals noted that shareholder status was not ipso facto proof of agency. Instead, the “essential feature” of agency is the “right of control.”  Morris did not dispute or present evidence otherwise rebutting the Stocksy’s proof that there was no agency relationship and that Stocksy exercised no control over Curette.  Morris further contended that Stocksy was subject to specific jurisdiction based on its own Texas contacts, because it sought Contributors from Texas and sold photographs to Texas residents.  However, Morris presented no evidence that Stocksy licensed any of the photographs of Morris to third parties in Texas.  Stocksy’s requests for Contributors were not targeted to Texas; it sought applications from photographers from all over the world.

The court of appeals concluded that the evidence was insufficient to support the trial court’s legal conclusion that Curette acted as Stocksy’s agent, and that Morris has not otherwise alleged facts that, if true, brought Stocksy within the reach of Texas’s long-arm statute.  The court of appeals reversed the trial court’s denial of Stocksy’s special appearance, and rendered judgment dismissing Stocksy.