joseph-garnett

Joseph A. Garnett

Shareholder
Address:909 Fannin Street
Suite 2500
Houston, Texas 77010
Phone:(713) 951-1016
Fax:(713) 951-1199
Email:jgarnett@sheehyware.com
vCard:Download vCard

Biography

Mr. Garnett is a native Texan from Brenham, Texas. He graduated with a degree in Psychology from Texas A&M University in 1982 and a law degree from South Texas College of Law in 1985. Mr. Garnett served a one-year appointment as a briefing attorney for The Supreme Court of Texas in 1986 and celebrated his 30th year at Sheehy, Ware & Pappas, P.C. where he is a shareholder.

Mr. Garnett handles high exposure cases involving large complex commercial disputes and catastrophic personal injuries. He first established his reputation as a trial lawyer when he won a landmark verdict in 1996 for a group of landowners who sued a natural gas storage facility for property damage caused by a gas explosion. The jury in that case awarded $143 million to the landowners, one of the largest punitive damage awards in Texas that year. Throughout his career he has represented a diverse set of clients ranging from a software company defrauded by a major investor in a failed business deal to the defense of a Japanese excavator manufacturer in a severe crushing injury case to the defense of a computer manufacturer sued for accounting fraud to the defense of a school district sued for causing the stress related death of a teacher. Mr. Garnett has even handled the appeal of a death row inmate’s capital murder conviction.

In addition to top-quality legal representation, Mr. Garnett emphasizes client value, work efficiency, timely reporting and responsiveness. His dedication to quality legal services was recognized by his inclusion as a Texas Super Lawyer in 2017 for the 10th time. In 2016, he was named as Top Rated Lawyer in Texas for the 5th time. In 2013, he was named a Top Rated Lawyer in Commercial Litigation Law. In 2012, he was named a Top Rated Lawyer in Business Litigation. In 2010, he was named one of the top 3000 lawyers in America by LawDragon. He is listed in the 2007 LawDragon 500 Leading Plaintiffs’ Lawyers in America with the comment, “[He] works both sides of the fence, most recently winning a large confidential settlement for an unfairly terminated airline pilot.” He is board certified in personal injury trial law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization.

Mr. Garnett is active in the State Bar of Texas and previously served on State Bar committees to develop jury submissions for civil trials and to coordinate legal aid for the homeless. He served a two year term as National Alumni President for his law school and has been an active fundraiser for the College of Liberal Arts at Texas A&M University. Mr. Garnett has published and lectured in the areas of e-discovery and trial strategy.

Mr. Garnett has been married 34 years to his high school sweetheart and they are the parents of four grown children. In his spare time, he likes to watch college sports, go to the movies and socialize with friends.

Education

  • South Texas College of Law, (J.D., 1985)
  • Texas A&M University, (B.S., 1982, cum laude)

Legal and Professional Memberships

  • Member, Federation of Defense & Corporate Counsel
  • Life Fellow, Texas Bar Foundation
  • Member, State Bar of Texas
  • Associate Member, International Association of Drilling Contractors (2011-present)

Honors and Awards

  • Panelist, Texas Super Lawyers Blue Ribbon Panel, 2012, 2013, 2017
  • Briefing Attorney to Justice Sears McGee, The Supreme Court of Texas 1985-86
  • Texas’ Top Rated Lawyers 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016
  • Top Rated Lawyer in Commercial Litigation 2013
  • Top Rated Lawyer in Business Litigation 2012
  • Top 3000 Leading Lawyers in America, 2010
  • Top 500 Plaintiffs Lawyers in America, 2007
  • Million Dollar Advocates Forum
  • Texas Super Lawyer 2003, 2007, 2008, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017
  • AV Preeminent Rated, Martindale Hubbell
  • Montclair Who’s Who Among Legal Professionals 2010-2011
  • Board Certified: Personal Injury Trial Law
  • Psi Chi – Psychology Honor Society

Admissions

  • United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit
  • United States District Courts for the Northern, Southern, Eastern and Western Districts of Texas

Practice Areas and Casework

Practice Areas

  • Business Fraud
  • Commercial Litigation
  • Construction Defect
  • Dram Shop
  • Energy Industry Disputes
  • Fire Loss
  • First Party Insurance
  • Premises Liability
  • Products Liability
  • Professional Liability
  • Personal Injury/Wrongful Death
  • Subrogation
  • Transportation

Representative Casework

Business Fraud/Commercial Litigation
  • Multi-million dollar verdict for a company defrauded by an investor in a failed business deal.
  • Defense verdict for a software company on a claim of breach of employment contract by a former executive fired by the company.
  • Dismissal of a computer manufacturer from fraud claims in a multi-million dollar accounting fraud case.
  • Negotiated a confidential settlement in a significant amount for a terminated pilot from a major airline.
  • Favorable verdict for a lienholder in a commercial lien foreclosure case.
Dram Shop
  • Regularly retained by restaurants and bars to defend dram shop claims.
  • Successful defense of an Elks Lodge on a claim that an over-served bar patron severely injured another bar patron.
  • Successful defense of a sports bar on a claim that an over-served patron injured two individuals in a major automobile collision.
Energy Industry Disputes
  • Successful defense of a directional drilling company on a multi-million dollar claim of damage to a 30-inch natural gas liquids pipeline.
  • Multi-million dollar verdict for landowners damaged by a gas explosion occurring at a nearby natural gas liquids storage facility near Brenham, Texas.
Fire Loss
  • Two consecutive defense verdicts for a major computer manufacturer on products liability claims that a computer caused significant fire damage to a house.
  • Favorable verdict for a business owner and a property insurance carrier for reimbursement of fire damages caused by a defective credit card reading machine.
Premises Liability
  • Regularly engaged by shopping malls and commercial property owners to defend serious cases involving breach of security.
  • Defense verdict in favor of a health club and its trainer on a claim that the trainer seriously injured a club member on the facility equipment.
  • Defense verdict for a commercial landowner who allegedly diverted the natural flow of rainwater resulting in the flooding of plaintiffs’ home.
Products Liability
  • Successful defense of a Japanese heavy equipment manufacturer in a case where Plaintiff was crushed when an excavator pinned him against a barge bulkhead.
  • Successful defense of a manufacturer on the claim that raw materials sold to make rubber end products caused respiratory injuries and memory loss.
  • Successful defense of an electrical connector manufacturer on the claim that an electrical connector failed causing a crane to drop a load killing a worker.
Personal Injury/Wrongful Death
  • Regularly retained by national and international manufacturers, suppliers, and distributors to defend high exposure and catastrophic loss personal injury and death cases.
  • Defense verdict for a Houston school district sued for causing the stress related death of a teacher.
  • Defense verdict for a steel erection company which allegedly caused serious injuries to a worker on a construction site.
Professional Liability
  • Successful defense of an architectural firm on a multi-million dollar claim of professional negligence for failure to detect structural damages during a commercial inspection of apartment buildings as part of a sales transaction.
  • Favorable verdict for an insurance agency which failed to place flood insurance on several buildings flooded during tropical storm Allison.
  • Defense verdict for an emergency room physician who allegedly failed to diagnose a female patient’s condition that resulted in sterilization.
  • Successful defense of a College Station hospital on a claim that it released an ER patient without a chaperone, who subsequently sustained a catastrophic head injury in a one-car accident.
Transportation
  •  Defense verdict for a transportation company driver in an auto/truck collision jury trial against negligence allegations in which the plaintiff suffered herniated disks and broken rib injuries and  sought several hundred thousand dollars in damages; however, the jury only awarded a few  thousand dollars.
  •  Defense verdict for a vehicle manufacturer on claims of products liability, breach of warranty and  violations of the Texas Deceptive Trade Practices Act.
  • Successful defense of construction and demolition companies in cases involving injuries and death’s caused by excavators and forklifts.
Appellate
  • Penton v. American Bankers Ins. Co. of Fla., No. 04-20013, 2004 WL 2538372, 114 Fed. Appx. 622, C.A. 5th Cir. (Tex), November 10, 2004 (not designated for publication).
  • Seminole Pipeline Co. v. Broadleaf Partners, Inc., No. 14-96-00825-CV, 1998 WL 723898, 979 S.W.2d 730, 142 Oil & Gas Rep. 338, Tex. App.–Houston (14th Dist., no writ), October 15, 1998.
  • Williams v. Scott, No. 94-20375, 1994 WL 529994, 35 F.3d 159, C.A. 5th Cir. (Tex.), September 30, 1994.
  • Mroz v. U.S. Fire Ins. Co., No. B14-90-00833CV, 1992 WL 41403, 826 S.W.2d 719, Tex. App.–Houston (14th Dist., no writ), March 5, 1992.
  • Klein Independent School Dist. v. Wilson, No. D-1701, 1992 WL 86366, 834 S.W.2d 3, Tex., April 29, 1992.

In The News

  • “On Edge of Houston, Underground Caverns Store Huge Quantities of Natural Gas Liquids.”  Houston Public Media.  Dave Fehling, October 19, 2015.

Mr. Garnett is featured in a story that was broadcast on National Public Radio on October 19, 2015 about the safety of underground storage caverns in Texas.  He discussed the events that led to the 1992 explosion of an underground storage cavern in Brenham, Texas and how the verdict from the lawsuit led to more stringent safety regulations.

Here is a link to the story and podcast:

http://www.houstonpublicmedia.org/news/on-edge-of-houston-underground-caverns-store-huge-quantities-of-natural-gas-liquids/

  • “Surprise: Judge Hand out Most Punitive Awards.” Wall Street Journal.  Jess Bravin, June 12, 2000.

A study by the U.S. Justice Department found that judges award higher punitive damages than juries.  Mr. Garnett’s verdict in the Brenham explosion case is featured as an example of a large punitive damage award by a jury.

  • “Court’s Decision on Blast Damages not Considered a Setback.” The Brenham Banner Press.  Arthur Hahn, January 3, 1999.

Mr. Garnett is quoted in this news story about the Houston Courts of Appeals decision in the Brenham explosion case:  “He considers the appeals court’s ruling a ‘victory’ for his clients.”

  • “New Ruling Weakens Cap on Damages.” The Wall Street Journal. Mary Flood, November 4, 1998.

Mr. Garnett was asked about the conservatism of Texas appellate courts at the time the Court of Appeals upheld the Brenham explosion case.  He replied, “Only one or two in thirty cases of punitive damages awards are upheld because of the high bar from the Supreme Court and the conservative judiciary.”

  • “Gas Pipeline Companies Want a New Trial.” Bryan-College Station Eagle. Sam Lawrence, March 8, 1996.

Mr. Garnett said that his clients will fight Seminole Pipeline Company’s legal motions to reduce the damages awarded to Mr. Garnett’s clients.

  • “Firms Told to Pay for Brenham Blast.” Houston Chronicle.  George Flynn, February 13, 1996.

Mr. Garnett is hopeful that his clients’ victory in the Brenham explosion case will prevent an explosion like this from happening again. Despite opposition to the reopening of the salt dome storage facility, Mr. Garnett said, “residents will never be sure if Seminole will try again to make it operational.”

Publications and Seminar Presentations

  • Property Insurance Case Law Update (RSUI Claims Seminar, June 2011)
  • Ten Worst Jurisdictions in the United States (Presentation to Bermudian Insurers, March 2011).
  • Taming the E Dragon: Controlling Costs, Avoiding Double Billing & Winning Fee Disputes for Duplicative E-Discovery in Litigation of All Sizes (Council on Litigation Management, March 2010 Conference).
  • Trial Tactics (South Texas College of Law 1996).
  • Garnett and Pletcher, “What You Need to Know to Evaluate a Nonsubscriber Workers’ Compensation Case,” 11 Texas Personal Injury Law Reporter No. 1 (1993).
  • Insurance Contract Coverage Problems (State Bar of Texas:  Advanced Workers’ Compensation Course 1991).
  • The New Workers’ Compensation Statute (State Bar of Texas:  Advanced Workers’ Compensation Course 1990).

Community Activities

  • Board of Directors, South Texas College of Law (1997-1999)
  • Member, Association of Governing Boards of Universities and Colleges (1998-1999)
  • National Alumni President, South Texas College of Law (1997-1999)
  • Member, Texas A&M College of Liberal Arts Development Council (1997 – present)
  • Advisory Board, Alzheimer’s Association (2008-2012)
  • Officer, Old Braeswood Homeowners Association (1997-2002)
  • Member, St. Vincent DePaul School Long Range Planning Committee (2007-2010)