Lawyers for Disputes,
Trials and Appeals
Our practice encompasses all types of business litigation, including intellectual property litigation, securities fraud suits, class actions, antitrust litigation, contract disputes, partnership disputes, deceptive trade practices litigation, construction litigation, employment law matters and bankruptcy litigation. Our attorneys are experienced trial lawyers who try cases, both jury and non-jury, in state and federal courts throughout Texas. Our litigation style is to seize the initiative from our opponents and put them on the defensive through motions to dismiss, motions for summary judgment and other appropriate procedural maneuvers. We have a strong track record of success in obtaining early dismissals and summary judgments.
In terms of cost consciousness, we believe that keeping fees reasonable and emphasizing overall cost effectiveness is the best way to assure repeat business. We do not “mark up” Federal Express charges or telephone calls, and certainly do not charge for word processing or overtime. Our bills provide a clear delineation of the activity, hourly rate, and itemized expenses. We will customize the format of our bills as requested and will prepare budgets as needed by our clients. Most of all, however, the ultimate cost effectiveness comes from winning. We have a proven track record of obtaining dismissals, summary judgments, and partial summary judgments that lead to reasonable settlements, and for winning trials and appeals.
Our clients include banks, venture capital firms, technology firms, communications companies, construction firms, more than a dozen Texas school districts, as well as a number of the nation’s largest insurers. The following is a summary of our work for several representative clients:
Hamp Skelton and Alysia Wightman obtained a $3.7 million summary judgment for a bank client in state district court in Austin in August 2017. They successfully defended the bank against fraud and misrepresentation claims as well, defeating a guarantor’s claims that a personal guaranty had been procured by fraud. The decision turned on a doctrine under Texas law concerning justifiable reliance: that reliance on an oral representation (such as a promise a guaranty would not be enforced or that a bank would only look to collateral for collection) is not justifiable as a matter of law when the alleged oral representation is directly contrary to the language of a written agreement. Please contact Hamp or Alysia for further details or for more information on our banking litigation practice.
In June 2015, Hamp Skelton won a motion to dismiss in federal court in Houston on behalf of a Florida company who was sued by a customer in Texas. Our client, a Florida livestock equipment distributor, was sued by a Texas manufacturer of livestock equipment. We moved to dismiss, citing our client’s lack of minimum contacts with Texas. The federal court in Houston agreed, writing that phone calls, texts and emails to the Texas plaintiff were not sufficient to make our client amenable to suit in Texas. A copy of the court’s opinion may be seen at this link: Order Granting Motion to Dismiss.
Hamp Skelton obtained first a Temporary Restraining Order then a broader temporary injunction against Xerox in September and October 2013 in a case involving breach of a contractual provision barring Xerox from hiring away the employees of the firm’s client, Stellargy. The case later settled in a creative manner that restored the working relationship between Xerox and Stellargy. A copy of the injunction issued October 28, 2013 is available here: Ordering Granting Temporay Injuction
Skelton & Woody PLLC was co-counsel with Kirkland & Ellis in a pair of patent cases filed by Encyclopedia Britannica against Toyota, Honda, TomTom Inc., Magellan Navigation Inc., and Alpine Electronics concerning the map search function on GPS devices. Encyclopedia Britannica’s patent infringement claims were dismissed by Austin Federal Judge Lee Yeakel who found that Encyclopedia Britannica’s claim of priority was broken and that Encyclopedia Britannica’s patents were invalid. Please view the article from Law360.com: Toyota, Others Prevail In Spat Over Britannica Map IP.
Austin Federal district judge Lee Yeakel granted our client’s motion to dismiss on jurisdictional grounds in EIEIO, Inc. v. Waring Oil, Inc., et. al. on December 14, 2006. Waring, a Mississippi corporation, had purchased goods and material s from the Plaintiff, a Texas company. When disputes arose and Plaintiff sued in Austin, Waring moved to dismiss, citing the absence of minimum contacts with Texas necessary to support jurisdiction in Texas courts. The judge agreed, holding that no minimum contacts were present and, even had they existed, it would offend traditional notions of fair play and justice to force Waring to come to Texas to defend the suit. The court’s opinion can be reviewed at the following link: EIEIO, Inc. v. Warning Oil, Inc.
The Houston Court of Appeals [1st Dist.] affirmed summary judgment for OmniBank and its former officer in Robert H. Bishop v. Sadler, OmniBank and Hardaway, 2006 WL 1669022 (Tex. App.–Houston [1st Dist.]. Bishop, who had guaranteed a loan to purchase a restaurant, sued the seller, the bank and the loan officer, alleging he was fraudulently induced by all into guaranteeing the loan. He first brought an adversary proceeding in bankruptcy court against the buyer whose loan he guaranteed, but lost in that proceeding. Omnibank obtained summary judgment on collateral estoppel grounds and the court of appeals affirmed.
In June 2006, Skelton Woody obtained a summary judgment for OmniBank in a lender liability case brought by a land developer. The plaintiff, JBTB, Inc., had borrowed money from the bank to develop raw land into residential lots for sale to a large national homebuilder. JBTB under-budgeted by approximately $900,000 and went back to the bank for an additional loan, which the bank made. Disputes arose over the terms and conditions of the new loan, the timing of the funding and certain draw requests. JBTB sued alleging oral misrepresentations, breach of contract. OmniBank moved for summary judgment and the Travis County District Court granted the motion.
Our banking litigation practice covers regulatory hearings and litigation as well as traditional lawsuits brought by borrowers, guarantors and others throughout Texas. We have handled a number of lender liability cases, including a major suit in Del Rio brought by a borrower who claimed a bank’s breach of fiduciary duties had caused the borrower to sell a large family ranch. We successfully negotiated with directors’ and officers’ insurance carrier to cover defense and settlement costs, protecting the bank from losses. In January 2005, we obtained a summary judgment for a major Texas bank in a fraud and misrepresentation suit brought in Houston by a disgruntled guarantor of a commercial loan. Two victories in 2006 for bank clients are featured in our “news” section. The Texas Banker’s Association has retained us on several matters, including an amicus brief filed in the Texas Supreme Court on an important issue to the state’s banks. References are available on request from our banking clients.
Defense of major New York venture capital group in lawsuit brought by terminated president and CEO of a company the venture capital group invested in, for fraud and breach of contract in connection with stock option agreement. We were retained shortly before trial to replace a major New York firm. The week before trial, we obtained a complete summary judgment for our client based on statute of frauds, lack of consideration and other affirmative defenses. We then handled the appeal. The Houston Court of Appeals affirmed in 1996 and the Texas Supreme Court rejected opposing counsel’s last appeal in late 1997. (The opinion is available on Westlaw at 1996 WL 417651 (Tex. App.–Houston). Drawing upon our insurance coverage law expertise, we also convinced a co-defendant’s commercial liability carrier to pay the majority of our legal fees.
We represent litigants in major will contest and breach of fiduciary duty litigation involving trusts and estates. These matters are private and not appropriate for website postings, but references are available on request.
General representation of startup technology company on litigation matters, including dispute with founders’ former employer, a large publicly traded company, over intellectual property, hiring, and non-competition arrangements. The much larger competitor sought to enjoin the startup company from operating and we were successful in defeating all challenges. We also serve as local counsel to several nationally prominent intellectual property litigation firms on major cases in Austin.
Amicus brief projects for major bank trade association on behalf of member banks. Our most recent project was a brief in the Texas Supreme Court.
Defense of several Texas and out-of-state banks in major lender liability litigation involving claims of fraud, breach fiduciary duty, deceptive trade and related claims brought by borrower whose ranching operation created large indebtedness, resulting in foreclosure on vast ranch holdings. We also represent banks in regulatory matters, disputes involving federal and state guaranty programs, and other commercial matters.
Defense of numerous corporate and individual clients. Our work encompasses all aspects of securities litigation and enforcement actions, including representation of corporations, broker-dealers and numerous officers and directors in securities and fiduciary duty litigation.