The Biggest Cases in Texas in 2017

Throughout the year, many notable cases have caught the attention of both the public and legal communities for a variety of reasons. Whether the cases garnered sympathy or the verdicts caused a political stir, these cases have been some of the most closely watched throughout Texas.

Zenimax v. Oculus

In the beginning of the year, a case involving virtual reality technology for a video game developer, ZeniMax Media, and Facebook’s Oculus VR, went to the federal jury. Oculus VR was hit with a $500 million verdict for damages, including copyright, trademark infringement, and breach of a nondisclosure agreement with ZeniMax. Using the Lanham Act, ZeniMax is now arguing for a judgment involving more than $1 billion for triple damages. However, Oculus argues there is not enough evidence for such a judgment. The final judgment is yet to be made.

Attorney General Ken Paxton's Criminal Trial

The criminal case against Ken Paxton, the state’s top law enforcement officer, is noteworthy not only because of the defendant’s status but also because the special prosecutors in the case are fighting to receive pay. Paxton is facing charges for felony securities due to his supposed failure to register as an investment advisor. Typically such cases are not heard in the state district court in Texas. Recently, the case was relocated to Harris County to remove the potential bias that may come from having the jury pool in the defendant’s hometown.

USAA Texas Lloyds v. Gail Menchaca

A persisting dispute between policy-holder Gail Menchaca and insurer USAA Texas Lloyds regarding property damage sustained in 2008’s Hurricane Ike recently spurred the creation of 5 new rules. These new rules are designed to help in cases involving claims for a breach of an insurance policy and claims of wrongdoing under Texas Insurance Code. However, on December 15, USAA’s request for a hearing in high court was granted. Attorneys familiar with insurance law hope these new rules will help future cases involving the recent devastation from Hurricane Harvey.

Aruba Petroleum v. Parr

The Parr family brought a case against Aruba Petroleum Inc. for noise, light, and odor at the company’s Barnett Shale gas wells, which they claimed was an intentional nuisance. Intentional nuisance cases are often very difficult to prove, sometimes leading to claims of insufficient evidence, which is precisely what happened in Aruba Petroleum v. Parr. The Texas’ Fifth Court of Appeals discarded the $2.9 million judgment against Aruba.

TC Heartland

The ruling in the case TC Heartland LLC v. Kraft Good Brands Group LLC resulted in new restrictions regarding patent infringement suits and where they can be filed. Whereas individuals used to be able to file patent suits wherever they made a purchase, now these suits can only be filed where the defendant is either incorporated or has a regular and established place of business. Now, however, lawyers speculate how the courts will define “a regular and established place of business” for future cases.

SB 4 Challenge

This year the Texas Legislature passed a bill banning sanctuary city policies and barring local authorities from limiting immigration enforcement. The U.S. District Court judge, however, held that certain parts of the law are prevented by federal immigration law and also violate the U.S. Constitution. The appellate court then lifted the ban on certain provisions.

Fourth J&J Bellwether

Johnson & Johnson’s DePuy Orthopaedics Inc. is facing a $247 million verdict for issues regarding their metal-on-metal hip implants. In the fourth Bellwether trial, this large verdict marks the third consecutive nine-figure win in the multidistrict litigation. The big pharmaceutical company, Johnson & Johnson, was found liable for design flaws, manufacturing defects, fraud, deceptive business practices, and the claim also asserts that the company acted with wanton, reckless, or malicious conduct.

Our very own Michael Lyons, partner at Lyons & Simmons LLP, told Law360 that other hip implant manufacturers are also settling similar claims to avoid the risk of trial. “As these cases went to trial it set the value for this type of tort, and what the juries are making abundantly clear is that they don't have a sense of humor about Johnson & Johnson's conduct,” says Lyons.

To read more about the biggest cases of 2017, visit

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