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  • Introductions

    Dear Yardlimits' Members-

    I would like to introduce the law firm of Gordon & Elias, L.L.P. We are a law firm based out of Houston, Texas. The staff is as follows:

    Liz Gonzales- Liz is 21 and attends the University of Houston as a part time student. Her job duties include answering the phones, client intake, obtaining medical records and filing. She is also fluent in Spanish and sometimes acts as a translator. She is a great employee; works very hard and has been with the firm for almost two years.

    Dalia Cardenas- Dalia is 30 something and has a daughter named Lauren age 11. Her job duties include receptionist, scheduling doctor appointments, flight arrangements, taxi, and hotel accommodations for our clients, preparation of monthly "loan/advance" checks for our clients and she just does everything necessary to assist the client and the client's family during the claims/litigation process. She also speaks Spanish but it’s more of a Tex-Mex. She makes incredible tamales twice a year. Dalia has been with the firm for over three years and is an integral part of the firm.

    Cathy Taberrer- Cathy is “29 and holding” and is relatively new to the firm in that she has only been there for about 3 months. However, I used to work with Cathy when I was a baby lawyer in 1985. We both worked for a well known (back then anyway) "insurance defense" firm. Defending insurance companies is on the "dark side" and we both flipped over to doing G-d's work as quickly as we could. Anyway, she went her way and I went mine. When Todd and I were looking to fill a paralegal spot that we had had not so much luck filling for over almost a 3 year period, it was just by chance that Cathy answered an ad that we had posted. She did not know it was me and I did not know it was her! Well, anyway, suffice it to say, she was a real good paralegal in 1985 and I cannot tell you how great she is now. She brings just what the doctor ordered in the level of competence and perfection that our firm strives constantly to obtain. She is an incredible paralegal with a total understanding of the Rules of Civil Procedure and Rules of Evidence. She has been around the block a couple of times (gracefully of course) in our profession and brings a quiet determination to git 'er done. We are very grateful that she chose us to work for as she could have gone anywhere and named her price.

    Jennie Smith- Where do I begin? Jennie has been with the firm for 8 years plus. Putting it bluntly, Jennie is more qualified than 50% of the lawyers in the U.S. Nothing, and I truly mean nothing, escapes her. She is a perfectionist to the enth’ degree and she is at least 5 steps ahead of the Railroad's paralegals and lawyers in the way she helps work up our clients' cases. Not only is she incredible professionally, she is also an incredible human being. She is the first one there and the last one to leave. She is a devout Christian and really lives as a Christian should. Her faith is unbreakable. She will be out of the office from April 30th through around August 2009 as she is in a motherly way! However, knowing Jennie as we know her, she will be online with the office as that is just the way she is. She is not just an employee but she has become like the little sister I never had. I cannot say enough about Jennie.

    David Buckley- David is the investigator that we exclusively use on our FELA cases. He owns and manages his own business, i.e., Buckley Investigations. David is married with three children and lives in Galveston County, Texas. He has been investigating FELA cases for over twenty (20) years and has developed a great understanding of each craft of the railroad industry. I believe David has handled cases from every craft that exists and is familiar with the tasks and job duties of each. Both, Todd and I, believe when an investigator knows what is involved in a job and the requirements of each and how it should be performed or accomplished then it is much easier for that person to identify liability aspects for the claimant and successfully develop a case. That is one of the many reasons we choose to use David and his firm. I am sure once you meet him you will feel the same.

    R. Todd Elias- Todd handles all the litigation in the firm. He is, at least from my perspective, one of the nicest and most well rounded people I have ever had the occasion to come to know. He grew up in Corpus Christi, Texas and played tennis for his high school. He then went to the Citadel and played college tennis competitively. While in College attending the Citadel, i.e., a military college, he lost his father to Cancer when he was 20. He was very close to his father and this was a very impacting event in his life. He graduated college and then attended Texas Tech University Law School. Upon graduation from law school, he joined into a plaintiff’s personal injury firm. The partners in that firm had some close union ties to the unions in Texas City, Texas and, therefore, a lot of cases he was exposed to were related to chemical and petroleum plant associated types of injuries. This obviously covered toxic exposures to plant explosions. Unfortunately, there were/are far too many situations that occur like this in these types of plants down here in Texas. Approximately, in May of 2000, Todd and I became partners. I want you to know that I am perhaps the luckiest lawyer in the world to have Todd Elias as a partner. If there ever was a Ying and a Yang business relationship, it is us. We have been described as a “chain saw” and a “finishing sander”….I’ll let you figure out who is the smooth one. Over the nine years and right before my eyes, Todd has developed into one of the finest trial lawyers in the United States. He started handling FELA cases and Jones Act cases [as time goes on in the Forum, I will attempt to explain the inter-relationship between FELA and the Jones Act, however, for now, just understand that they are “sister” laws and strikingly similar in origin and substantive legal aspects] in early 2001. He has represented members from all the various Unions and crafts. He, in my opinion, has consistently achieved remarkably high awards for all of his FELA clients. To date, though anything is always possible, he has never lost a FELA case for a client. He truly loves suing the railroad. We are not “Union Designated” and, as a result, we have had to get our name out the old fashioned way: work hard and do a good job (What a concept!-LOL). We regularly throw bar-b-q’s around the country to feed gangs and, at those events, Todd literally gives people his cell phone number if they ever need to ask him a question. Believe me when I tell you that they call and ask everything possible at all times of the night and day and he always takes the time to listen and answer. That is the kind of lawyer he is but, more importantly, that is the kind of person he is. I am very proud to say that I am his partner and his friend. Todd has a wonderful family including a wife who is a school teacher and two wonderful children ages 9 (boy) and 7 (girl) and is the consummate father. Todd can be seen on the home page of our web site in our video which also includes client testimonials about the firm.

    Me & Us- I was born in Tampa Florida in 1956. My parents divorced when I was 5 and my mother was a single parent when it was not so vogue to be so. She worked very hard to raise my brother and me. As a teenager, I did not make her life very simple. To say that I was a little ‘rebellious’ would be putting it mildly. I finished high school met the girl of my dreams; bought a Volkswagen Van with a peace sign on it and moved to Montana. Well, the ‘girl of my dreams’ turned out to be the girl from a terrible nightmare! I then moved to Casper Wyoming and then to Denver Colorado. During this period, I attended a VA approved school with a bunch of Vietnam Vets for electronics engineering and started servicing computers (at least they called them computers back then but they were a far cry from this IBM Think Pad I am tapping away at!). Anyway, I decided to return to Florida without the girl but with a fine dog! I attended a community college; then transferred to Florida State University. At FSU, I majored in Political Science & Philosophy with a Latin Minor [definitely destined either to starve or go to law school!]. I had the fine fortune of actually studying under a Professor Hodges. Professor Hodges was a Marxist Theorist that highlighted his studies to Central and South America. He was a fine man and was instrumental in molding some of my political/economic thoughts. Upon graduation, I took the Law School Admission Test (LSAT) which is a requirement for acceptance to any accredited law school. I never did very well on standardized testing! I got the opportunity to get into South Texas College of Law in Houston, Texas. If any of you know Houston, it is in Texas which is a RED state and Houston would be about as RED as RED can get. So there I was, a left leaning graduate of philosophy attending perhaps one of the most conservative schools in the country. I remember the day that we had orientation. I was very scared because I, unlike everyone in the room, was far from “blue blood”. The attrition rate the first year was 1/3 of the class. I recall the man standing at the podium and he said for everyone to turn their heads to the left and look at the person seated to your left; then, he said turn your head to the right and look to the person seated to your right….then…..he said one of us would fail out by year’s end! Well, I have to tell you that I was seated next to a wall on my right! So, in my head I thought about the guy to my left the following: “Sorry fella, but you gotta go!” I read more the first half of my first semester than I did in all four years of college. I would not allow myself to fail. To complicate matters, I am dyslexic so I cannot write fast. I would have to record all my classes; go home and transcribe every word said in the class; and I did just that for three (3) years. I always had the best outlines though! I developed a true love and passion for the law. I saw the law as the ultimate “leveler” of the playing field for the common man against the big corporation. It is the arena that truth and fairness prevail over might. Upon graduation, all I wanted to do was try cases. So, I was offered a job as a trial lawyer for a whopping $36,000.00! I was so grateful. There was one problem….it was representing insurance companies! How could I do this I thought to myself? I had a ton of school debt; a wife and a kid on the way so I agreed to go there if they would let me try cases. They did. The first year, I tried nine (9) district court jury cases to verdict and won every one of them. The second year, I tried five more and won those as well. Those years of learning were indispensable; in essence, you learned and billed for it so the firm made money whether you won or you lost. But, the insurance adjusters that you would write case update letters to were only interested in one thing: beating the injured person out of getting any money. Truly, I felt like a sellout. Because I knew what I had and I was using it in a way that resulted in depriving injured persons of fair compensation for their injuries. So, I left and joined a plaintiff’s firm in 1987 that represented hurt people, i.e., G-d’s work! It was at this firm that I started representing Jones Act seamen and FELA railroad workers. While at this firm, I applied for my Board Certification in Personal Injury Trial Law from the Texas Board of Legal Specialization; and, after taking a specialty test and upon recommendation from certain Judges and my peers, received my board certification in 1990. Rather than bore you with the details, I currently have 26 district court jury trials to verdict and have never lost money on one yet. My career has been so rewarding but I do not mean just economically, the true reward is the lives we touch in a positive way. I have two daughters ages 22 and 19 and one step-daughter age 18 and a wife that puts up with me. By the way, my mother is now 85 and I am lucky enough to still have her and take care of her the way she took care of me.

    Neither Todd nor I can go back in time and undo what happened to a given railroad worker be it a serious injury or death of a family member. That is the sad reality. We can only get our client money for the wrong; and that, my friends, we do well. In my mind, a trial lawyer is like a modern day Robin Hood taking from the greedy corporation that only cares about profits and giving to the person that has busted their backs and given all they have to give for that corporation. Do I wish that companies would do the right thing and step up to the plate so there would be no need to have litigation? Of course, as that would be the right thing. But, do they? In my experience they never do. It’s just not their modus operandi. I cannot count the persons that I have talked to that say, “well, I am going to wait to see what the claims agent comes up with as an offer.” Meanwhile, the railroad is building a case against them through statements, photos, “company oriented” doctor reports, etc. If you think they are your friend….think again! They are far far from your friend. The railroad “builds in” intimidation in the work place; some subtle and some not so subtle. For example, up until just recently,
    the railroad would actually send a claims agent with the injured worker to a doctor. Ok…that’s not too bad but….the claims agent would actually have the audacity to go into the room where the doctor saw the patient/claimant! What’s that about? That is solely intimidation. It’s not like the claims agent has any medical training. So, at Gordon & Elias, we are keenly aware of this type of intimidation. One of the factors that causes people not to report their injury and, instead, try and “work through” their pain, is that they are scared that they can’t pay their bills. We know this and I am sure you know this. That is why, we, where ethically permitted to do so, advance monies to our FELA clients, interest free, if they need it so they can pay their bills. We do not have to do this and we could ethically charge interest but we don’t. How many law firms do you know that provide this service? Finally, we make sure that our clients are only treated by Board Certified doctors. This means Board Certified Orthopedists, Board Certified Neuro-Surgeons, Board Certified Pulmonologists, etc.

    Some people have asked us why aren’t we Union “Designated Legal Counsel”? The answer is that they did not want us. We approached two major unions and said we will agree to represent your Union members for the 25% contingency fee that is required for being “designated”; we also said that we would make sure that their members only were treated by Board Certified Physicians; we also said that we would, where ethically permitted to do so, advance monies, interest free, to their members who were our clients if they needed the money to pay their bills. We thought that “throwing another name in the hat” to choose from would be a good thing for the members…..but I guess we were wrong. They would not even agree to see us in person. That is why we asked Yardlimits to allow us to have a Forum Board. So that we could (1) tell ya’ll that we are here for you and (2) to show you that we truly care. We are so very grateful for this opportunity. To show our gratitude, we are hereby making the following pledges:

    PLEDGE #1:
    (1) We will assist in establishing a previously discussed, in the community, a fallen brother fund named “The Yardlimits Fallen Brother Fund” (hereinafter called “The Fallen Fund”); (2) we agree to represent any member of Yardlimits, if they are a member of Yardlimits at the date and time of injury, for a 25% contingency fee if they employ us; and (3) once established, we will contribute .05% of all net attorneys’ fees we receive from all [be they Yardlimits’ Members or not] FELA cases we signup, after the formation of The Fallen Fund and while we are members of Yardlimits, to The Fallen Fund.

    The recipients of The Fallen Fund will be to eligible family members of a railroad worker who loses his/her life in the course and scope of duty. The exact particulars of disbursement of proceeds of The Fallen Fund monies will need to be worked out and I am looking for guidance from the Yardlimits’ Board and Members but this, we feel, is the right thing to do and is just one of our ways that we wish to show our true appreciation for this opportunity.

    PLEDGE #2:
    (1) We are willing to work with the Yardlimits community to establish a college education fund named “The Yardlimits College Education Fund” (hereinafter called “The College Fund”); (2) we agree to represent any member of Yardlimits, if they are a member of Yardlimits at the date and time of injury, for a 25% contingency fee if they employ us; and (3) once established, we will contribute .05% of all net attorneys’ fees we receive from all [be they Yardlimits’ Members or not] FELA cases we signup, after the formation of The College Fund and while we are members of Yardlimits, to The College Fund. The recipients of The College Fund will be to eligible family members of a railroad worker who has been a member of Yardlimits for a certain time and remains a Member. The exact particulars of disbursement of proceeds of The College Fund monies will need to be worked out and, again, I am looking for guidance from the Yardlimits’ Board and Members but this, we feel, is also the right thing to do and is just another one of our ways that we wish to show our true appreciation for this opportunity.

    We believe these pledges, which would total one (1%) percent, are the same types of pledges that Designated Legal Counsels should make and we hope that Yardlimits and Gordon & Elias will set the standard for Unions to require these, or similar funds, to be established. After all, it is an economically rewarding thing to be awarded a Designated Legal Counsel position with a Union and, we believe that, they should give back where possible.

    So, that is an introduction to who we are and what we are about. We look forward to assisting where we can assist Yardlimits in growing and becoming the strongest forum on the internet run be railroaders for railroaders.

    Thank you.

    Gordon & Elias, L.L.P.
    5821 Southwest Freeway, Suite 422
    Houston, Texas 77057
    (800) 773-6770
    (713) 668-9999-O
    (713) 668-1908-Fax
    Steve Gordon
    Gordon, Elias & Seely, L.L.P.
    FELA Lawyer
    FELA Lawyer Blog
    Serving Injured Railroad Employees Nationwide
    Call for a FELA Lawyer 24/7/365