Hon. Steven E. Kirkland (Former) recently joined JAMS after serving as judge of the 334th Civil District Court and the 215th Civil District Court in Harris County, Tex. These courts had a docket of thousands of cases, ranging from complicated commercial contract disputes to tax delinquencies to personal injuries in auto accidents. In addition to his adjudicatory duties, Judge Kirkland chaired the Rules and Special Dockets committees of the civil board of judges and served as the civil district court representative to the Justice Information Management System Executive Board, which oversees the information technology assets of the justice system. During his more than 15-year judicial career, Judge Kirkland presided over more than 900 jury trials.
Prior to joining the bench, Judge Kirkland served as senior assistant city attorney for the City of Houston, where he counseled the city’s chief development officer and city attorney on economic development projects. Some of the major projects he was involved with include a 4-billion agreement with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to improve the city’s sanitary sewer system, a $50-million funding agreement for the restoration of wildlife natural habitats and the development of trails to connect the city’s bayous, and a series of agreements with the electric transmission utility to convert city streetlights to LED bulbs and fixtures, resulting in a 50% reduction in electricity consumption. He also spent four years in private practice representing environmental tort plaintiffs and small businesses, as well as eight years as in-house counsel for an international oil company, providing representation in many legal areas, emphasizing the negotiation and drafting of transaction documents, litigation management, representation before regulatory agencies and compliance counseling.
Judge Kirkland is active in promoting drug and alcohol addiction recovery programs, affordable housing, historic preservation and LGBT rights. His affordable housing projects have been recognized with awards by the Greater Houston Preservation Alliance, and he was awarded the Government Friend of the Homeless by Coalition Award in 2006 by the Homeless of Houston/Harris County. He also lectures on communications law and ethics at the University of Houston.
ADR Experience and Qualifications
Judge Kirkland has extensive experience in the resolution of complex commercial and contractual disputes across various practices and industries, including the following:
- Civil Rights
- Energy and Utilities
- Government/Public Agency
- Health Care
- Personal Injury/Torts
- Real Property
Business and Commercial
- NSTI, LLC d/b/a Tech Connect v. Defense Energy Center of Excellence d/b/a National Security Technology Accelerator, 2018-06530: Presided over dispute related to competing claims between company co-founders for breach of a service agreement with one of the founders. Plaintiff sought payment for commissions due to executed technology innovation contracts, and defendant claimed failure to perform.
- Donald Hodges v. Glenn Williams, 2008-09194: Presided over bench trial of claim of fraud, misrepresentation, breach of contract and rescission. The purchaser of a strip club alleged the seller failed to disclose that the club had been refused a permit to operate and failed to disclose the status of litigation challenging the city ordinance regulating sexually oriented businesses and that the ordinance mandated changes to club operations that negatively impacted the value of the business.
- Main Street Bank v. Sunbelt Medical Corporation, 2010-46895: Presided over dispute between assignee of an equipment lease and lessee. Defendant contended the lease included equipment and services, and the original lessor went out of business and didn’t provide the services.
- Boccard USA v. Raytheon, 2004-18474: Presided over jury trial related to a creditor’s attempt to hold former parent company liable for debt of a third-tier subsidiary that had been spun off with the second-tier corporate subsidiary. The purchaser used the cash reserves to pay part of the purchase price, which the creditor contended rendered the subsidiary insolvent. After merging the second-tier subsidiary with a new entity, the new entity filed for bankruptcy.
- One Source Industrial Tire LLC v. Treadmill Industrial Tire Inc., 2009-38353: Presided over jury trial between parties to an asset purchase and sale of an industrial tire business. The purchaser claimed the seller ceased operations before closing, losing regular customers and rendering the business unable to generate revenue sufficient to pay the promissory note. The seller sued for payment, and the buyer countered with breach of contract and fraud.
- Jacobs, et al. v. Bailey Family Restaurant Group, 2009-46147: Presided over jury trial of breach of investment agreements for failed restaurant, whereby plaintiffs alleged defendants induced them to invest based on false projections of income and distributions. Plaintiffs contributed operating capital to a limited partnership, acquired a banquet facility on adjacent real estate and made a loan for improvements. Defendants contend the business was detrimentally impacted by interference from the plaintiffs and Hurricane Ike. Plaintiffs contended defendants diverted capital, loan proceeds and insurance proceeds for personal use.
- Alfredo Arreguin v. Mario Mireles, 2008-18504: Presided over trial of a complicated business arrangement wherein an existing restaurant was expanded to include a meat market. The plaintiff alleged they acquired the restaurant lease and equipment, invested new capital and brought new suppliers to the business, and defendants were to continue managing the restaurant and receive a salary. Defendants contended they never agreed to sell the business, only to change the business name and allow operation of a store on the premises. Both parties claimed money was due to them under the agreement.
- Texas Serenity Academy Charter School v. Johnson, 2010-78587: Presided over the initial stages of a multifaceted dispute between nonprofit charter school administrators and board of directors whereby the former school superintendent and board president attempted to reinstate himself as superintendent. His alleged actions included transferring school funds, locking out school administrators and arranging for the arrest and detention of the current administrators. Defendant counterclaimed for defamation
- Presided over numerous cases involving disputes among nonprofit board of directors, management and nonprofit members, including Tejano Center for Community Concerns v. Richard Farias, 2011-60743; World Igbo Congress v. Onwucheckwe, 2009-544832; and Damascus Missionary Baptist Church v. Johnny Scott, 2017-83126.
- Landry’s Inc. v. Animal Legal Defense Fund, 2016-79698: Presided over defamation claim by restaurant owner against a public advocacy group for publicizing its notice of intent to sue letter under the Endangered Species Act. The case was decided on motion to dismiss under the Texas anti-SLAPP statute, known as the Texas Citizen Participation Act (TCPA).
- ADB Interest and Ashley Black v. Karen Wallace, 2017-35441: Presided over defamation claim by product manufacturer and inventor against a customer for bad online reviews posted on multiple platforms. This case was decided on a TCPA motion to dismiss.
- Montiel v. Lechin, 2017-68138: Presided over defamation claims against former spouse and news media for statements made in news reports. This case was partially decided on a TCPA motion to dismiss.
- Troy Perry v. Alief Independent School District, 2006-02596: Presided over trial of plaintiff’s claims of wrongful termination and defamation. Plaintiff contended he was fired in retaliation for reporting unlawful actions by administrators, and school district answered that employee was insubordinate.
- Greystone Multifamily Builders v. TPG Acquisition LLC, et al., 2015-25232: Presided over dispute regarding competing claims for breaches of a series of agreements to develop a multi-family housing project, including breach of capital contribution agreement and construction contract involving allegations of construction delays, defects, cost overruns, force majeure, mold remediation and financial guarantees. The parties alleged fraud and tortuous interference claims.
- Westlake Chemical Company v. James Construction Group LLC, 2014-72717: Presided over dispute regarding competing claims for breach of chemical plant construction contract and associated guarantee contract. After a construction fatality, the plant owner alleged safety violations necessitated removal of the general contractor and sued for increased costs for completion. The contractor alleged removal was unwarranted and that owner failed to provide notice or opportunity to cure defects.
- Tennessee Gas Pipeline v. Delta Gulf, 2009-55773: Presided over multifaceted natural gas pipeline construction dispute. Parties disputed significant terms in the contract including whether it was a fixed price or cost-plus contract to replace a 6-inch gas line with a 12-inch gas line in the same excavation. There were also completing breach of contract claims for failure to complete the project on time, failure to pay subcontractors and improper accounting, as well as fraud claims. Dispute included multiple pre-trial decisions points and jury trial.
- PCON (d/b/a Stooksberry General Contracting) v. Yuppie Dog LLC, 2009-64124: Presided over bench trial of a construction dispute where the contractor sought payment under the contract. The owner contended the contractor abandoned the project, failed to correct warranty items and did not pay subcontractors.
- Flooring Services of Texas LLC v. Waterhill Companies Limited, 2008-09879: Presided over bench trial for construction dispute between homebuilder, contractor, homeowners and title company. Flooring supplier and contractor sought payment for goods and services provided for numerous homes built by defendant. The supplier also filed materialmen and mechanic’s liens against various properties, which were paid by the title company, and made claims against personal guarantees of the principals of the homebuilder that were included in the credit application. The defendants countered for offset, claiming inferior work and denied personal liability.
- Gulf Chemical & Metallurgical Corporation v. Miner-Dederick Constructors Inc., 2008-66374: Presided over hazardous waste storage facility construction dispute whereby an alleged construction defect was found during remediation of an oil spill that escaped the facility. Issues were complicated by the need for rapid repair and reconstruction of original work.
- CCPJV d/b/a Complete Curb Products c. Karen Spaulding and McDaniel Metals, Inc. v. John S. Boger, 2009-09072: Presided over HVAC metal duct connectors (“curbs”) manufacturer’s claims against its former employee and subsequent employer for theft of trade secrets, breach of fiduciary duties as a shareholder and officer and tortious interference with business relationships. Employee countered with claims of shareholder oppression and breach of fiduciary duty, along with a claim for accounting. Case settled after jury began deliberations.
- David Cox v. Act Catastrophe Texas, 2010-42382: Presided over trial of employee sexual harassment, retaliation and disability discrimination claims.
- Trim Electric Inc. v. Douglas Wheelock, 2010-39973: Presided over bench trial of electrical contractor’s claims for breach of contract for unpaid labor charges.
- Brandon Ward v. S.Q.Media, Inc., et al., 2006-59156: Presided over bench trial of competing breach of publishing employment contract. The parties had competing fraud claims and competing claims for money due under the contract. The publisher employer also sought to enforce a noncompete clause and alleged breach of fiduciary duties.
- Houston Poly Bag I, LTD v. Kujanek, 2007-68468: Presided over jury trial related to claims made by a plastic bag manufacturer against a former long-term employee whereby the employee violated fiduciary duties to the company by joining a competitor. The employee countered for unpaid commissions.
- MB Industries v. Hunter Building and Manufacturing, 2008-50193: Presided over highly charged trade secret case whereby the plaintiff, a manufacturer of military grade protective buildings that marketed blast-resistant buildings to the U.S. military and internationally, sought to enforce nondisclosure, noncompete, confidentiality and nonsolicitation clauses in the employment agreements against former employees who went to work for a competitor. The former employees, who were also former executive officers, counterclaimed for declarations that the clauses were overly broad and unenforceable.
Energy and Utilities
- Mirada Energy v. Oasis Petroleum, 2017-19111: Presided over multiple disputes and decision points in competing claims between the operator and non-operating working interest owner under an oil field participation agreement for the development of midstream assets among other issues, including application of Council of Petroleum Accountant Societies (COPAS) Accounting Procedures in the joint operating agreements (JOAs), authorization for expenditures and payment of joint interest billings (JIBs). The case settled.
- Sandbox Logistics LLC v. Arrows Up Inc., 2016-03483: Presided over trial of complex trade secrets case whereby plaintiff brought suit for fraud, breach of a nondisclosure agreement allowing the parties to explore the joint development of material handling equipment for use in fracking of oil wells and a subsequent settlement agreement. Defendant countered that the designs were publicly known through plaintiff’s disclosures in patent application, on its website and in the original petition.
- Johnny Cline v. Alexander Trucking Co. and Alexander Oil Co. v. James Ahern, Gulf Tech Marketing, et al., 2012-53723: Presided over multifaceted dispute between gasoline jobbers/distributors, fuel blenders and salespeople with competing claims of breach of an employment agreement, breach of fiduciary duty, breach of contract and fraud. The dispute involved claims the distributor used an illegal additive and hid the fact from subsequent purchasers, that the former employee was owed commissions and that the employee violated noncompete obligations. There were numerous pre- and post-trial decision points and a jury trial.
- Drillog v. Ekezie, 2016-81777: Presided over jury trial of shareholder derivative action brought by shareholders in a Nigerian oil services company related to fraudulent accounting, breach of fiduciary duty and recovery of funds allegedly embezzled by an officer through corporations domiciled in California and Texas. The case involved questions concerning international funds transfers, corporate governance and Nigerian politics.
- BHP Billiton v. Crimson Exploration Operating Inc., 2016-02583: Presided over jury trial of suit for non-payment of JIBs for a failed oil well. The non-operating interest owner alleged the operator caused the well to explode and that it was excused from payment under the JOA. The well suffered a “gas kick” caused by nearby fracking operations and/or improper setting of the intermediate well casing leaving sand formation exposed, shutting down operations to avoid a blowout. The well was a complete financial loss.
- Fairways Offshore Exploration Inc. v. Patterson Services and Cudd Pressure Control Inc., 2007-59388: Presided over jury trial of competing breach of contract, warranty, negligence and products liability claims pertaining to a suit brought by a well owner and operator against well services companies related to a gas well blowout after the snubbing unit was removed and the pipe explosively separated and ejected from the well due to sulfide stress cracking.
- Scott Martin v. Martin Resources Management Corporation, 2008-53948: Presided over multifaceted shareholder derivative action for minority shareholder oppression, stock dilution and breaches of corporate fiduciary duties. The corporation, a family-owned business that was proprietor of the general partner in publicly limited partnerships, was engaged in transporting, terminalling, storing and processing energy resources. A disagreement over expansion of their midstream business to the downstream segment of the oil and gas business, specifically a gasoline refinery, precipitated disputes across the full spectrum of corporate shareholder governance disputes. The dispute was complicated by multiple actions in multiple forums and a failed settlement agreement.
- SCJ Pipe Services Ltd. v. Texstar Transport and Delivery Inc., 2010-11251: Presided over breach of contract and warranty dispute regarding damages to a specially coated oilfield pipe that was delayed and damaged in transit to a job site.
- Mobil Steel International Inc. v. Letourneau Ellis Williams Company Inc., 2006-74352, 2006-74352a: Presided over offshore drilling rig construction dispute whereby the plaintiff sought payment for steel and welding services and the defendant countered that work was not timely delivered and was defective. Parties disputed responsibility for the delays as well as capacity and willingness to correct defects.
- Nhue Ho M.D., PLLC d/b/a CorPhysicians v. Doc on the Bay Associated Enterprises Inc., 2012-55221: Presided over bench trial of breach of contract case involving provision of hospitalists doctors to see “unsigned” patients at two local area hospitals. Plaintiff alleged defendant breached the noncompete and nonsolicitation (poaching) provisions of the contract. Defendant alleged they were induced to abandon his existing practice and that plaintiff did not provide appropriate support.
- Nath v. Texas Children’s Hospital and Baylor College of Medicine, 2006-10826a: Presided over multiple decisions points and sanction proceedings against the plaintiff for abusive litigation tactics arising in suit for defamation and tortuous interference claims, later revised to add negligent supervision and intentional infliction of emotional distress claims. The doctor claimed retribution for reports made regarding a colleague for operating with impaired vision and while infected with hepatitis. The hospital’s motions for summary judgment were repeatedly met with amended petitions and motions for discovery on new claims.
- Performance Based Healthcare Solutions v. Omni Health Management, 2006-43325: Presided over jury of trade secret dispute related to a home health care training program that included a free assessment and metrics to improve outcomes for patients discharged from hospital to in-home therapy. The parties negotiated and signed a letter of intent (LOI), but never completed a service agreement to roll out the program across the nation. Plaintiff alleged nonpayment of fees and that defendant renamed the program and utilized it across its service areas, in breach of the nondisclosure and noncompete clauses of the agreement. Defendant contended conditions in the LOI were never met.
- Christus Health v. Quality Infusion Care, 2005-65623: Presided over jury trial of claim by non-network medical provider for payment of services provided to insureds of a medical health benefits network. The insured patients were referred to the out-of-network medical provider by in-network physicians. The defendant manager of the health benefits network denied the claims due to failure to obtain proper authorization prior to providing the service.
- Battle v. Cypress Texas Lloyds, 2009-24337: Presided over jury trial of first Hurricane Ike coverage case, which effectively served as the bellwether case. The plaintiffs alleged failure to comply with the insurance contract, breach of statutory duties of good faith and fair dealing for prompt payment, and investigation of claims.
- Escalante’s Comida Fina v. Woddard, Easton, Gentle, Tomforde and Anderson Inc. d/b/a Insurance Alliance, 2009-52295: Presided over business interruption coverage dispute related to claims made by a restaurant business that it was enticed to switch insurance agents on the representation that it would have the same coverage as what the prior agent provided, but discovered when it filed a claim after a hurricane that the business interruption coverage excluded losses due to off-site electrical failures.
- Hamilton Court Apts. v. Century Surety Company, 2003-36847: Presided over bench trial of claim by property owner against insurance agent for failure to obtain proper insurance coverage.
- Thacker v. SSC Operating LP, 2007-71191: Presided over jury trial of medical malpractice claim by spouse of deceased resident in a nursing home against the facility, the medical director and the attending physician for alleged failures to diagnose and treat a circulatory condition.
- Sandra Kinney, et al. v. George Fleming, 2008-65396: Presided over malpractice claims against mass tort attorney where the plaintiffs alleged breaches of fiduciary duty, breaches of contract, theft and conversion arising from expense charges defendant claimed against settlements recovered from manufacturers of the drug Fen-Phen.
- Presided over numerous medical malpractice cases, including several cases that survived the complex pre-trial procedures and were resolved by jury trial.
- Presided over numerous personal injury cases arising from car wrecks, worksite injuries and premises liabilities.
- Presided over numerous personal injury cases of maritime workers arising under the Jones Act and the Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act.
- Acebedo v. Abbot Labs, 2016-57956: Presided over a product liability jury trial case relating to failures of an embolic protection device (special filter) used in heart catheterization procedures, whereby the plaintiff suffered a stroke during the procedure and ultimately died from complications.
- Cepeda v. Goodyear, 2016-03071: Presided over a product liability case regarding a tire that exploded after retreading. The plaintiff was installing the tire when it exploded and named the original manufacturer, the retreading process company and equipment operators, alleging multiple defective design, process and training issues.
- Cunningham, Jacqueline (Deputy Receiver of Southern Title Insurance Com v. Shakeel Uddin), 2012-29600: Dispute related to suit by insurer on note and guaranty after payment of title insurance claim, fraud and misappropriation of funds. Defendant answered with a challenge to receiver’s standing to bring the suit and brought counterclaims for negligent title services and failure to discover and pay off a prior lien.
- Dealer Computer Services v. DCT Hollister Rd. LLC, 2016-17197: Presided over claims of violation of deed restrictions for the expansion of a warehouse, causing a nuisance from expanded truck traffic. The street was the dividing line between two sections of a common development with separate deed restrictions. The case was decided on summary judgment.
- Pengra v. Thor Kirby 3 Group LLC, 2011-20523: Presided over highly charged dispute between neighborhood residents and adjacent real estate developer and nightclub tenant of the developer for common law nuisance and violations of deed restrictions.
- SSC Opportunity Partners v. LS “Trey” Halbadier, III et al., 2011-43194: Presided over complex dispute between real estate developers, title company and escrow agents. Plaintiff contended it lost a lucrative real estate deal through conspiracy; breach of fiduciary duty; violations of various statutes by defendants’ breaches of a series of contracts, including failure to close under an earnest money contract for a large tract of property near a new international corporate headquarters; breach of an agency contract; and breach of an assignment contract with prospective investors for financing. Defendants had competing counterclaims for breaches of the contracts.
- David Stauffer Pipe Services Inc. v. Richard Gerring, 2008-27385: Presided over complex real property title dispute between two purported owners involving tax liens, a lease, a sublease, a contract for deed, a trustee’s deed after foreclosure and multiple allegations of fraud.
- Conklin v. Fry, 2011-01400: Presided over competing claims of fraud by spouses as to whether a parcel of real estate and the note selling the property should be characterized as separate or community property. Defendant claimed the family farm was separate property acquired through inheritance. Plaintiff claimed an interest in the note by virtue of a divorce decree. The defendant settled various claims on the property by cancelling the note, and the wife contested his authority. Property was sold under court authority, and the funds were ultimately disbursed by agreement.
- Capcor at Kirbymain, LLC v. Moody Nation Kirby Houstons, LLC, 2011-32904: Presided over jury trial of breach of contract claim for failing to close on a commercial real estate transaction. Defendant contended plaintiff’s offer of wire transfer and late presentment of a cashier’s check were untimely under the contract.
- Ma Vie Inc. v. RMC Property, 2009-56462: Presided over breach of lease case whereby the plaintiff alleged lockout, statements to subtenants and disposition of equipment amounted to breach of the lease, business disparagement and interference with contracts.
- Presided over numerous property disputes, including cases involving implied easements, adverse possession and claims for specific performance under purchase contracts.