Steve Watkins has an active trial practice involving complex commercial and general, oil and gas, energy, employment, trust, and family litigation matters. He is also a former appointed member of the Board of Disciplinary Appeals for The Supreme Court of Texas, which has original and appellate jurisdiction in lawyer discipline cases. During his eight-year tenure with the Board (including serving as chairman from 1994 to 1999), Steve participated in deciding several hundred compulsory discipline cases and several thousand classification appeals.

Complex Business Litigation 

Steve’s experience includes:

  • Defending and obtaining an instructed verdict at trial for the owner of a regional shopping center sued for including a use restriction in its leases.
  • Obtaining an instructed verdict in a jury trial for a company sued with others in a trespass-to-try title action concerning real property improved with a multi-story office building.
  • Obtaining the reversal of a summary judgment granted against six financial institutions in a case concerning a substantial permanent loan commitment. The summary judgment was granted by the United States District Court for the Southern District of Texas, Houston Division, and reversed by the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit.
  • Serving as the principal writer of an appellate brief in a case brought by a wholesale liquor distributor to enforce a settlement agreement against an international liquor manufacturer. Judgment for the client was rendered in the United States District Court for the Southern District of Texas, Houston Division, and affirmed by the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit.
  • Representing a French corporation in obtaining its dismissal from a case brought by a Texas corporation alleging breach of contract. The dismissal was obtained in the United States District Court for the Southern District of Texas, Houston Division, on the grounds that the client was not personally amenable to the jurisdiction of U.S. courts. The United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit confirmed the order dismissing the client from the case. A per curiam opinion of the Fifth Circuit was not reported.
  • Arguing and obtaining a summary judgment in favor of a Texas plaintiffs’ firm in a breach of contract case involving a substantial amount of attorneys’ fees. The summary judgment obtained by the client was affirmed on appeal.
  • Representing two real estate developers in a jury trial involving promissory notes, real estate valuation and foreclosure issues and obtaining judgment against a limited partnership and its general partners, who had been joined by the clients as third party defendants. Judgment for clients on their third party action was affirmed on appeal.
  • Successfully representing a health insurer in an arbitration involving claims asserted by nineteen independent practice associations seeking recovery of damages.
  • Obtaining a substantial jury verdict for an international corporation (as co-counsel), in a dispute involving a damaged generator that was part of a CT Unit.
  • Successfully representing a large metropolitan school district in a lawsuit relating to its losses sustained as a result of Tropical Storm Allison.
  • Representing an international transportation broker in a non-jury case involving hazardous waste shipments at trial, and on appeal to the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals
  • Successfully obtaining for a large, well-known laundry and cleaning company, with many locations, both temporary and permanent injunctions against a company attempting to violate the trade mark and trade dress of the client.

ESTATE, TRUST & PROBATE LITIGATION

  • Obtaining a summary judgment in probate court on behalf of an individual client, where the court granted a declaratory judgment that construed in the client’s favor the legal effect of an in terrorem clause contained in a trust. The case was affirmed on appeal.
  • Representing a county judge in a non-jury case where the plaintiff sought the removal of the judge as the trustee of a trust and the recovery of damages.
  • Successfully obtaining in probate court, for a temporary guardian of the person of a ward, both temporary and permanent injunctions against an individual defendant who was alleged to be interfering with the duties of the temporary guardian. An appeal of the case by the adverse party was dismissed by a sua sponte order of the court of appeals.
  • Successfully obtaining for an individual client in a contested trial in probate court an appointment to serve as the temporary guardian of a relative.
  • Achieving a favorable result for an individual trustee in a suit tried in probate court for an accounting.
  • Achieving a favorable result for an individual trustee, after trial in probate court and subsequent appeals to the court of appeals and Supreme Court of Texas, where removal of the trustee was sought.
  • Achieving a successful resignation, release and indemnity for individual trustees who sought to resign as trustees of a substantial trust.
  • Successfully defending against an application by an interim trustee of a trust to sell a significant piece of real property owned by the trust.

OIL& GAS/ENERGY LITIGATION

  • Representing an international oil company at trial and on appeal where the plaintiff sought damages concerning a maintenance of interest provision in a joint operating agreement.
  • Representing an international oil company in a seven-week jury trial where the plaintiffs sought substantial damages concerning a complex real estate transaction.
  • Obtaining a jury verdict for an international oil company (as co-counsel), in a jury trial where the plaintiff sought damages concerning an incentive program, and in subsequent appeals to the Court of Appeals and Supreme Court of Texas.
  • Representing an electrical retail provider in an arbitration of a breach of contract claim with a telemarketer, and subsequent court proceedings related thereto.
  • Successfully representing an international oil company in connection with issues related to access to, and oil and gas royalty issues related to, a major South Texas Ranch.
  • Achieving a favorable result for a major energy company in a case brought by an electrical utility asserting a breach of contract and seeking an award of substantial damages.

EMPLOYMENT

  • Defending a cable-splicing company in a case brought by the United States Department of Labor to recover overtime compensation alleged to be due to numerous cable splicers. The United States District Court for the Southern District of Texas, Houston Division, rendered a judgment for the client, which was affirmed by the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit. A per curiam opinion of the Fifth Circuit was not reported.
  • Successfully defending a delivery service company against claims that drivers were employees rather than independent contractors
  • Obtaining an arbitration award against two doctors enforcing a covenant not to compete and establishing amounts to be paid by the two doctors in a buy out of the covenant.
  • Achieving a favorable result for a founder and former executive asserting a breach of an employment contract against an international engineering firm.
  • Achieving a favorable result for two former executives asserting a breach of an employment contract against a healthcare company.
  • Successfully representing an executive and his company in a case involving a claim alleging harassment
  • Successfully representing an executive against a claim alleging harassment

Family Law Litigation

During his career as a trial lawyer, Steve has handled over one-hundred forty divorce cases, involving such diverse issues as complex property disputes, characterization of assets, division of retirement plans, division of incentive plans, possession and access of children, and custody of children.

  • Texas Bar Foundation, Life Fellow
  • State Bar of Texas (Recipient, President’s Special Recognition, 1993)
  • Houston Bar Foundation, Life Fellow
  • Houston Bar Association
  • Supreme Court of Texas Board of Disciplinary Appeals (Chairman 1994-99, Member 1992-2000)
  • Texas Association of Defense Counsel
  • International Association of Defense Counsel
  • American Board of Trial Advocates
  • International Society of Barristers, Fellow