Robert C. Hilliard (attorney)

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Robert C. Hilliard
Robert Hilliard in front of a court house
Other names Bob Hilliard
Education
Occupation Attorney
Years active 1983–present
Known for Motor vehicle liability litigation

Robert C. Hilliard is an American lawyer notable for representing plaintiffs in several cases involving motor vehicle defects including the General Motors ignition switch recalls.

Early life[edit]

Hilliard grew up in Newton, Texas.[1]

He attended St. Edward's University in Austin, Texas, where he enrolled on a tennis scholarship, graduating summa cum laude with a bachelor's degree in English in 1980.[2] While at St. Edwards, Hilliard was a four-year letterman in tennis and St. Edward's Athlete of the Year for 1979–1980. In 1989, Hilliard was inducted into the St. Edward's Athletics Hall of Fame.[3] In 2016, he was given St. Edward's Distinguished Alumni Award.[4] He went on to attend St. Mary's University School of Law, in San Antonio, Texas, graduating with honors in 1983.[2]

Career[edit]

In 1986, Hilliard founded the law firm of Hilliard Muñoz Gonzales, LLP, in Corpus Christi, Texas.[5] The firm became Hilliard Martinez Gonzales L.L.P. in 2017 when founding partner Jacobo Munoz retired and John Martinez was made managing partner.

In 2009, Hilliard filed suit against the Texas Department of Aging and Disability Services for their responsibility in the so-called "fight club" incidents in the Corpus Christi State School. Cell phone videos had been discovered which depicted State School employees forcing mentally-disabled residents to fight each other.[6]

In 2012, Hilliard co-founded Hilliard & Shadowen, LLP, in Austin, Texas, a law firm that engages in antitrust and civil rights litigation.[7]

In 2015, he obtained an order from a Newton County judge granting a restraining order against Aetna Insurance, preventing the insurance company from denying life-saving cancer treatment for his client, Bobby Allen Bean.[8]

Motor vehicle lawsuits[edit]

In 2010, Hilliard represented Koua Fong Lee, a Hmong immigrant, who was wrongfully convicted of vehicular homicide after he was involved in an accident. His Toyota Camry, now recalled, had experienced sudden unintended acceleration and causing the death or injury of five people in June 2006. Koua, after serving 2.5 years of an 8-year sentence, was released after the end of a week-long hearing.[9][10] For his work in proving Koua's innocence, Hilliard received the Never Forgotten Award from the Innocence Project of Minnesota (IPMN) in 2010.[11]

On August 15, 2014, Hilliard was appointed by Federal Judge Jesse Furman of the Southern District of New York, as co-lead counsel in the National General Motors (GM) ignition switch litigation, where he had primary responsibility for all death and injury cases.[12] Hilliard represented 326 clients with liability claims, of which 53 involved a fatality. On May 2, 2014, Hilliard participated in a discussion session with Kenneth Feinberg who represented GM.[13] On June 30, 2014, Feinberg announced a plan to compensate the victims of the defect.[14]

In 2014, Hilliard defended and exonerated a woman previously convicted in the death of her boyfriend in an accident with ties to GM's ignition switch.[15] In August 2015, he successfully overturned the criminal conviction of another woman involved in an ignition switch incident.[16]

In November 2015, Hilliard was retained by Bexar and Nueces counties in Texas, as part of a team to file environmental enforcement actions against Volkswagen in regard to EPA violations.[17][18]

Hernández vs. Mesa[edit]

Hilliard speaks to reporters outside the Supreme Court

Hilliard represents the family of Sergio Hernández, an unarmed 15-year-old Mexican citizen who was shot and killed by a US Border Patrol agent in 2010. Hernández was standing on Mexican soil when shot. Hilliard is also representing the family of Guillermo Arevalo Pedraza, who was killed under similar circumstances by a different US Border Patrol agent.[19] The cases had sparked a confrontation between former Mexican President Felipe Calderón and former US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.[20]

A federal judge had initially dismissed the Hernández family's case. However, that decision was overturned by a panel of judges in the Fifth Circuit, allowing that a Mexican national, standing in Mexico, possesses Fourth Amendment constitutional rights that allow him to sue a United States Border Patrol Agent for excessive use of force across the US border.[21][22] The Fifth Circuit granted rehearing en banc of the panel's decision. Oral arguments were held on Jan. 21, 2015, and the court decided to vacate the panel's decision.[23]

On October 11, 2016, the United States Supreme Court granted Hilliard's petition for a writ of certiorari to determine if a Mexican citizen standing in Mexico has protections against being wrongly shot by a border patrol agent standing in the United States. Hilliard presented oral arguments to the Court on behalf of the Hernandez family on February 21, 2017.[21][22][24] The U.S. Supreme Court reversed the Fifth Circuit's decision and remanded the case.

Major League Baseball[edit]

Hilliard filed a lawsuit against Major League Baseball urging MLB to expand netting at ballparks.[25] The suit cites numerous injuries at ballparks, but was filed before a September 2017 incident that prompted MLB players to demand netting be increased at stadiums.[26] Of the September 2017 incident, Twins player Brian Dozier stated: "Every stadium needs to have nets. That's it. I don't care about the damn view of a fan or what. It's all about safety. I still have a knot in my stomach. I don't know if you guys saw it, but I hope the kid's OK. We need nets. Or don't put kids down there."[26] Not long after Hilliard filed his class-action suit, all MLB teams had agreed to install extended netting to protect fans from foul balls and bats escaping the player's grip.[27]

Danny Ray Thomas Shooting[edit]

Attorneys Bob Hilliard and Ben Crump at the Danny Ray Thomas Press Conference in Houston, Texas

On March 22, 2018, Danny Ray Thomas was shot and killed by Harris County Deputy Cameron Brewer during an incident at a busy Houston intersection. Mr. Thomas, who had a history of mental illness and was clearly in distress, was unarmed and walking in the intersection with his pants around his ankles. The deputy shot him in the chest just moments after arriving on the scene.

On April 12, Bob Hilliard joined forces with Florida civil rights attorney, Ben Crump, to file a lawsuit on behalf of Mr. Thomas's family, holding Deputy Brewer and the county responsible for the wrongful death.[28]

Zeke Upshaw Death[edit]

On March 24, 2018, while playing for the Grand Rapids Drive against the Long Island Nets, Zeke Upshaw suddenly collapsed on the court in full cardiac arrest. Delaying life-saving measures such as CPR or defibrillation, the on-site medical team transported Zeke to the hospital where he died two days later without regaining consciousness.

On behalf of Zeke's mother, Jewel Upshaw, Texas attorney Bob Hilliard and Florida civil rights lawyer Ben Crump have filed a wrongful death lawsuit, which they announced at a press conference on May 30 at U.S. District Court in New York City. Hilliard and Crump are bringing legal action against the NBA, The Detroit Pistons, the Grand Rapids Drive and the Deltaplex Arena where the game was held.[29][30]

Philanthropy[edit]

In 2011, Hilliard established St. Edward's University's Brother Emmett Strohmeyer, CSC and Paul J. Weber '80 Memorial Endowed Scholarship in honor of Brother Emmett Strohmeyer, his tennis coach and mentor and Paul J. Weber, his classmate and teammate.

In April 2017, Hilliard Martinez Gonzales donated $6,500 to United Way of the Coastal Bend to fund 1,000 school supply bags for students in the San Diego Independent School District in San Diego, Texas. In this district, the majority of students qualify for free or reduced lunch.[31] Hilliard's wife, attorney Catherine Hilliard, grew up in San Diego.

In May 2017, the Hilliards donated $1 million to Incarnate Word Academy in Corpus Christi, Texas for a new, 14,000-square-foot elementary level Montessori building.[32]

Media Coverage[edit]

  • Carlyle, Erin (October, 2011). "The Bulldog" [1]
  • Taylor, Beth (October, 2017). "Robert Hilliard Cries Foul Against Major League Baseball" [2]
  • Taylor, Beth (March, 2018). "Class Action Hastens MLB's Extension of Safety Netting" [3]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Corpus Christi Caller-Times Obituary Notices". obits.caller.com. Retrieved 2017-04-25. 
  2. ^ a b Carlyle, Erin (October 2011). "The Bulldog: Bob Hilliard Takes on the Cases Other Lawyers Won't Touch–and Wins" (PDF). Texas Super Lawyers. Retrieved 12 May 2015. 
  3. ^ "Hilltop Athletics: St. Edward's Athletics Hall of Fame". St. Edward's University. St. Edward's University. Retrieved 2 September 2015. 
  4. ^ "Alumni Award Honorees 2016 | St. Edward's University in Austin, Texas". www.stedwards.edu. Retrieved 2018-03-19. 
  5. ^ "Attorney Profile". Super Lawyers. Super Lawyers. Retrieved 12 May 2015. 
  6. ^ "Suit filed in alleged 'fight club' at school for mentally handicapped - CNN.com". www.cnn.com. Retrieved 2018-03-19. 
  7. ^ Lipkin, Michael. "Border Agent Has Immunity for Teen's Shooting: 5th Cir". Law 360. Law 360. Retrieved 12 May 2015. 
  8. ^ Acker, Joe Van. "Aetna Ordered to Allow Man's Cancer Treatment". Law360. Law360. Retrieved 13 August 2015. 
  9. ^ Forliti, Amy (2015-02-03). "Jury: Toyota must pay $11M to victims of fatal crash". MSN.com. Retrieved 2017-04-24. 
  10. ^ Baran, Madeleine. "Koua Fong Lee, convicted in Toyota crash, free after judge grants new trial". Retrieved 2017-04-24. 
  11. ^ "Unlikely twosome unlocked cell door". Star Tribune. Retrieved 2018-03-19. 
  12. ^ Dye, Jessica. "U.S. Judge Appoints Lead Counsel for GM Ignition-Switch Cases". Reuters. Reuters. Retrieved 12 May 2015. 
  13. ^ Stout, Hilary. "G.M. Talks to Families With Claims Over Defects". The New York Times. The New York Times. Retrieved 18 August 2015. 
  14. ^ "Feinberg announces how GM switch victims will be paid". USA TODAY. Retrieved 2017-04-24. 
  15. ^ Ruiz, Rebecca. "Woman Cleared in Death Tied to GM's Faulty Ignition Switch". The New York Times. The New York Times. Retrieved 18 August 2015. 
  16. ^ Isidore, Chris (2015-08-26). "GM Cobalt driver has manslaughter conviction overturned". CNNMoney. Retrieved 2017-04-24. 
  17. ^ Virgin, Yami; Hoffman, Chris. "Bexar County looking at lawsuit against Volkswagen". WOAI. Retrieved 2017-04-24. 
  18. ^ Garcia, Julie. "Nueces County plans possible lawsuit against Volkswagen". Corpus Christi Caller Times. Corpus Christi Caller Times. Retrieved 5 December 2015. 
  19. ^ Bennett, Brian; Tanfani, Joseph (2014-10-18). "A family outing, then a deadly Border Patrol shooting". Los Angeles Times. ISSN 0458-3035. Retrieved 2017-04-25. 
  20. ^ "Attorney Profile: Robert C. Hilliard". Super Lawyers. Super Lawyers. Retrieved 2 September 2015. 
  21. ^ a b Sands, Geneva; Taylor, Audrey (2017-02-21). "Supreme Court hears case of teen shot dead in Mexico by border agent in US". ABC News. Retrieved 2017-04-24. 
  22. ^ a b Totenberg, Nina (2017-02-21). "Supreme Court To Decide If Mexican Nationals May Sue For Border Shooting". NPR. Retrieved 2017-04-24. 
  23. ^ "Opinion" (PDF). United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit. Retrieved 23 May 2015. 
  24. ^ "Oral Argument Recording". Oyez. Retrieved 21 Feb 2017. 
  25. ^ Knoblauch, Austin. "Lawsuit Seeks to Have MLB Extend Safety Netting to Foul Poles". Los Angeles Times. Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 21 September 2017. 
  26. ^ a b Joseph, Andrew. "Twins Player Demands MLB to Require Stadium Nets". USA Today. USA Today. Retrieved 21 September 2017. 
  27. ^ "Robert C.Hilliard - Texas Lawyers - Class Action Hastens MLB's Extension of Safety Netting". Super Lawyers. Retrieved 2018-03-19. 
  28. ^ Dart, Tom (2018-04-12). "Family of unarmed black man killed by Texas police file wrongful death lawsuit". the Guardian. Retrieved 2018-06-11. 
  29. ^ "Examining the Zeke Upshaw lawsuit against the NBA". SI.com. Retrieved 2018-06-11. 
  30. ^ "NBA Faces Questions, Lawsuit in Hopeful's On-Court Death". Retrieved 2018-08-10. 
  31. ^ https://www.ed-data.org/district/San-Diego/San-Diego-Unified
  32. ^ Sabawi, Fares. ""IWA Holds Groundbreaking Ceremony for New Building."". Corpus Christi Caller Times. Corpus Christi Caller Times. Retrieved 4 June 2017. 

External links[edit]

  • Profile at Hilliard Muñoz Gonzales, LLP