The recent string of Metrolink commuter accidents has helped midwife Los Angeles' newest tort boutique.

Ringler Kearney Alvarez opened for business on Feb. 1 and will represent passengers injured when a Metrolink train hit a vehicle in Glendale last year, along with victims of another crash in Placentia and a third crash in Burbank that caused one passenger to become a paraplegic.

The firm is led by attorney Jerry Ringler, who tried the first 150 suits prompted by an April 2002 head-on collision between a Southern California Regional Rail Authority commuter train and a Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway freight train that killed two people in Placentia. So far he's won a $9 million verdict for one injured passenger. Ringler also won a $160 million insurance fraud verdict representing a doctor's group against Nor Cal Leavitt Insurance in 2003.

Ringler said the new firm is an ideal partnership because of his extensive trial experience and attorneys' Tom Kearney and Paul Alvarez's talent in trial preparation.

"We joined on a case where (my partners) wanted a significantly experienced trial attorney to join in various lawsuits where they were handling the pretrial litigation, and we found we worked extraordinarily well together," Ringler said. "While all of us are capable of preparing a case and all of us can try a case, my greater strengths are in trial and their greater strengths are in preparing cases."

Alvarez and Kearney have been representing plaintiffs for the past five years with an emphasis on class action and complex financial matters. They have also done commercial litigation and appellate work.

Although the firm's initial slate of suits is rail-heavy, Ringler said personal torts will only be a component of the practice. They will try business torts, financial fraud and wage-and-hour cases. The firm plans to file several new cases this month.

Family Heirlooms
Just who has the rights to works found after the death of musicians and other artists? Family members or corporate entities such as Hollywood studios and recording companies?

A recent decision involving the estate of Hank Williams and Polygram Records Inc. is shining a light on this murky area. A Tennessee Court of Appeals decision on Jan. 20 affirmed a trial court's earlier decision in favor of Williams' heirs, Jett and Hank Williams Jr.

In their case against Legacy Entertainment Group LLC and Polygram Records, the two sons secured ownership and distribution rights of 10 hours of recorded material. No dollar amount has been tied to these recordings, though Williams' material remains popular more than 50 years after he died.


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