Garrett, Letbetter & Payne is a personal injury law firm. Tommy R. Letbetter and George Payne have specialized in handling cases for railroad workers and their families for over four decades.
Tommy R. Letbetter joined Max Garrett immediately after graduation from Baylor Law School in 1964. George Payne joined Max and Tommy in 1970, after working as a briefing attorney for the Fourteenth Court of Appeals in Houston. After many years of faithful service to our clients, our friend and mentor, Max, is deceased.
Tommy has 170 jury verdicts with 74 verdicts coming against railroads in F.E.L.A. cases. Tommy and George have obtained jury verdicts on virtually every type of personal injury case, but they are most widely known by railroad workers and railroads for their success in F.E.L.A. litigation. Although Tommy and George have represented railroad workers and their families from Louisiana, Tennessee, Arkansas, Oklahoma and Kansas, their F.E.L.A. roots are strong and deep in the state of Texas, and particularly in the Houston area. They have aggressively pursued hundreds of cases involving the Union Pacific Railroad and its corporate predecessors, the Union Pacific and Southern Pacific; the Burlington Northern Santa Fe, and its corporate predecessors, the Burlington Northern and the Atchison Topeka and Santa Fe; and the largest terminal railroad on the Texas gulf coast, the Port Terminal Railroad Association, whose primary members are the Union Pacific and Burlington Northern.
Tommy and George have investigated, completed legal discovery, and tried cases involving almost every kind of railroad operation and equipment. During the course of litigation they have collected past and present rules, regulations, codes, timetables, guidelines, directives, videos, standards, photographic depictions and aerial photographs necessary to win railroad cases, and which are also invaluable in analyzing, preparing, and winning present railroad cases.
During their careers, Tommy and George have taken and preserved thousands of depositions of railroad officers, managers, employees, and experts hired by the railroad industry to testify against railroad employees. The wealth of knowledge contained in this sworn testimony has provided the evidence needed to prove the negligence of railroads in a variety of cases in the past, and is also necessary to the successful preparation of present cases, and litigation in the future.
Access to an extensive base of evidence allows Tommy and George to develop cases quickly and efficiently. This foundation forces early trial dates and requires defendant railroads to decide on a fair settlement or risk trial at an early date.
Tommy and George PERSONALLY handle all of the case interviews, consultations, investigations, supervision, pleadings, discovery, depositions and trials for every case they take. They do not hire paralegals, assistants or lawyers unfamiliar with railroads and railroad work to do the work that experienced F.E.L.A. attorneys should do. They do not seek cases involving the representation of large numbers of class action clients whose damages and injuries should be fully and fairly evaluated on an individual case basis. They are committed to each client as an individual who deserves individual representation.
Careful preparation based on knowledge gained from experience is essential to Tommy’s and George’s approach to F.E.L.A. cases.
In the first case of its kind to reach the Texas Court of Appeals, Tommy and George successfully appealed a case in which the appellate court held that an injured railroad worker could pursue a claim under the Federal Employer’s Liability Act for oversized rock ballast in a railroad yard. Hendrix v. Port Terminal Railroad Association, 196 S.W.3d 188 (2006).
In Means v. Port Terminal Railroad Association, Tommy and George obtained a ruling from the Texas Court of Appeals requiring the general manager of a railroad to give his deposition in a case despite the railroad’s claim that it was not necessary for him to do so.
Tommy and George know that being prepared for success today is built on aggressive work in the past. In 1978 Tommy received what may have been the first Texas jury verdict in favor of a railroad worker for hearing loss. In 1981, Roe v. PTRA, 620 S.W.2d 870, they represented an injured railroad worker who was allowed to recover under the Safety Appliance Act because a grab iron moved ½ inch.