Texas Mutual’s General Counsel Awarded Magna Stella Award for In-House Counsel Excellence

Mary Barrow Nichols, senior vice president and general counsel for Texas Mutual Insurance Company, was awarded the 2012 Magna Stella Award for Major Litigation from the Texas General Counsel Forum during an awards dinner for the Forum’s 14th Annual Conference of General Counsel. The Magna Stella Awards program recognizes in-house excellence in Texas corporations, organizations and government agencies. The finalists were nominated by peers and selected by a panel of independent judges. Several hundred corporate counsel, as well as six Texas Supreme Court Justices, attended the dinner where the Magna Stella winners were announced.

Nichols was awarded a Magna Stella for Major Litigation based on three significant legal initiatives she has closed for Texas Mutual within the last year. Under her leadership:

  • The Texas Supreme Court closed the book on a “bad faith” suit that was seriously disruptive to the workers’ compensation industry, as well as the jurisprudence of the state. Nichols recognized that a victory was not only important for Texas Mutual, but also for the entire workers’ compensation industry.
  • Texas Mutual also enjoyed great success in its legal battles with a hospital that has filed hundreds of medical fee disputes, with the amounts of individual cases totaling more than $6.5 million. Nichols developed a cost-effective method of handling these disputes, and Texas Mutual obtained maximum results without maximum expenses.
  • Texas Mutual was also victorious in a case involving one of its policyholders, Port Elevator. The plaintiffs filed a wrongful death suit on the theory that Port Elevator did not have workers’ compensation insurance and originally obtained a $2.8 million judgment that was affirmed by the court of appeals. The Supreme Court of Texas reversed and rendered judgment for Port Elevator, holding that the workers’ compensation policy it purchased covered its temporary employees and barred the negligence suit.

“I am honored to have received a Magna Stella Award from such a distinguished group of my peers and sincerely thank the Forum for this recognition,” Nichols said. “I have represented Texas Mutual as its general counsel for nearly 20 years, and it continues to be a rewarding experience. These accomplishments were a team effort that required the support and encouragement of our board of directors and senior management, which was always generously supplied.”

“We nominated Mary based on her long-term, strategic thinking related to a series of cases that required appellate review to clarify the law for all participants in workers’ compensation cases,” said Pete Schenkkan, a senior attorney at Graves, Dougherty, Hearon & Moody, who has worked with Texas Mutual for many years. “Mary adopted a strategy, knowing that it would take many years to achieve the company’s goals, and then led multiple teams of lawyers through multiple cases to the Texas Supreme Court. It was truly a marvel to watch her execute on this effort.”

For more information about the 2012 Magna Stella Awards, please visit The General Counsel Forum.

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