Morgan L. Copeland, Jr.

Partner

Phone: 832-849-1801

Fax: 832-849-1799

mcopeland@copelandrice.com

For over 35 years, I have successfully represented plaintiffs and defendants and first chaired cases to verdict.  Like many law school grads joining the litigation department of a large law firm in a big city in the early 1980s, I began my professional career working on large cases with partners and on a handful of smaller “insurance defense” cases of my own. Intent on trying lawsuits, I asked for more responsibility and, within five years, I had sole accountability for 150 cases and had taken a number of them to trial.

Successfully resolving a large docket and working largely on my own during these early years taught me many lessons, including self-reliance, focus on core strategic issues and objectives, and how to relate to judges and juries in unfamiliar and sometimes hostile jurisdictions.  These lessons serve me and my clients well today.

Board Certified in Civil Trial Law and Personal Injury Trial Law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization and a Member of the American Board of Trial Advocates, my practice includes a broad spectrum of litigation matters, including complex business and commercial disputes and high profile tort litigation. I have successfully handled disputes involving complex corporate transactions, cases arising from pipeline explosions and releases, environmental/toxic tort cases, products liability cases, oil and gas/energy disputes, and construction litigation. I have also served as lead trial counsel (when paired with patent law specialists) for highly specialized patent infringement cases and handled nationwide litigation involving well-known products, statewide and national MDLs, and strategic coordination with lawyers all over the country. I have been recognized as one of the Best Lawyers in America by Woodward White, Inc. for over a decade and selected as a Texas Super Lawyer by Thomson Reuters for over 15 years.

In 2014, I left Vinson & Elkins LLP after three decades to fulfill a long-held dream of building a litigation-only firm.  Copeland & Rice embodies that ideal.  At Copeland & Rice we believe that through the boutique model we can most efficiently and effectively provide high quality trial counsel, while at the same time offering greater flexibility due to low overhead and fewer conflicts. Our great results and focus on listening carefully to our clients have earned us the privilege of representing leading companies across Texas and the nation.

Prior results do not guarantee a similar outcome.

Affiliations

  • Member: Defense Research Institute; International Association of Defense Counsel; Texas Association of Defense Counsel
  • Fellow: Texas Bar Foundation; Houston Bar Foundation

Publications & Presentations

Representative Matters

Catastrophic Event

  • Served as co-lead trial counsel in defending Colonial Pipeline Company in the first case to be tried arising from the rupture of four petroleum pipelines and the largest inland gasoline spill in U.S. history and a large fire. The plaintiffs claimed personal injuries and property damage, and sought millions in punitive damages.  Following a 12-week trial, a Jefferson County (Beaumont), Texas, jury rendered a unanimous verdict of no liability and causation on behalf of Colonial.  These plaintiffs were the part of a larger group of 17,000 persons who brought suit in more than 40 lawsuits filed in five counties, and the trial was selected by The National Law Journal as the nation’s top environmental/toxic tort defense victory, one of 15 cases in various categories receiving similar recognition.
  • Represented the owner and operator of a large natural gas pipeline that was struck by a third-party contractor resulting in an explosion that killed one person and injured others and resulted in multiple lawsuits and regulatory action. My involvement began in the immediate aftermath of the incident and continued through the resolution of the litigation matters.
  • Represented an energy company in connection with a salt dome gas storage facility gas release and fire; participated in the response to the incident in anticipation of litigation and claims and represented the company in litigation brought by area residents and businesses.

Environmental/Toxic Tort/Class Action Litigation

  • Represented a major international mining company in a class action and a companion personal injury case arising from a smelter located near a small Oklahoma community that ceased operations 40 years ago.  The cases involved claims of air, soil and groundwater contamination and allegations of nuisance, trespass, and strict liability; the remedies sought included damages to real property and injunctive relief in the form of additional environmental remediation and a court established medical monitoring fund.
  • Represented a major international mining company in a case filed by a public entity asserting property damage to a road system allegedly arising from the historical use of byproducts taken from a nearby smelter (that ceased operations decades before suit was filed) over a long period of time for the construction and maintenance of roads and bridges.  The case involved claims of soil contamination from arsenic, lead, and cadmium, and allegations of nuisance, trespass, and strict liability, and plaintiff sought damages and injunctive relief.  Our client obtained a significant victory on dispositive motions and the case was subsequently resolved prior to trial.
  • Served as lead counsel in defending Colonial Pipeline Company against claims brought under the Oil Pollution Act of 1990 for the recovery of approximately $10 million in costs incurred in cleaning up a large oil spill and for possible penalties.  Suit was brought by the United States on behalf of the Coast Guard against Colonial Pipeline Company, and the case was settled shortly before trial on a basis very favorable to our client.
  • Represented the owner of a large paper mill located on the Houston Ship Channel in six cases filed in three counties by approximately 500 workers who claimed exposure to asbestos and other toxic substances during the course of a construction project conducted on the site.

Business/Commercial Litigation

  • Obtained summary judgment following substantial discovery on behalf of a midstream energy company and its private equity backer, who successfully bid on and acquired a group of midstream gas assets sold by a major energy company in a bid process conducted by an investment bank. Litigation was initiated by an unsuccessful bidder seeking substantial damages and claiming that our clients tortiously interfered with its agreement to purchase the assets. The summary judgment was affirmed by the Court of Appeals and the Texas Supreme Court refused to grant review following full briefing on the merits.
  • Obtained summary judgment on behalf of a pipeline company in a suit brought by the owner of a petrochemical facility, claiming damages of $12 million for property damage and lost profits allegedly attributable to a business interruption caused by a pipeline spill and fire.
  • Obtained the dismissal, after two weeks of trial in federal court, of a real estate broker who handled the sale of an industrial tract on behalf of the seller, a large chemical company, in a case brought by the purchaser against a variety of defendants, alleging fraud and other causes of action and millions of dollars in damages because, following the sale, the property was determined by federal environmental authorities to be contaminated.
  • Represented a gas marketing subsidiary of a major E&P company in seeking declaratory judgment that a construction contract relating to gas storage facility in Wyoming terminated by its terms due to the defendant’s failure to achieve commercial service by a date certain, relieving our client from any obligation under a dependent long-term storage agreement.

Oil and Gas Litigation

  • Represented an independent oil and gas company in a suit seeking to recover damages and other relief against a joint interest owner acting as operator for numerous oil and gas wells.  The case, which involved the operator’s conduct of operations related to a multiple well drilling program covering a large geographic area and claims relating to virtually every aspect of the development of the field, was settled on terms very favorable to our client.
  • Represented a major oil and gas company in a suit brought by a non-operating working interest owner, complaining of the design and completion of a deep Wilcox well and seeking to recover significant damages, including loss of production and out of pocket drilling costs, arising from a dry hole. The case was settled on favorable terms.
  • Represented current and former employees of an independent oil and gas company responsible for developing a substantial oil field in South Texas in a suit brought by royalty interest owners claiming trespass and seeking to invalidate leases included in the drilling unit surrounding a prolific oil and gas well.  Summary judgment was granted in favor of our clients by the trial court and affirmed by the Court of Appeals.
  • Represented various parties in cases involving drilling problems and equipment failures, including blowout preventers, tubulars, and downhole tools, resulting in loss or damage to oil and gas wells.
  • Represented a London insurance consortium and its insured, a drilling contractor, in a suit brought against the suppliers of defective oil field casing to recover monies paid out by the insurers and the uninsured losses of the drilling contractor. After three days of trial, the case settled for an amount that covered all losses sustained by the insurers and the insured contractor.

Product Liability

  • Represented Firestone in vehicle rollover and accident cases filed in the southeastern and southern portions of Texas; these cases included suits brought by foreign nationals involving accidents occurring in foreign venues, which presented forum non conveniens and venue issues.
  • Represented a major pharmaceutical manufacturer in a large number of cases filed by diet drug users.
  • Represented a truck manufacturer in a product liability case brought on behalf of a quadriplegic who was a passenger in an automobile.  Judgment was entered after a jury rendered a take-nothing verdict for our client and was affirmed on appeal.
  • Represented a national truck manufacturer in a product liability case brought on behalf of the driver of a commercial truck injured in an accident allegedly caused by a steering system design defect.   A component of the steering system in the truck had been the subject of an earlier recall. After a three-week trial, our client was exonerated by the jury’s finding of no liability.

Patent Infringement Litigation

  • Represented a telecommunications company in a patent infringement suit involving complex technology, alleged system wide infringement claims, and substantial damage claims.  The case was resolved on the eve of trial when the Court granted a pretrial motion, resulting in the dismissal of all infringement claims.
  • As co-counsel, represented the inventor of a method of trimming sprayed on truck bed liners in a suit brought against 15 defendants; settlements were reached with all defendants resulting in a favorable outcome for our client.
  • Represented the inventor of a method of manufacturing liquid crystal displays suitable for use in large screen televisions in a suit against the manufacturer of LCD televisions and a component manufacturer; the case was successfully resolved on the eve of trial.

Professional Malpractice

  • Represented a prominent law firm in a suit brought by a former client claiming multiple violations of the Texas Disciplinary Rules and other claims of malpractice, and seeking the disgorgement of a multi-million dollar fee as well as other damages.  In addition, plaintiffs intervened in a class action seeking to disqualify our client as class counsel; the matter was resolved following the denial of plaintiff’s motion to disqualify and the settlement of the remaining disputes on terms favorable to our client.