Each month, we like to feature one of our attorneys to help you get to know our team better. We sat down with one of our Houston attorneys, Patrice McKinney, to talk about her background in the legal field and what she is currently working on.
What led you to a legal career?
I quit law school to marry a lawyer, but I continued to pursue two master’s degrees — one in English and one in sports health — and was working toward a Ph.D. in English. Eventually, my husband accepted a job in Houston, which has several great law schools. After watching my husband practice law for 15 years, I finally said: “I can do that,” and I did.
What has been your most interesting or memorable case and why?
One of the most interesting and memorable cases I’ve worked on was when I gave my first closing argument. It was a complicated case involving several causes of action — will contest of a forged will, tortious interference with inheritance rights, breach of fiduciary duty as a trustee, and fraud. Our client, the plaintiff, was the adopted daughter of the deceased rich rancher who owned 40,000 acres of West Texas ranchland. We thought the jury would be sympathetic to the 76-year-old widow defendant who looked fragile and frail but was meaner than the dickens.
In order to prevail on the will contest and tortious interference with inheritance rights causes of action, we had to prove that the defendant had forged the will that disinherited our client. The defendant’s brother who organized the forgery pled the Fifth on the stand.
I handled the damages witnesses in the case, and one of them testified about how the defendant had locked her grandsons (who were under 10 years old at the time) off the ranch. She would not even allow them to get their horses or the saddles that their deceased grandfather specifically wanted them to have.
After two weeks of trial, the jury came back with a $9.6 million verdict. It was a bifurcated trial, and it took the jury 27 minutes to come back with $5 million in punitive damages — so much for fragile and frail.
What litigation are you currently working on?
I’m currently representing my first female conductor who lost her lower left leg in a switching operation in a railyard, and I recently settled an oilfield explosion case that killed an 18-year-old man. I’ve handled all types of personal injury cases through the years and have done pro bono work in other areas. I’ve successfully resolved multiple FELA, trucking, automobile and oilfield-related injury cases, as well as plant explosions.
What are one or two things about you that most people don’t know?
While growing up in West Texas, I was a contestant in the Miss Rattlesnake, Miss Tumbleweed and Miss Cotton pageants.
I also act and have played a file box, a mermaid, Hillary Clinton, Dolly Parton and Baby Bop. My most recent roles have been as RBG — Ruth Bader Ginsburg — and suffragette Carrie Chapman Catt. I also appear as an elf every now and then.