Focusing his practice in the area of regulatory compliance involving the United States Department of Labor-OSHA, state OSHA programs, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, and the United States Chemical Safety Board, John D. Surma joined Adams and Reese in 2011 as Special Counsel in the firm's Houston office.
Practicing law since 1995, John guides clients who wish to achieve and maintain regulatory compliance related to employee health and safety. He has assisted many clients deal with catastrophes and near-catastrophic situations and represents them before the various regulatory agencies and boards that have oversight responsibility, including the US Department of Labor OSHA, various state OSHA programs, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, and the US Chemical Safety Board. In addition to the purely regulatory, John provides clients with advice related to risk management; and he performs or assists clients with investigations of catastrophic injuries and deaths. He has experience with deaths and injuries arising from plant and refinery explosions and fires; construction accidents; pipeline accidents; failure of mechanical equipment; failure of safety programs; improper operation of equipment; electrocutions; falls; failure to use personal protective equipment; chemical releases; structural failures; and a number of other causes. His clients include refiners, chemical companies, manufacturing companies, construction companies, engineering firms, industrial service companies and nuclear energy companies.
In addition to his regulatory practice, John is also experienced in personal injury litigation, product liability litigation, construction defect litigation and contract disputes. John currently serves one of his clients as its general counsel.
John is admitted to practice in both Texas and Wisconsin and also the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals. In Texas, he practices in front of all Texas State Courts, the Southern District Federal Court of Texas and the Eastern District Federal Court of Texas. In Wisconsin, he can appear before the Supreme Court of Wisconsin, the Wisconsin Court of Appeals, all Wisconsin Circuit Courts and the Eastern and Western District Federal Courts.
John's representative experience includes:
· Securing withdrawal of OSHA citations arising from a 2011 death in a chemical plant for a client in 2012.
· Securing withdrawal of OSHA citations arising from a 2011 death of a forklift driver for a client in 2012.
· Led a client through an OSHA inspection arising from the death of a contractor's employee as a result of a valve failing in a petroleum refinery, the result of which was OSHA not issuing citations to the client. In conjunction with the litigation arising from the preceding incident, obtained summary judgment on behalf of the client in the case brought by the employee's family.
· Led a client through an OSHA inspection arising from the death of an employee involved in construction of a large steel building and negotiated a favorable outcome for the client.
· Resolved the wrongful death case against the construction company involved in the above-referenced incident within the client's insurance policy limits.
· Successfully negotiated a favorable resolution of WYOSHA citations arising from the death of a pipeline x-ray inspector.
· Provided guidance to a manufacturer of components used in the nuclear power industry concerning compliance with the notification requirements of 10 CFR 21 and assisted client create the documents required for compliance.
· Resolved an engineering malpractice/construction defect case with a $4.95 million settlement on behalf of his client, a chemical manufacturer. The contract with the engineering firm was for less than $125,000 and the cost of the original project was less than $1.2 million.
In the legal industry, John is an active member of the Defense Research Institute and the Texas Association of Defense Counsel.
John earned his J.D. from the University of Wisconsin Law School in 1994 and received his B.S., summa cum laude, from University of Wisconsin-Platteville in 1992.
Among the people John admires are those who have built this country, worked hard, gave their all, and expected nothing in return but an opportunity to do better than their parents, to provide for their families, and to make the world a little better for having been here.
In his spare time, John can be found typically working with heavy equipment, tending to his orchard, fishing and hunting.
Professional Memberships / Affiliations
American Bar Association - Section of Labor and Employment, Occupational Safety and Health Law Committee
Defense Research Institute
Texas Bar Association
Houston Bar Association
Texas Association of Defense Counsel
Wisconsin Bar Association
"Top Lawyers" in Labor and Employment Law, H Texas Magazine, 2013