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:
•Serves as an OSHA expert on interpretation and application of OSHA regulations.
•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.
Top Lawyers in Labor and Employment Law, H Texas Magazine, 2013, 2014
Articles / Publications
A Prairie Farm Companion (Or What Can Go Wrong With I've Got a Pen and I've Got a Phone) 3/28/2014
I've Got a Pen and I've Got a Phone 3/14/2014
OSHA Releases New Tools For Hospital Safety 2/3/2014
Proposed New Rules Relative to Silica Dust Exposure in the Workplace - DRI, The Critical Path 1/9/2014
OSHA Attorneys Join Adams and Reese Houston Office 9/16/2011
Surma Interviewed on OSHA Citations Issued Against Ohio Employer Formed Fiber Technologies 7/17/2014
Surma Interviewed in Article on OSHA Citations Against Sterling Shipyard 7/17/2014
OSHA Attorney John Surma Interviewed About New Workplace Safety Requirements 10/7/2011
Newsletters / Alerts
New Recordkeeping Rule from OSHA is a Game Changer 9/11/2014
OSHA Issues New Injury Reporting Rules 8/21/2014
The Latest On OSHA's Attempts to Protect Whistleblowers 6/9/2014
Six Spring OSHA Construction Updates 4/30/2014
OSHA Comments on Distracted Driving Initiative 4/21/2014
OSHA, the New Fracking Sheriff in Town 4/18/2014
OSHA Bulletin: Union Organizing's 800 Pound Gorilla 4/17/2014
OSHA and Temporary Workers 3/17/2014
OSHA Regulation and the Growing Popularity of Employee Leasing Programs 2/10/2014
OSHA Releases New Tools For Hospital Safety 1/16/2014
OSHA's Regulatory Agenda for 2014 1/10/2014
OSHA's Newly Proposed Record Keeping Rule Change 12/10/2013
OSHA is Considering Changes to the PSM Standard 12/5/2013
OSHA: Transitioning to Safer Chemicals 11/12/2013
OSHA: Proposed New Rules Relative to Silica Dust Exposure in the Workplace 10/31/2013
OSHA Issues First Ever Highway Safety Directive 10/30/2012
OSHA Extends Enforcement Measures in Residential Construction 10/1/2012
OSHA Issues Directive for Marine Cargo Handling Industry 8/24/2012
Retailers Facing Increased Scrutiny by OSHA 7/20/2012
OSHA to Inspect 41,000 Workplaces this Year 6/14/2012
OSHA's Campaign to Prevent Heat Illness 6/1/2012
OSHA Issues New Process Safety Management Standard for Cold Storage and Chemical Manufacturing Facilities 1/6/2012
OSHA Attorneys Join Adams and Reese Houston Office 9/16/2011