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Alaina King Benford

Partner

Alaina King Benford

Houston

T:+1 713 651 3666

Alaina Benford is a skilled negotiator, trusted advisor and trial-tested litigator with nearly two decades of experience trying cases in state and federal courts where she has first-chaired jury trials to verdict.  She has represented clients of all sizes in multi-party cases involving energy disputes, eminent domain and condemnation matters, pipeline safety, real estate and land use litigation, construction disputes, maritime and admiralty matters, and defense of wrongful death and catastrophic energy-related personal injury claims.  Alaina has helped clients navigate all aspects of litigation, including fact and expert discovery, temporary and permanent injunctions, alternative dispute resolution, dispositive motion practice, arbitration and trial. 

Alaina joined the Houston office in 2000 and has been a partner since 2011.  A graduate of the American Board of Trial Advocates National Trial Academy, she serves as a faculty member of the firm's Trial Training Program for all first year litigation attorneys in the firm. 

Alaina serves on a number of firm committees and previously served as the Hiring Partner responsible for attorney employment in the Houston office. She is a frequent speaker at Continuing Legal Education programs across the country and serves in leadership positions on the boards of several non-profit organizations.

Alaina was one of five recipients of the firm's 2016 Global Inclusion Award in recognition of her embodiment of the firm's business principles of quality, unity and integrity and her contributions to the firm's diversity inclusion strategy, programs and employee networks.

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  • Education

    JD, magna cum laude, Thurgood Marshall School of Law, 2000
    BBA, Business Administration in Marketing, Texas Southern University, 1993

    Alaina was Editor-in-Chief of the Thurgood Marshall Law Review and she won first place in the Neal Speedon Moot Court competition while in law school. Alaina received American Jurisprudence Awards for achieving the highest grade in Contracts, Constitutional Law, and Criminal Procedure and she received recognition for best oral argument in Appellate Litigation. She was a recipient of the Houston Business Forum Scholarship and the Spouses of Houston Barristers Scholarship. 

    Alaina was admitted to practice law in Texas in 2000. She is also admitted to practice before the United States District Court for the Southern District of Texas.

  • Representative experience

    Commercial and Energy Litigation:

    • Currently representing global specialty chemical manufacturing company in pipeline safety matter involving heavy construction near its above-ground hydrogen chloride pipeline
    • Recently defended world's largest publicly traded international oil and gas company in AAA arbitration breach of contract dispute filed by terminated chemical facility operator. Panel bifurcated hearing upon our motion resulting in our client's claims being heard first; case settled on eve of first hearing
    • Recently resolved pipeline construction dispute for one of the largest pipeline master limited partnerships in the United States when prime contractor received payment but defaulted on $9 million in payments to subcontractors 
    • Assisted multi-national oil company in successful appeal of 100 year old title dispute brought by 40 plaintiffs seeking production income from or oil and gas interests in South Texas
    • Quieted title on Dubai-based development company's Galleria area multi-million dollar commercial property encumbered with a deed of trust lien obtained through fraud
    • Defended insurance company in jury trial against claims by owner of 250 unit apartment complex for breach of contract, violation of Texas Insurance Code's statutory duty of good faith for tropical storm related mold damage in excess of $4 million 
    • Defended construction contractor in multi-party breach of contract case brought by world's largest communications holding company for damage to fiber optic cables during construction of $70 million toll road; obtained favorable settlement
    • Lead counsel in interpleader action of commercial building owner in multi-party suit brought by party seeking sequestration of large medical imaging machines leased by tenant in the building where sequestration required the removal of the side of the building
    • Defended pipe manufacturer sued for breach of covenant not to compete; obtained favorable settlement
    • Lead counsel for management company of large apartment complex sued for wrongful death and premises liability by the family of a tenant killed by another tenant on the premises; obtained favorable settlement
    • Lead counsel in jury trial defending property seller against claims for DTPA violations, breach of contract and statutory fraud in a real estate transaction for alleged failure to disclose flooding on the property; obtained defense verdict and award of attorneys' fees
    • Lead counsel for upscale custom home builder sued for breach of contract and negligence related to hurricane damage to structure under construction; obtained summary judgment
    • Tried 14 cases to jury verdict, obtaining favorable verdicts in 13, involving Health and Safety Code violations as Prosecutor-on-Loan to City of Houston Municipal Court


    Eminent Domain and Condemnation / Easement Acquisition:

    Alaina has particular expertise in the area of eminent domain and condemnation and has represented international and national energy companies, governmental and property owners in more than 100 eminent domain and condemnation matters. She has advocated for clients at more than 35 three-panel special commissioners evidentiary hearings. Alaina is part of a small group of lawyers in Texas with extensive experience representing entities involved in acquiring easements, property and rights-of-way for large projects involving pipelines, water pipelines, transportation projects such as light rail, utilities, drainage systems and levees.

    • Obtained verdict in favor of largest natural gas-only distribution company in the United States as lead counsel in jury trial of three petitions for bill of review in condemnation cases involving natural gas storage facility
    • Obtained verdict in favor of joint venture LLC in bench trial on issue of company's right to condemn property for crude oil pipeline as a common carrier. Trial court judgment affirmed by 11th Court of Appeals in July 2016
    • Acquired easements and rights-of-way and handled pre and post construction disputes for joint venture's 300,000 barrel-per-day 20" crude oil pipeline spanning 450 miles from Colorado City, Texas to the refining market along the Houston Gulf Coast
    • Acquired fee title to numerous tracts of property through condemnation for transit authority's 7 mile expansion of its light rail transit system
    • Represented world's largest publicly traded international oil and gas company in dispute over the company's right to condemn an easement where the property owner argued that the company exceeded its authority and the taking severed the subject property; obtained summary judgment
    • Acquired multiple easements in condemnation proceedings for a major North American energy merchant for the construction of a 33-mile extension of a NGL pipeline into the Barnett Shale producing region in Texas and a second NGL pipeline from Hull, Texas to the company's Mont Belvieu NGL hub
    • Acquired numerous easements and rights-of-way for owner/operator of one of the largest common carrier pipelines of refined petroleum products and liquefied petroleum gases in the United States for the construction and operation of a common carrier pipeline
    • Represented a municipal utility district in the acquisition of multiple easements for the construction and improvement of a drainage system for storm water, floodwater and treated sewer water in Fort Bend County, Texas
    • Represented a regional water authority in acquiring permanent easements and rights-of-way to construct and install pipelines to provide water for residential, commercial, industrial and agricultural uses in Harris County, Texas
    • Represented a levee improvement district in the acquisition of easements for the purpose of improving a levee system and reconfiguring a right-of-way
    • Represented Houston's largest not-for-profit hospital system in state's condemnation of the hospital's property for freeway expansion 


    Energy-Related Catastrophic Injury Defense Litigation:

    Alaina regularly represents and defends global energy companies, drilling contractors and industrial companies in wrongful death and catastrophic personal injury matters arising from incidents on vessels, platforms and drilling rigs in the Outer Continental Shelf, in international waters, in oilfields, at refineries and on docks. As part of her representation, Alaina has learned her clients' operations by visiting their refineries and oilfields and staying overnight on offshore drilling rigs and platforms.
    • Lead defense counsel for world's largest multi-national oil company in wrongful death claim related to drowning near refinery; obtained summary judgment
    • Lead defense counsel for third largest energy company in the United States in multi-party wrongful death claim stemming from a platform explosion in international waters; obtained favorable settlement 
    • Lead defense counsel for casing contractor in multi-party litigation for claim of damages related to catastrophic personal injury to worker on offshore drilling platform; obtained favorable settlement
    • Represented drilling contractor in wrongful death suit involving the explosion of a pressurized well head system ("frac stack")
    • Lead defense counsel for port authority against worker's premises liability claim for personal injuries; obtained summary judgment  
    • Lead defense counsel for port stevedoring company against wrongful death and survival claims resulting from a laborer's exposure to asbestos  
    • Deposed over 75 plaintiffs and fact witnesses over 2 year period in defense of one of the world's largest engineering, procurement and construction contractors in multi-party litigation involving wrongful death and injury claims due to exposure to asbestos and silica
  • Admissions
    • Texas State Bar
  • Rankings and recognitions
    • Norton Rose Fulbright 2016 Global Inclusion Award
    • Houston's 50 Most Influential Women of 2015, Houston Woman Magazine, 2016
    • Top 50 Most Powerful Women in Law - Houston, National Diversity Council, 2017
    • Houston's Most Influential Women Lawyers, Women Looking Ahead Magazine, 2011
    • Houston's Top Lawyers, Business Litigation, H Texas Magazine, Bayou City Publishing, 2008
    • Who's Who in Black Houston: The Inaugural Edition, Who's Who Publishing Company, L.L.C., 2007
    • Texas Rising Star, Thomson Reuters, 2006
  • Publications
    • Co Author, "Supreme Court of Texas Raises the Bar for Qualifying as a Common Carrier Pipeline," Fulbright Alert, March 5, 2012
  • Speaking engagements
    • "Terminating Easements Due Diligence," Lorman Education Services Webinar, October 5, 2016
    • "Factors in Drafting Effective Easements," Best Practices for Right of Way Processes for Electric Transmission Conference, EUCI, San Diego, California, September 19-20, 2016 (Speaker and Seminar Chair) 
    • "Eminent Domain of Oil Pipelines," Association of Oil Pipe Lines 2016 Annual Business Conference, Chicago, Illinois, September 15, 2016
    • Keynote speaker, University of Houston Law Center Pre-Law Pipeline Program Closing Ceremony, Houston, Texas, July 29, 2016
    • "Pipeline Infrastructure and the Changing Landscape of Transporting Energy Resources," Thurgood Marshall School of Law Energy Symposium, Houston, Texas, October 1, 2015
    • "Critical Considerations for Easements on Agricultural Land," 5th Annual Improving Right of Way Processes for Electric Transmission Projects Conference, EUCI,  Phoenix, Arizona, September 24-25, 2015 (Speaker and Seminar Chair)
    • "Opting In: Balancing Work and Life," Norton Rose Fulbright Women's Energy Conference moderator, Houston, Texas, October 1, 2015
    • "Eminent Domain of Oil Pipelines," Association of Oil Pipe Lines 2015 Annual Business Conference, Atlanta, Georgia, September 17, 2015
    • Gender and Racial Bias in Partnership and Pay – School, Firm and Business Perspectives program panelist, American Bar Association TIPS, University of Houston Law Center, February 5, 2015
    • "Critical Considerations for Easements on Agricultural Land," 4th Annual Right of Way Processes For Electric Transmission, EUCI, Indianapolis, Indiana, October 23, 2014
    • "Texas Eminent Domain Law and Pipelines," National Business Institute Seminar on Eminent Domain From Start to Finish, Houston, Texas, May 20, 2013
    • "Defense Counsel's Perspective on Oil & Gas Litigation," Texas Wesleyan Law Review's Fifth Annual Energy Symposium, Fort Worth, Texas, March 21, 2013
    • "Lessons Learned on Linear Projects," 58th Annual International Right of Way Association International Education Conference, Seattle, Washington, June 12, 2012
    • "Is it a Taking if My Property Hasn't Been Taken?" South Texas College of Law, 27th Annual Real Estate Symposium, Houston, Texas, June 8, 2012
    • "U.S. Energy Policy," Moderator, Thurgood Marshall Law Review Energy Symposium, Houston, Texas, March 29, 2012
    • "Pipeline Perspective on Texas Land Rice Partners v. Denbury Green Pipeline," CLE International's 11th Annual SuperConference on Eminent Domain, Austin, Texas, February 9, 2012
    • "Pipeline Condemnations: An Update on Valuation, Corridors and the Nature of Pipeline Easements," CLE International's 2nd Annual Eminent Domain Conference, Houston, Texas, June 23, 2011
    • "Texas Landowner's Bill of Rights," In-house client presentations, Houston, Texas, 2008
  • Memberships and activities
    • International Right of Way Association
    • American Bar Association
    • National Bar Association, Commercial Law Section
    • Litigation Counsel of America, Fellow
    • Leadership Council on Legal Diversity (LCLD), Fellow
    • Texas Bar Foundation, Fellow
    • Center for Houston's Future Leadership Forum, Spring 2012 Class
    • American Board of Trial Advocates National Trial Academy, Graduate (2011)
    • State Bar of Texas
      • District 4 Grievance Committee (2006 - 2012)
    • Texas Association of Defense Counsel
    • Houston Bar Association
    • Houston Lawyers Association
    • Houston Young Lawyers Foundation, Fellow
    • Women's Energy Network
    • The Ensemble Theatre, President of Board of Directors (2015 - present)
    • Midtown Arts and Theater Center Houston (MATCH), Board of Directors (2011 - present)
    • Association of Women Attorneys Foundation, Board of Trustees (2016 - present)
    • The Rise School, Board of Directors (2013 - 2016)
    • Annunciation Orthodox School, Board of Trustees (2009 - 2015)
      • Chair of Diversity Committee
      • The Downtown Group, Liaison (2008 - 2009)
    • (Networking Organization of 200 African-American Women Lawyers in Harris County, Texas)
    • United Way of the Texas Gulf Coast
      • Project Blueprint, Class XXVI (2006)
    • American Association of University Women (2002 - 2005)
      • Selected Professions Panel Chair for Law
    • (Organization that annually awards over a million dollars in fellowships to women pursuing advanced degrees in fields where women are underrepresented)