Robert L. Klawetter

Partner / Houston

P: 713.588.0446




Mr. Klawetter is a partner in the firm and has a litigation practice specializing in the defense of major casualty, personal injury and wrongful death cases. He has dozens of jury and non-jury trials to his credit over 40 years of law practice, as well as numerous appellate arguments. He is a Proctor member of the Maritime Law Association of the United States and a frequent lecturer on maritime law in both the United States and abroad.

Mr. Klawetter has been named both a Texas Super Lawyer in Transportation/Maritime Law and one of the Best Lawyers in America for Admiralty and Maritime Law for many consecutive years. Additionally, he was recognized as the 2020 Best Lawyers Admiralty and Maritime Lawyer of the Year for the Port of Houston. Only a single lawyer in each practice area and community is honored as “Lawyer of the Year.” He has also been awarded an AV Preeminent Rating by Martindale-Hubbell, the highest possible rating in both legal ability and ethical standards.

In addition to the “Selected Decisions” and “Selected Trials” set forth below, Mr. Klawetter has successfully defended the following major claims:

– Over 4,000 personal injury and related property damage claims relating to alleged exposure to the chemical MTBE following a ship collision in the Houston Ship Channel.

– More than 1,500 personal injury and related property claims arising from the seismic testing activities of a major geophysical contractor resulting in total damage claims of more than $500,000,000.

– Tanker explosion off the Texas coast resulting in multiple fatalities and personal injuries, as well as a major oil spill.

– Over 40 claims for wrongful death and personal injury arising from the collapse of a drilling rig in the Bay of Campeche.

– Wrongful death claims relating to Romanian stowaways allegedly forced overboard on the high seas of the North Atlantic which resulted in litigation on three continents.

– Collision between a chemical tanker and a commercial fishing vessel resulting in multiple fatalities.

– Alleged embarrassment of navigation incident resulting in a collision between a VLGC and tug/tow, a major pollution event and closure of the ship channel.

Outside of his law practice, Mr. Klawetter is a veteran of the United States Marine Corps and an avid trekker and mountain climber. He has participated in expeditions to the continental highpoints in Africa, Antarctica, Australia, Europe and South America and has summited the high point in the contiguous United States more than 30 times.

Practice Areas

Practice Areas

  • Admiralty & Maritime
  • Environmental  & Toxic Tort
  • Transportation
  • Trucking
  • Appellate

Selected Decisions

  • In re ENSCO Offshore Int’l Co., 311 S.W.3d 921 (Tex. 2010) (Texas Supreme Court granted defendant’s petition for writ of mandamus finding that trial court’s denial of motion to dismiss on forum non conveniens grounds was abuse of discretion).
  • Abston v. Jungerhans Mar. Servs. GMBH & Co. KG, 664 F. App’x 378 (5th Cir. 2016) (Fifth Circuit affirmed summary judgment in favor of vessel dismissing longshoreman’s personal injury claims).
  • Kitchens v. Stolt Tankers B.V., 657 F. App’x 248 (5th Cir. 2016) (Fifth Circuit affirmed district court’s grant of summary judgement dismissing harbor worker’s claims against vessel owner).
  • In re OSG Ship Mgmt., Inc., 2016 WL 7478376 (Tex. App.–Houston [14th Dist.] Dec. 29, 2016) (Court of Appeals granted defendant’s petition for mandamus and directed trial court to dismiss case pursuant to forum selection clause).
  • Womble v. Gulf Consolidated Chassis Pool, LLC, et al, C.A. No. 2017-23976, In the 215th Judicial District Court of Harris County, Texas, October 14, 2018 (Obtained summary judgment in catastrophic brain injury case).
  • Shaffer v. Hamburg Sud North America, C.A. No. 4:15-cv-01345 (S.D. Tex. Oct. 7, 2016) (Obtained dismissal of longshoreman’s personal injury claims).
  • Mendoza v. Ocean Ships and United States of America, C. A. No. 5:16-CV-555-OLG (W.D. Tex. September 11, 2016) (Obtained dismissal of seaman’s personal injury claim under Suits in Admiralty Act/Public Vessel’s Act).
  • Fitzgerald v. Consolidated Chassis Management, LLC, Gulf Consolidated Chassis Pool, LLC, Flexi-Van Leasing, Inc., et al, in the 133rd Judicial District Court of Harris County, Texas, July 11, 2016 (Obtained summary judgment in wrongful death case).
  • Rabasto v. Stolt-Nielsen Philippines, Inc., C.A. No. B-15-44 (S.D. Tex. May 19, 2015) (Obtained dismissal with prejudice to re-filing  in any forum outside the Philippines of injury case involving seaman rendered a quadriplegic in shipboard accident).
  • Giron v. Intermarine LLC, C.A. No. 4:10-cv-00231 (S.D. Tex. March 27, 2014) (Obtained dismissal of longshoreman’s personal injury claims).
  • Rodriguez-Magos v. MS Wotan Reederei Tamke GmbH & Co. KG, C.A. No. 4:14-cv-01807 (S.D. Tex. March 14, 2016) (Obtained dismissal of longshoreman’s personal injury claims).
  • Izaguirre v. Ugland Marine Mgmt. AS, 2013 WL 820501 (S.D. Tex. Mar. 5, 2013) (Obtained dismissal of longshoreman’s personal injury claims).
  • Hopper v. M/V UBC SINGAPORE, 2010 WL 2977296 (S.D. Tex. July 20, 2010) (Obtained dismissal of non-dependent parents’ claims for loss of society, pecuniary loss and punitive damages via summary judgment).
  • Hopper v. M/V UBC SINGAPORE, 2010 WL 2787806 (S.D. Tex. July 14, 2010) (Defendants successfully limited and excluded testimony from multiple plaintiff experts).
  • Meza v. MSC Ship Mgmt. HK Ltd., 345 F.App’x 19 (5th Cir. 2009) (Fifth Circuit affirmed grant of summary judgment dismissing longshoreman’s personal injury claims).
  • Mendez v. Furtrans Shipping Group, C.A. No. 4:08-CV-01361 (S.D. Tex. May 13, 2009) (Obtained dismissal of longshoreman’s personal injury claims).
  • Gonzalez v. Sun Light Shipping Co. Ltd., C.A. No. 3:07-cv-00181 (S.D. Tex. Feb. 4, 2009) (Obtained dismissal of longshoreman’s personal injury claims).
  • Aitkin v. Stena Drilling Ltd., Cause No. 08-cv-02390, In the 56th Judicial District of Galveston County, September 3, 2009 (Defendants dismissed for lack of jurisdiction).
  • Pervyshev v. INC Interorient Navigation Hamburg GMBH & Co. KG, 278 F. App’x 321 (5th Cir. 2008) (Foreign seaman’s claims dismissed for lack of personal jurisdiction over defendant).
  • Perry v. M.V. S.C.M. Athina, C.A. No. 3:07-cv-00286 (S.D. Tex. Sept. 10, 2008) (Obtained dismissal of longshoreman’s personal injury claims).
  • Orsulic v. Overseas Shipholding Group, Inc., C.A. No. 3:07-cv-00203 (Sept. 9, 2008) (Obtained dismissal of suit on basis of forum non conveniens).
  • Farwah v. Prosperous Mar. Corp., 220 S.W.3d 585 (Tex. App.–Beaumont 2007) (Court of Appeals affirmed dismissal of foreign shipowning defendants for lack of personal jurisdiction in wrongful death matter).
  • Motts v. M/V GREEN WAVE, 210 F.3d 565, 567 (5th Cir. 2000) (Obtained dismissal of punitive damage award and Fifth Circuit recognized that shore-based actions that cause injury on navigable waters are within admiralty jurisdiction and subject to principles of maritime law rather than state law).
  • Dolling v. Amanda Hess Corp., 83 F. Supp. 2d 843 (S.D. Tex. 2000) (Obtained dismissal of seaman’s claims related to alleged toxic vapor exposure based on lack of medical causation).
  • Smedvig Asia, Ltd. v. Diaz, 2000 WL 351792 (Tex. App.–Houston [1st Dist.] Apr. 6, 2000) (Obtained dismissal of wrongful death case based on lack of personal jurisdiction).
  • Sabocuhan v. Geco-Prakla, 78 F. Supp.2d 603, 604 (S.D. Tex. 1999) (Severe brain damage case dismissed pursuant to foreign forum selection agreement).
  • Valentin v. Ocean Ships, Inc., 38 F. Supp.2d 511 (S.D. Tex. 1999) (Equitable tolling inapplicable to seaman who was not diligent in timely filing and serving suit).
  • Maritime Overseas Corp. v. Waiters, 917 S.W.2d 17 (Tex. 1996) (Rejecting punitive damages for failure to pay maintenance and cure).
  • Guevara v. Mar. Overseas Corp., 59 F.3d 1496 (5th Cir. 1995) (en banc) (Rejecting punitive damages for failure to pay maintenance and cure).
  • Garcia v. M/V San Francisco, 824 F.2d 971 (5th Cir. 1987) (Affirming dismissal for forum non conveniens).
  • McClelland Engineers, Inc. v. Munusamy, 784 F.2d 1313 (5th Cir. 1986) (Holding district court was required to determine prior to trial whether U.S. or foreign law applied).
  • O’Berry v. McDermott, Inc., 712 S.W.2d 206 (Tex. App.–Houston [14th Dist.] 1986) (Affirming that service of process on parent corporation was ineffective as to subsidiary).

Selected Trials

  • Alkhulaqi, Mohamed vs. Ocean Ships, Inc.
    Jones Act personal injury claim
    Severe laceration of tendons of left wrist, resulting in chronic pain and loss of left hand function
    Demand: $300,000
    Judgment: $51,000 (total damages of $204,000; Plaintiff 75% at fault; Defendant 25% at fault; net recovery $51,000)
  • Anderson, Billy F. vs. Penn-Attransco Corporation, Formerly AT&T
    Jones Act personal injury claim
    Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
    Demand: $120,000
    Judgment:Plaintiff take nothing
  • Arvanites, John vs. Maritime Overseas Corporation, et al.
    Jones Act personal injury claim, plus claim for punitive damages for wrongful failure to pay maintenance and cure
    Low back injury
    Demand: unspecified (in excess of $50,000 jurisdictional limits)
    Judgment: Plaintiff take nothing
  • Bonefont v. U.S. Shipping Partners LP
    Jones Act personal injury claim
    Low back injury
    Demand: $250,000
    Judgment: Plaintiff take nothing
  • Conti, Sebastian vs. Sanko Lines, et al.
    Longshoreman’s third party personal injury claim
    Knee injury (total knee replacement)
    Demand: $275,000
    Judgment: Plaintiff take nothing
  • Curry, James Harold vs. ENSCO Offshore Company
    Jones Act personal injury claim
    Operated low back
    Demand: $500,000.00
    Judgment: $244,500.00
    Jury awarded $344,200.00 ($507,000.00 less contributory negligence assessment)
    Trial court sua sponte entered final judgment against Defendant for $507,000.00.
    U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals reduced judgment to $244,500.00 by reversing trial court’s judgment as to both Plaintiff’s contributory negligence and award of future medical expenses.
  • Daigle, Mark vs. ENSCO Marine Company, et al
    Seaman’s maintenance, cure and attorneys’ fees claim
    Operated low back
    Demand: maintenance and cure of approximately $10,000.00; attorneys’ fees of $50,000.00
    Judgment: Plaintiff take nothing
  • Daigle, Mark vs. ENSCO Marine Company, et al
    Jones Act personal injury claim
    Operated low back
    Demand: $500,000
    Judgment: $25,000
  • Esquivel, Olifidio J. vs. Vivian Tankships Corporation
    Jones Act personal injury claim
    Operated low back
    Demand: $1,600,000
    Judgment: $35,000 (verdict of $700,000 — fault apportioned 95% to Plaintiff and 5% to Defendant)
  • Gentz, Joseph J. vs. Philadelphia Tanker Corporation
    Jones Act personal injury claim
    Back injury
    Demand: Unspecified (in excess of $50,000 jurisdictional limits)
    Judgment: $26,000
  • Haight, Jonathon vs. Ocean Ships, Inc.
    Jones Act personal injury claim, combined with penalty wage claim
    Fractured hip
    Demand: $125,000
    Judgment: Plaintiff take nothing
  • Hurysz, Robert J. vs. Ocean Ships, Inc.
    Jones Act personal injury claim
    Operated low back
    Demand: $150,000
    Judgment: Plaintiff take nothing
  • LeBeouf, Bernard vs. M/V ESSO CARIBBEAN, et al.
    General maritime law negligence claim by cargo inspector
    Fractured heels/fractured pelvis
    Demand: $100,000
    Judgment: Plaintiff take nothing from Defendant Sea Hoss,
    defended by Eastham
    Plaintiff take $500,000 plus from M/V ESSO
    CARIBBEAN, defended by another firm
  • Lopez, Rudolph vs. Maritime Overseas Corporation, et al.
    Jones Act personal injury claim
    Knee and low back injuries
    Demand: unspecified (in excess of $50,000 jurisdictional limits)
    Judgment: Plaintiff take nothing
  • Lowry, William vs. Maritime Overseas Corporation, et al.
    Jones Act personal injury claim
    Bilateral hernia
    Demand: $95,000
    Judgment: Plaintiff take nothing
  • Macip, Harry vs. Maritime Overseas Corporation, et al.
    Jones Act personal injury claim
    Torn biceps muscle
    Demand: $125,000
    Judgment: $35,000 (settled post-trial)
  • McGuire, Chadwick vs. ENSCO Marine Company
    Jones Act personal injury claim
    Operated low back
    Demand: $1,500,000.00
    Judgment: Judgment for Defendant (Trial court judgment of $770,190.33 was reversed and rendered by U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals)
  • Milla, Serafin vs. Maritime Overseas Corporation
    Jones Act personal injury claim
    Shoulder injury
    Demand: $600,000
    Judgment: Plaintiff take nothing
  • Milla, Serafin vs. Maritime Overseas Corporation, et al.
    Jones Act personal injury claim
    Back injury
    Demand: unspecified (in excess of $50,000 jurisdictional limits)
    Judgment: Plaintiff take nothing
  • Motts, Neville vs. Central Gulf Lines, Inc., et al
    Wrongful death claim under Jones Act, Death on High Seas Act,
    General Maritime Law and state law
    Crushed pelvis and hip requiring hip replacement surgery, after which
    Plaintiff suffered a fatal heart attack
    Demand: $1,900,000.00
    Judgment: $687,686.00 (Trial court judgment of $1,312,686.00 was reduced and remanded by U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals as to entire $625,000.00 awarded as non-pecuniary damages)
  • Neff, John vs. Maritime Overseas Corporation, et al.
    Jones Act personal injury claim
    Inguinal hernia
    Demand: $130,000
    Judgment: $25,000 (settled post-trial)
  • Ocean Ships, Inc. vs. Shabrawy, Ahman
    Declaratory Judgment action on Jones Act maintenance and cure claim
    Head, neck and low back injuries
    Demand: continued payment of maintenance and cure
    Judgment: Ocean Ships, Inc. had no further obligation to pay maintenance and cure to Shabrawy (affirmed on appeal by U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals)
  • Raine, Terrell vs. ENSCO Offshore Company
    Jones Act person injury claim
    Operated low back
    Demand: $850,000.00
    Judgment: settled during presentation of Plaintiff’s evidence
    for $437,500.00
  • Rivas, Napoleon vs. Maritime Overseas Corporation, et al.
    Jones Act personal injury claim
    Knee injury
    Demand: unspecified (in excess of $50,000 jurisdictional
    limits)
    Judgment: Plaintiff take nothing
  • Simpkins, John vs. Ocean Ships, Inc.
    Jones Act personal injury claim, plus claim for punitive damages for wrongful failure to pay maintenance and cure
    Low back injury
    Demand: $750,000
    Judgment: Plaintiff take nothing
  • Solano, Marcos vs. M/V STAR SKARVEN, et al.
    Longshoreman’s third party personal injury claim
    Crushing injury to foot, plus punitive damage claim
    Demand: $600,000
    Judgment: Plaintiff take nothing
  • Trevino, Francisco Javier vs. Empresa Lineas Maritimas Argentinas
    Longshoreman’s third party personal injury claim
    Back injury
    Demand: $250,000
    Judgment: Plaintiff take nothing
  • Tumlinson, Elvis vs. Leigh Hoegh & Co. A/S
    Longshoreman’s third party personal injury claim
    Knee injury
    Demand: $250,000
    Judgment: Plaintiff take nothing
  • Yates, Karl vs. ENSCO Offshore Company
    Jones Act person injury claim
    Operated low back
    Demand: $1,000,000.00
    Judgment: settled for $350,000.00 at close of Plaintiff’s
    evidence

Education

  • J.D., Baylor University, 1981
  • B.S., Mary Hardin Baylor University, 1978

Court Admissions

  • State Bar of Texas
  • United States Supreme Court
  • Texas Supreme Court and all lower Texas Courts
  • United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit
  • United States District Court for the Southern District of Texas
  • United States District Court for the Eastern District of Texas
  • United States District Court for the Western District of Texas

Professional Memberships

  • Maritime Law Association of the United States (Proctor Member)
  • Texas Association of Defense Counsel
  • Defense Research Institute

Published Works

  • “Third Party Claims Under the Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act” — State Bar of Texas Admiralty/Maritime Law Seminar (1991)
  • “Maritime Personal Injury Litigation in the United States by Foreign Seamen” — Assuranceforeningen GARD (1993)
  • “Prosecuting and Defending a Jones Act Case Including Experts – The Defense Perspective” — State Bar of Texas (1994)
  • “Sailing in Occupied Waters: the Aftermath of Miles” — University of Texas 4th Annual Admiralty and Maritime Law Conference (1995)
  • “Punitive Damages Including Maintenance and Cure” — State Bar of Texas (1996)
  • “The Receding Tide of Punitive Damages: A View From Both Sides of the Bar” — University of Texas 5th Annual Admiralty and Maritime Law Conference (1996)
  • “Damages Recoverable in Death Cases” — Tulane Admiralty Law Institute (1997)
  • “Current Frontiers in Maritime Fatal Injury Litigation” — University of Texas 9th Annual Admiralty and Maritime Law Conference (2000)
  • “Personal Injury Litigation in the U.S.-Protecting the Shipowner Before and After Suit is Filed” — Assuranceforeningen GARD Summer Seminar, Arendal, Norway (2001)
  • Contributor to Assuranceforeningen GARD’s P&I Handbook (5th Edition, 2002)
  • “Contractual and Litigation Considerations for Employees Working Outside the U.S.” – 63rd Annual Oil & Gas Law Conference (2012)

A New Era: Introducing SBSB Eastham