Carol Payne


Estes Thorne & Carr PLLC
3811 Turtle Creek Blvd., Suite 2000
Dallas, Texas 75219
Direct Dial: 214.599.4007
Mobile: 214.546.3661
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Practice Areas

  • Commercial & Business Litigation and Trials
  • Real Estate Litigation
  • Construction Litigation
  • Injunctions and Temporary Restraining Orders
  • Legal Malpractice & Legal Ethics
  • Disqualification Disputes
  • Professional Liability
  • Appellate

Practice Emphasis

Carol helps businesses and individuals solve their commercial legal problems, everything from addressing disputes before a lawsuit is filed to aggressively pursuing full-blown litigation and trials.  A lawyer for more than 20 years, Carol is experienced, creative, tough and prepared.  She understands the importance of each case to her clients, and she approaches each case with the same focus, intensity, determination and sheer will to win that has served her well since the beginning.  As a former big-firm lawyer, she knows how to provide high-quality legal services, but through a small-firm boutique platform that emphasizes personal service, responsiveness, and value.
Carol handles a wide variety of business-related disputes in state and federal courts, in Texas and around the country, including contract claims, real estate matters, lender/borrower disputes, fraud and other business torts, construction and energy-related matters.  She also has significant experience representing lawyers and law firms, and she has successfully litigated and defended lawsuits for professional negligence, breach of fiduciary duties, fraud, and disqualification. 
Before joining Estes Thorne & Carr, PLLC, Carol was a litigation partner for almost 10 years with Vinson & Elkins LLP.  She has been listed in The Best Lawyers in America® in commercial litigation every year since 2006, and she was recognized as a member of the Top 50 Texas Women Super Lawyers in 2016 and 2017.  She is a former Chair of the American Bar Association Section of Litigation’s Professional Liability Litigation Committee.  Carol has also been a member of the Texas State Bar's Standing Committee on the Disciplinary Rules of Professional Conduct, which makes recommendations to the Texas Supreme Court.  

Education and Certifications

J.D., Baylor Law School, with honors (1993)

  • Senior Notes & Comments Editor, Baylor Law Review
  • Baylor's ABA Moot Court Team
  • Baylor's National Mock Trial Team
  • National Order of Barristers

B.S., Speech Communicatons, University of Texas at Austin, with honors (1986)

B.B.A., Marketing, University of Texas at Austin (1987)

Prior Work Experience

  • Partner, Vinson & Elkins LLP, Dallas (2002-2012) Trial Section
  • Associate, Vinson & Elkins LLP, Dallas, (1999-2001) Trial Section
  • Assistant District Attorney, Dallas County, Texas Lawyer-on-Loan Program (2000)
  • Associate, Carrington, Coleman, Sloman & Blumenthal (1994-1999)
  • Judicial Clerk to the Honorable E. Grady Jolly, United States Court of Appeals, Fifth Circuit (1993-1994)


  • State Bar of Texas
  • United States Court of Appeals, Fifth and Tenth Circuits
  • United States District Court, Northern District of Texas
  • United States District Court, Southern District of Texas
  • United States District Court, Eastern District of Texas
  • United States District Court, Western District of Texas
  • United States District Court, District of Colorado


  • The Best Lawyers in America®, Commercial Litigation, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018
  • D Magazine, 2017 Best Lawyers in Dallas
  • Top 100 Texas Super Lawyers, 2017
  • Top 50, Texas Women Super Lawyers, 2016, 2017
  • Texas Super Lawyers® by Thomson Reuters (top 5% of attorneys in the state), 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017
  • Women Leaders in the Law, 2015, Fortune Magazine & ALM
  • Top 100 Texas Super Lawyers, 2017
  • Recognized, AV® Preeminent™ 5.0 out of 5 Peer Review Rated, Martindale-Hubbell® Peer Review Ratings™, the highest rating for legal ability and ethical standards
  • Chair: Professional Liability Litigation Committee, Section of Litigation, American Bar Association, 2005-2008; Chair, Attorney Liability Sub-Committee, Professional Liability Litigation Committee, Section of Litigation, American Bar Association, 2002-2005
  • Recognized, ABA Section of Litigation Outstanding Subcommittee Chair, 2002-2003
  • Standing Committee Member: Texas Disciplinary Rules of Professional Conduct, State Bar of Texas, 2007–2013
  • Fellow, American Bar Foundation
  • Member, Dallas Bar Association

o   Business Litigation Section Council, Member 2017 to    present

o   Judiciary Committee, Co-Chair 2015

o   Bench Bar Committee, Co-Chair 2013

  • Member, NAMWOLF (National Association of Minority & Women-Owned Law Firms)
  • Member, Commercial Real Estate Women, CREW Dallas
  • Member, Dallas Women Lawyers Association

Community Activities

  • Member of Board of Management and volunteer, YMCA Camp Grady Spruce, Possum Kingdom Lake, Texas

Representative Experience

Business Litigation

  • Defended real estate developer and related entities against multimillion dollar breach-of-contract and fraud allegations arising out of the development of a luxury resort community on a private island in the Bahamas, including defense against a temporary restraining order and temporary injunction.  Behringer Harvard Royal Island, LLC v. Skokos, 2009 WL 4756579 (Tex. App.—Dallas 2009, no pet.).
  • Defended real estate developer against multiple suits in Alabama and Texas by lenders and bondholders seeking to recover approximately $80 million related to a 230-acre mixed-use real estate development in Spanish Fort, Alabama, resulting in a settlement under which the developer retained ownership, free and clear, of the retail portion of the development, including approximately 200 acres of land.
  • Defended owner’s representative in suit involving alleged design and construction defects in automobile dealership.
  • Defended large meat-packing company against allegations of improper alteration of export certificates in a qui tam action under the False Claims Act.  United States ex rel Bahrani v. ConAgra, Inc., 338 F. Supp.2d 1202 (2004), reversed and remanded, 465 F.3d 1189 (10th Cir. 2006), petition for cert. denied, 552 U.S. 950 (2007). 
  • Defended large meat-packing company against class-action RICO allegations by current and former employees who claimed that the company engaged in a scheme to hire illegal immigrants to unlawfully depress the wages of legally authorized workers.
  • Overturned post-answer default judgment of over $3 million against a lender in a breach-of-contract action and obtained jury verdict against the borrower for the unpaid balance of the loan and attorneys' fees.
  • Represented commercial landlord in a lease dispute against Microsoft Corporation, resulting in favorable settlement.  TriNet Corporate Realty Trust Inc. v. Microsoft Corp., 2004 WL 1217936 (N.D. Tex. 2004).
  • Obtained summary judgment on behalf of an international soft-drink company in breach-of-contract suit against the owner of a distributor, after first prevailing in an interlocutory appeal on choice-of-law issues. Winspear v. Coca-Cola Refreshments USA, Inc., 2014 WL 2396142 (Tex. App.—Dallas, April 9, 2014).
  • Obtained a favorable settlement for energy generation and gas pipeline company in a complex $140 million subrogation dispute. 
  • Defended private-equity fund from suit by drilling rig contractor, which sought to avoid its obligations under its financing agreements, resulting in a settlement through which the plaintiffs paid to terminate the lawsuit.
  • Represented a Texas-based exploration and production company that specialized in underbalanced horizontal drilling techniques against tortious interference and related allegations made by a Pennsylvania-based company, which ultimately resulted in the plaintiff voluntarily dismissing all claims against the company.

Professional Liability

  • Defended "Am Law 100" law firm against legal malpractice and breached-fiduciary-duty claims related to issuance of tax opinion letters for transactions later deemed to be abusive tax shelters by the IRS.
  • Defended large Florida law firm against bet-the-firm suit alleging malpractice in patent infringement litigation.
  • Defended "Am Law 100" law firm against allegations of malpractice in connection with the prosecution of patent applications related to digital video recorders.
  • Obtained summary judgment on all claims for an out-of-state regional law firm in case alleging legal malpractice in the sale of a closely-held corporation.  Harrison v. Proctor & Gamble Company, 2009 WL 304573 (N.D. Tex. 2009), affirmed, Harrison v. Taft, Stettinius & Hollister, LLP, 381 Fed. Appx. 432 (5th Cir. 2010).
  • Obtained summary judgment, which was affirmed on appeal, in malpractice case alleging that the lawyer had improperly structured a trust, which allegedly resulted in the loss of millions of dollars in community property in a later divorce proceeding.  Lee v. Cresswell and Locke Purnell Rain Harrell, PC, 1999 WL 33748128 (Tex. App.—Eastland, 1999, no pet.).
  • Defended "Am Law 100" law firm against breach-of-fiduciary-duty and conflict-of-interest allegations made by former executives of cosmetic company.
  • Defeated disqualification motion, both in the District Court and on appeal, alleging that an "Am Law 100" law firm should be disqualified in an ongoing lawsuit when the lawyers handling that matter joined the firm.   See Positive Software Solutions, Inc. v. New Century Mortgage Corp., 2004 WL 5520571 (July 13 2004) (briefing).
  • Defended Oklahoma lawyers against claims related to work in bankruptcy proceedings in Texas, which the trial court dismissed on personal jurisdictional grounds, but the court of appeals reversed.  The Texas Supreme Court granted review, and after the case was fully briefed and set for oral argument, the parties reached a favorable settlement.  Jackson v. Kincaid, 122 S.W.3d 440 (Tex. App.—Corpus Christi 2003), review granted, judgment vacated and remanded by agreement, 2004 WL 2753157 (Tex. App.—Corpus Christi 2004); see also Petition for Review, 2004 WL 502582.   

Prior results do not guarantee a similar outcome


  • Legal Malpractice Update – The Advocate – 07/2016
  • Defending the Corporate Deposition of the Law Firm Defendant, – National Legal Malpractice Conference, American Bar Association, San Francisco, California – 09/2014 – Panel Member and Author
  • Settle and Sue Again: Strategies and Snares – National Legal Malpractice Conference, American Bar Association, New Orleans, Louisiana – 04/2013 – Panel Member and Author
  • ABA Model Rules in the Future of the Practice of Law – National Association of Bar Related Insurance Companies (NABRICO) Annual Conference, Austin, Texas – 10/2012
  • Where the Wild Things Are – Northern District of Texas Bankruptcy Bench/Bar Conference, Dallas, Texas – 05/2010 – Panel Member and Author
  • View More


  • Improper Woodshedding or Ethical Witness Preparation – Dallas Bar Association, Trial Skills Section/Ethics Committee – 10/2016 – Speaker

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