Throughout the country, school zones require drivers to travel at 20 miles per hour or less when children are present. The streets surrounding Hastings High School in Houston, Texas are no different. According to police, a cafeteria worker from Alief Hastings was travelling at least twice the speed limit in a school zone when she struck and severely injured a student.
The student, represented by Katy personal injury lawyer Scott Callahan, was critically injured as a result of the incident. He spent months in the hospital after suffering a traumatic brain injury. His attorney, Mr. Callahan, is board certified in Personal Injury Trial Lawyer by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization. He is a dedicated trial lawyer who has been advocating for injury victims for nearly 25 years.
Prosecutors have charged the Alief Hastings cafeteria worker, 56-year-old Chinyere Iheagwam, with aggravated assault with a deadly weapon. Law enforcement agents believe that she was travelling at least 40 – 50 miles per hour when she struck the student. Surveillance video available to the public through ABC 13 Eyewitness News shows the high rate of speed.
In addition to the video, witnesses at the scene report that she did not stop after striking the student, but instead kept going until slamming head-on into another vehicle. The crash occurred in a 20 mph school zone where several students were present. Reports also indicate that just prior to the crash, she was going at least 45 mph as she passed a school bus.
After the collision, the student was taken to the hospital in critical condition. As reported by KHOU 11, an ambulance arrived on the scene, taking the Hastings High School student to Houston Southwest Memorial. He suffered considerable brain injuries which left him in the ICU for weeks, and he has undergone extensive rehabilitation, including learning how to walk, eat, and function again.
The crash occurred as students were getting out of school. Witnesses say that the young man was walking with a group of friends when he was struck by a red car driven by the cafeteria worker. Police indicate that the driver gave multiple different accounts about the accident including that she was driving 16 mph when the collision occurred, but surveillance video disputed her version of the events.
Prosecutors say that she was not only speeding, but also driving in a turn lane despite having nowhere to turn for hundreds of feet before the collision. The driver was taken into custody and initially held on $30,000 bond.
The Alief Independent School District issued a statement regarding the tragedy. The district is making changes to “traffic flow” and “pedestrian crossing” to help increase the safety of the students. They are hoping to work with the City of Houston to find a permanent design solution.
The streets around schools can be especially dangerous for students. School zones are designed to lower the speed limit and protect children who may be arriving or leaving school. Unfortunately, many people do not observe posted speed limits resulting in serious injury or death to young people across the country.
The facts of the case are tragic. A young life was forever changed and nearly taken away by a reckless driver. Speeding is one of the leading causes of fatal traffic accidents in the country. When a person drives with reckless disregard for the safety of others, particularly children, they should be held accountable.
If you or a family member are seriously injured in an auto accident, contact our Katy car accident lawyers at Scott Callahan & Associates. We understand the devastation caused by an unexpected injury. Our attorneys are committed to helping families recover from these tragedies. We can help you understand your rights after an accident and guide you through the legal process. Call (713) 888-9000 or fill out our online contact form to discuss your case.
When multiple vehicles are involved in a car accident, liability can get complicated. It is not unusual for more than one party to have some portion of fault or culpability. If you are seriously injured in an auto accident, it is highly recommended that you consult with an experienced attorney to determine if you have a valid claim for damages against a negligent party.
At Scott Callahan & Associates, our lawyers represent individuals who have been seriously injured in car and truck accidents. We have recovered millions in verdicts and settlements on behalf of clients, providing clients and their families with the personalized, compassionate representation they deserve.
Call our office today at (713) 888-9000 for a free consultation.
When another party’s negligence causes an auto accident that results in serious injury or death, they must be held accountable. There can be a single defendant or multiple parties that may have some portion of responsibility for the accident.
Potential defendants in car accidents include:
Rear-end collisions are one of the most common forms of auto accidents. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), rear-end collisions accounted for over 30 percent of the total crashes in a single year. In many cases, when a person hits someone else from behind, they will be held accountable for resulting injuries or damage.
However, there are some circumstances where another party may be held responsible for a rear-end collision. For instance, in a triggering event or chain reaction where you are rear-ended and forced into another vehicle, the liability may be placed on the driver that caused the initial collision.
Most states recognize that car accidents may be caused by several contributing factors. Only a few jurisdictions follow a pure contributory negligence rule, which bars recovery for a plaintiff whose negligence contributed to the accident. Luckily, Texas follows a Comparative Negligence Rule meaning that a person is not completely barred from recovery if they are partially responsible for an accident, unless they were 51% or more at fault. It is also known as the 51% rule.
Under Texas Civil Practice and Remedies Code Section 33.001, a person may not recover damages if their proportionate responsibility is greater than 50 percent. Thus, as long as your culpable conduct (percentage of fault) is 50 percent or less, you may still recover damages against a responsible party or parties. Your damages, however, may be reduced in proportion to your percentage of responsibility.
For example, if the jury awards a plaintiff $100,000.00 but finds the plaintiff 50% responsible, the plaintiff will only recover $50,000.00. However, if the jury awards a plaintiff $100,000.00 but finds the plaintiff 51% (or more) responsible, the plaintiff does not recover anything.
If you have been seriously injured or lost a loved one in a car accident, contact Scott Callahan & Associates for a free case consultation. Call (713) 888-9000 or fill out our online contact form to speak directly with an attorney.
Founding partner Scott Callahan is a nationally recognized trial lawyer, board-certified in Personal Injury Trial Law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization. For over 25 years, he has been helping individuals and families obtain compensation for their injuries. Contact our office today to discuss your case.
It has been nearly 30 years since the McDonald’s hot coffee lawsuit went to court, but interest in the case remains high. People around the world dismissed the lawsuit as “frivolous” and a prime example of runaway juries. A look at the facts of the case, however, tell a different story.
Despite what most people think, plaintiff Stella Liebeck, a 79-year-old grandmother, was not driving when the coffee spilled. She was a passenger in her grandson’s car. As the car was parked, she tried to hold the cup securely between her knees while removing the plastic lid. However, the drink tipped over, spilling scalding hot coffee all over her lap, according to the Texas Trial Lawyers Association.
Here is some of the evidence presented to the jury:
It was company specification to sell their coffee at temperatures of 180 to 190 degrees Fahrenheit.
McDonald’s coffee, if spilled, causes full thickness burns (third-degree to the muscle/fatty tissue layer) in as little as two seconds. According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, an adult can suffer third-degree burns after being exposed to 150-degree water for two seconds.
Ms. Liebeck was hospitalized for eight days and had to undergo a variety of procedures including skin grafting and whirlpool treatment for debridement. She also suffered permanent scarring as a result of the burns, as well as disability for over two years.
From 1982 to 1992, there were more than 700 reported claims to McDonald’s of people suffering severe injuries from their hot coffee, including burns to the genital area, perineum, inner thighs, and buttocks. It was not only adults that were injured, but also infants and children.
Despite knowing the risk of harm, McDonald’s testified – through its own witnesses – that it did not intend to turn down the heat and it did nothing to warn consumers about the dangers.
A quality-control manager testified that not only were consumers unaware of the risk, but that consumers would not anticipate such severe burns if coffee was spilled.
At trial, the fast-food giant admitted that the drink was “not fit for consumption” as sold because of the scalding hot temperature and risk of injury to the consumer. The jury agreed, finding that the coffee was “unreasonably dangerous” and was sold in “breach of the implied warranty of fitness.”
McDonald’s initially refused to settle the case. Eventually, a jury would award the plaintiff $200,000 in compensatory damages (reduced by 20% as she was found to be partially at fault for her injuries) and $2.7 million in punitive damages.
Punitive damages were later reduced by a trial judge to $480,000; however, the parties agreed to a “post-verdict settlement.” The confidential agreement prevented further appeals, which could have taken years to resolve.
The Court refused to grant McDonald’s request for a new trial. The Judge found the chain’s conduct regarding the sale of scalding hot coffee and failure to warn customers about the risk of harm if spilled was callous. For ten years, McDonald’s had seen hundreds of reports of customers receiving third-degree burns after spilling coffee, but they did nothing. Injuries included burns to the “genital area, perineum, inner thighs, and buttocks.”
According to Ms. Liebeck’s treating physician, the 79-year-old’s burns were some of the worst scald burns he had ever seen.
News headlines often spin lawsuits as being frivolous or juries as runaway. However, every case has its own facts and evidence serving as the basis for how a specific verdict or settlement is reached. The judge and jury are presented with all of the evidence, testimony, and law in a case. They are the fact-finders and decision-makers after weighing all of the evidence — evidence and facts that are often not known to the public or reported in news headlines.
The McDonald’s hot coffee case involved far more than what most people realize. There are always two sides to a story and the McDonald’s jury heard both before reaching their verdict. And, ultimately, the case was instrumental in eventually changing how coffee is served, including improved lids, insulated sleeves, and safer temperatures for consumers.