Austin, TX (Law Firm Newswire) August 10, 2018 – A mother stabbed to death in a motel bathroom by her estranged husband, with her three daughters in the bedroom, is the impetus behind Kari’s Law Act (2017).
The oldest daughter, now 11, frantically tried to call 911 four times from a motel room in Marshall, Texas not understanding that she had to dial an additional “nine” to be connected to an outside phone line. Kari’s Law Act was signed by Texas Governor Greg Abbott and went into effect on September 1, 2016. On February 16, 2018, on the 50th anniversary of the very first 911 call in the United States, Kari’s Law became federal law.
The law mandates that all phones must connect to 911 even if they need an extra access number or prefix to get an outside line. The convicted killer, Brad Dunn, is serving 99-years in jail.
In court, another aspect of this case indicated that although it was not the motel’s responsibility to stop the attack, the actions of the staff after the act were negligent. They were negligent because the young girl not only tried to call for help, but also attempted to gesture to hotel workers for help.
The workers were apparently unable to speak English and did not make the general manager aware there was a problem. “Had the workers alerted the manager, the woman may have stood a chance, with medical help, of making it out alive,” indicated Brooks Schuelke, an Austin wrongful death and premises liability attorney, not involved in the case.
According to premises liability law, a plaintiff needs to prove that negligence on the part of the owner of a property caused a person’s injuries or death. “It is a property owner’s responsibility to make sure that the property, commercial, private or public, is reasonably safe,” added Schuelke. The Hunts’ lawyer stated he believed OM Lodging, the motel’s former owner, was at fault because it lacked onsite security, did not provide instructional stickers on how to use the phone system and it owed a duty to provide adequate instruction on how to dial the phone in the case of an emergency.
Ultimately, the court assigned 20 percent liability to OM Lodging and 80 percent liability to the estranged husband, Brad Dunn.
“This was a difficult case and the law relating to premises liability was open to interpretation on various levels, given the circumstances of the case,” said Schuelke. “Each case is different and we assess each one thoroughly in order to explain a plaintiff’s legal rights, what they may expect and how things may proceed moving forward.”
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