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Carlson Law Firm Attorney L. Todd Kelly Represents Jose Herrera in Successful Lawsuit Against Austin Cab Company
AUSTIN — An Austin jury awarded a cab driver’s stabbing victim $1.02 million on Sept. 13. The award comes four years after Carlson Law Firm client Jose Herrera suffered extensive stab wounds and injuries from a 2014 incident with an Austin Cab Company driver.
The jury found Austin Cab Company directly liable for hiring Sherman Wilkins, the man responsible for stabbing Herrera. The company was aware of Wilkins’ extensive criminal background similar to the nature of the attack against Herrera. In addition, based upon the level of control that the cab company exercised over Wilkins, the jury also found that the driver was actually an employee of Austin Cab Company—despite language purporting to make the driver an independent contractor.
Attorney L. Todd Kelly filed the million-dollar lawsuit on behalf of Herrera in February 2016. Austin Cab Company initially tried to settle with Herrera for $30,000, stating that this was the only policy that they carried on the driver, even though an Austin City ordinance requires $100,000 in coverage for cab drivers.
“We are very pleased that the jury was able to see through the pretense of the ‘Independent Contractor Agreement’ and see it for exactly what it was: an employment agreement. This sets the proper precedent, and will, hopefully, cause other cab companies in Austin to recognize that they owe a duty to the passengers that rely upon them for transportation,” said Kelly.
The stabbing occurred on March 2, 2014, after Herrera and his friends disagreed with Wilkins over a $149.50 cab fare for the 1.4-mile ride from Austin’s 6th Street to South Congress. Wilkins had picked up Herrera, his brother, and a friend on 6th Street after the bars had closed, knowing that they were likely intoxicated.
Herrera made the decision not to drive his own car, a decision applauded by Kelly, who also serves as the president of the Advisory Committee to the Capital Area chapter of M.A.D.D.
Upon arrival, Wilkins demanded $149.50 for the cab fare. As Herrera stood outside the driver’s door, protesting that the fare was too high for the relatively short distance, Wilkins pulled out a knife and swung it toward Herrera, missing him once but then stabbing him in the chest, puncturing a lung and narrowly missing his heart. Once Herrera was on the ground, the driver began punching him adding to his injuries. Herrera’s brother and a friend were able to stop the attack and pull the injured Herrera up from the ground. The cab driver later sliced his arm in a second attack.
“I’m truly grateful to Todd Kelly, Jacob Mancha, and their team,” said Herrera. “After four years and four previous lawyers, today I have what I was looking for: justice. I can’t say that the process was easy, but Todd and Jacob made me feel protected all the time. They made me feel like they genuinely care for me as a client and as a person.”
Under Texas law, common carriers, such as Austin Cab Company, have a duty to serve passengers with a high degree of care. The jury agreed with Herrera’s lawsuit that the driver was guilty of gross negligence.
Wilkins was also charged criminally in the matter. In addition to stabbing our client, Wilkins stole Herrera’s credit cards, wallet, Rolex watch and $200 in cash. The driver made six charges of $149.50 paid to his account on a square reader and several other purchases at various stores in the Austin area, where he was caught on camera using Herrera’s card. For reasons unknown, the District Attorney decided not to prosecute the case, leaving justice to be had in the civil system alone.
“There is a very different standard between criminal prosecution and civil litigation,” said Kelly. “While I had no role in the decision not to prosecute this case criminally, I understand that there are pressures and decisions that they must make regarding which cases to utilize state resources to prosecute. I am thankful that this jury understood the inconsistencies in the stories told by the cab driver to law enforcement and throughout the litigation process.”
Todd Kelly is an award-winning, Board-Certified partner in the Austin office of The Carlson Law Firm. With 12 locations across the state, The Carlson Law Firm is a Texas-based personal injury law firm committed to providing exceptional legal services to our communities. We handle a variety of personal injury cases, including auto accidents, trucking accidents, human trafficking cases, sexual assault and rape, motorcycle injuries and workplace injuries, as well as medical malpractice, defective products, nursing home neglect, offshore injuries, wrongful death and much more.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
September 19, 2018
Media Contact: Kazia Conway