On Friday the Texas Supreme Court refused — for the second time — to hear the tragic case of Michelle Gaines, who was crushed by a tractor trailer and suffered serious injuries when she was 19. In 2006 Michelle was returning home to Palestine from Hill College, where she had just earned a college scholarship to play soccer. But an 18-wheeler towing an oil rig ran a red light
and broad sided her car. Vehicle damage was massive.
Michell suffered a horrific brain injury (part of her brain was sheared off), fractured pelvis and punctured lung. She was in a coma for six months and in hospitals and rehab centers for 14 months. Her medical bills were enormous. Her father (pictured with her above) says that his daughter, who is 25, now has the maturity of a 12 year old and requires constant care.
It took four years to get to trial. Evidence revealed that the driver had not possessed a driver’s license — let alone a commercial driver’s license — for the past six years. He had taken amphetimines the morning of the crash. And the first person he called from the scene was not his employer but the businessman who owned the oil rig.
A jury in Palestine unanimously awarded Michelle more than $8 million in damages, finding that the truck’s driver, owner and the businessman knew that the tractor did not have working brakes, had destroyed incriminating documents and that the businessman had apparently paid $96,000 to the other two to buy their silence.
However the 12th Court of Appeals in Tyler overturned the verdict last year. It ruled that there was not enough proof that the businessman — the only defendant with sufficient money or insurance coverage to pay the damages — was liable in the accident.
Michelle’s attorneys appealed, but the Supreme Court again refused to hear the appeal. It did not state its reason. Scott Clearman, Gaines’ attorney, said the Supreme Court’s refusal to hear the case means the legal battle is over and that Michelle will eventually be confined to a state facility when her father is no longer able to care for her.
Clearman and Michelle’s other attorneys, who did a fine job representing her in this horrible case, say that the Court is setting a precedent that allows defendants to avoid responsibility for their actions by destroying evidence and bribing witnesses.
So here’s the latest decision from our “neutral” high court. Thanks to the Texas Tribune for this article.