Texas Police Settle $5 Million Wrongful Death Lawsuit Over Black Man Killed While Being Filmed By TV Crew

A police department near Austin, Texas, has settled a wrongful death lawsuit after a Black man named Javier Ambler II died in custody in 2019 as officers filmed for Live PD, a now-cancelled reality television show.

KEY FACTS

The commissioners court in Williamson County, located just north of Austin, voted Tuesday to approve a $5 million settlement in Ambler’s wrongful death lawsuit.

Williamson County will pay $1.6 million of the settlement, while the rest will be covered by the county’s insurance.

Ambler’s family filed the lawsuit in October, alleging that then Sheriff Robert Chody encouraged his officers to engage in “dangerous, high-risk police tactics” because it made for “more entertaining television.” 

TANGENT

Police pursued Ambler in a car chase in March 2019 after he didn’t dim his headlights in the direction of oncoming traffic, according to an investigation by the local station KVUE and the Austin American-Statesman. J.J. Johnson, an officer regularly featured on Live PD, followed Ambler for 22 minutes before Ambler crashed his car just north of downtown Austin. Johnson and another deputy, Zachary Camden, told Ambler to lay on his stomach and tasered him four times in total, as Ambler seemed to resist. Ambler, according to the report, told them he couldn’t breathe and had congestive heart failure before they tasered him a final time. Moments after handcuffing Ambler, they realized he was unresponsive and that his pulse had stopped. Ambler was pronounced dead shortly after at a local hospital. 

Family awarded $730 million in wrongful death of East Texas woman

The surviving children of a 73-year-old East Texas woman killed in a 2016 crash were awarded $730 million Monday by a Titus County jury in a wrongful death lawsuit.

Toni Combest was driving from one church service to another on Feb. 21, 2016, when she was killed on the White Oak bridge near Mount Pleasant by a nearly 200,000-pound “Super-Load” escorted by front and back pilot escort vehicles.

The lawsuit for negligence causing wrongful death was filed against the trucking company and the employing companies of the front and rear escort vehicles.

Landstar Ranger, the trucking company, and S&M Pilot Service, the employer of the rear escort driver settled prior to trial for $50 million and $1 million, respectively. The case against 2A Pilot Cars, the employer of the front escort vehicle, went to trial and lasted about a week.

Brent Goudarzi of Goudarzi & Young in Longview and Gilmer represented the family in the lawsuit. Nelson Roach of Roach Langston Bruno also tried the case with Goudarzi.

“Yesterday, a proud jury in Titus County awarded our clients $730 million,” Goudarzi said Tuesday morning. “That jury stood up against the entire industry and is going to force them to affect changes. They’re going to make roads in Texas, and specifically all over East Texas, safer.”

Road rage in 2021

The rise of COVID-19 cases isn’t the only growing problem in the Houston area — road rage incidents have been taking a toll on local authorities and making roads dangerous for many.

From January through April this year, law enforcement agencies reported 107 road rage crashes in Harris County, according to the Texas Department of Transportation. Road rage at this point is synonymous with Houston traffic.

To an average person, it would be easy to assume that there are a bunch of people in Houston who have just flat-out lost their damn minds. What is with all the road rage?

Just this year alone, there have been more than a dozen road rage incidents, including deadly cases. Here are some of the incidents KPRC 2 has reported on so far in 2021:

Teen injured on Jan. 8, 2021, during road rage incident
Man charged in Harris County road rage shooting on Sam Houston Tollway
1 wounded, 1 charged as road rage shootings continue to rise in Houston
Child shot in head during possible road rage incident in west Harris County
HPD: Woman shot, killed in suspected road rage incident in northwest Houston
Driver crashes into Spring home during road rage incident
Man charged after 11-year-old girl injured in road rage shooting in Tomball
40-year-old man shot in hip during road rage incident in northwest Harris County

Cellphone video captured deadly cement mixer vs. beer truck crash

A motorist captured disturbing video of a deadly two truck crash that occurred in El Paso on Wednesday.

The crash happened shortly before 9 a.m. at the intersection of North Desert and Transmountain in west El Paso, Texas.

In video captured by motorist Jonathan Nava Galvan, you can see that the cement mixer truck fails to stop for a red light before crashing through the truck’s trailer, slicing the trailer in half.

Police have confirmed that one person died in the crash, but they have not indicated which vehicle that the person was in or the person’s identity.

How a Texas ‘Fender Bender’ Truck Accident Morphed Into a $32 Million Nuclear Jury Verdict

On a quiet September afternoon in 2013, a minor fender bender between a tractor-trailer and a pickup truck barely disrupted life in the tiny East Texas town of Ore City.

Joshua Patterson was driving his pickup to a church luncheon when the vehicle was sideswiped by an FTS International Services tractor-trailer driven by Bill Acker. Both drivers pulled over and, during a friendly exchange, reported no injuries. Over a handshake, Acker offered an apology and accepted blame for the mishap. After local police visited the scene, the drivers went on their way.

Later that evening, Patterson’s neck felt sore. The next day, his father advised him to visit a doctor. And retain an attorney.

Nearly five years later in a Texas courtroom, that seemingly uneventful drive-away accident resulted in a $101 million jury award against FTS.

The award was reduced to $32 million by the trial judge.

While now in the hands of the Texas 12th District Court of Appeals, this civil action against FTS remains one of dozens of so-called “nuclear” verdicts against motor carriers, defined as awards in excess of $10 million, that in recent years have been on a steep rise.

It’s true that FTS, a Texas oil field service company based in Fort Worth, owned some liability in the case. The company’s driver was shown to be at fault, and trial testimony demonstrated that FTS had knowingly put a risky driver behind the wheel.

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