A fatal accident on the lot of a Waco, Texas, Ford dealership has sparked a $1 million-plus wrongful death lawsuit against the store and the salesman who struck the victim with a 2017 Expedition.
The suit, filed by the family and estate of Jerry Lance, claims salesman Ernesto Ramirez was backing the Expedition "at a high rate of speed" when he struck Lance and that negligence by the dealership, Bird-Kultgen Ford, and Ramirez was responsible for the April 20, 2017, accident.
The estate's lawyer, John Mabry Jr. of Waco, told Automotive News that efforts to settle the claim were unsuccessful because "we felt their offers were unreasonably low."
According to the suit filed in McLennan County's 414th District Court in Waco, Lance brought his vehicle (a 2010 Ford Escape, Mabry said) to the service department when the department opened and was walking around the lot looking at new vehicles when the accident happened. He died 11 days later.
Waco police concluded that Ramirez was at fault for "backing without safety," according to the suit, and an accident reconstruction determined that the Expedition was moving "upwards of 22 mph" in reverse and dragged Lance more than 20 feet, it said.
Ramirez has "been in the car industry for a little over eight years," according to the dealership's website. Defense lawyer Andrew McKinney of Houston said Ramirez still works at the store. A co-worker was riding in the passenger seat but wasn't named as a defendant in the case.
McKinney and Mabry said a grand jury investigation found no criminal conduct.
The suit asserts that the dealership's "flawed policies and procedures" contributed to the accident.
"This may seem like a freak, isolated accident, but the risk of harm for customers was present on a daily basis at Bird-Kultgen Ford," the suit claims. "Those procedures included unlocking the gates in the mornings, retrieving keys from the manager" and backing multiple vehicles hundreds of feet down the aisles from one gate to another. "This dangerous procedure was authorized or ratified by management at Bird-Kultgen Ford and put its patrons at unnecessary risk of serious injury or death every day," the suit adds. It accuses the dealership of letting employees drive vehicles on its premises unsafely and failing to properly train and supervise them.
McKinney, the dealership's lawyer, wrote in an email that vehicle movements at the store became more tightly monitored after the accident.