Jury awards family of local dentist $2.8M in suit against auto dealer

Dr. Jerry Don Lance. (Funeral home photo)
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WACO, Texas (KWTX) A McLennan County district court jury on Thursday awarded $2.8 million to the family of a local oral surgeon who was struck and killed on Bird-Kultgen Ford's parking.

Kayron Lance, widow of the late Dr. Jerry Don Lance, who died a few days after the accident on the Bird-Kultgen parking lot, and their adult children, Shelly Lance and Jason Lance were represented by Waco attorney John Mabry, along with lawyers John Lewis and J.R. Vicha, also both of Waco.

"We worked on this case for more than a year," Mabry said.

"Bird-Kultgen's insurance company made a settlement offer that was a low-ball offer and refused to negotiate with us, so we went to court."

In the end, Mabry said, the seven-man, five-woman jury held Bird-Kultgen and its employee responsible for Lance's death with an award that totaled $2,824,792, compensation for past and future loss of care, maintenance and support from Lance, loss of companionship and mental anguish, both past and future, incurred medical expenses, and funeral and burial expenses.

Bird-Kultgen's and Ramirez attorney, Andrew McKinney IV, early on suggested a verdict of $1.5 million if the jury found the defendants at fault.

Judge Vicky Menard, in 414th District Court, announced the verdict Thursday after the panel deliberated the issue for a little more than three hours.

The jury found that Bird Kultgen Ford, and their employee Ernesto Ramirez, negligent when Lance, 77, who was looking at new cars, was run over as Ramirez was backing up an SUV at as much as 21 miles-per-hour over a distance of about 100 yards.

Testimony in court, Mabry said, showed Ramirez admitted he'd been backing the SUV at a high rate of speed, but said he and other workers had been doing the same every morning for the past six years and no incidents had been reported.

Initially Mabry was seeking a reward of $11 million, one million for each day Lance suffered before he died after the injury.

The verdict did include $1,050,000 set aside for pain and suffering and mental anguish suffered by the victim.

"The family is pleased with the verdict, absolutely" Mabry said, "although nothing could bring Dr. Lance back, but they're wonderful people and it was a pleasure to serve them."