A couple of years ago, three storm chasers were killed as a tornado touched down near the small town of Spur, Texas. However, the tornado was not the direct cause of the accident that took the lives of Kelley Williamson, Randall Yarnall, and Corbin Lee Jaeger. Jaeger’s mother is instead pointing the finger at Williamson and Yanall’s employer, The Weather Channel. She has filed a $125 million wrongful death lawsuit against the popular cable television channel.
A Dreadful Accident
Kelley Williamson, Randall Yarnall, and Corbin Lee Jaeger were all three storm chasers. Williamson and Yanall starred in a popular The Weather Channel (TWC) show called “Storm Wranglers,” which featured live-streaming video of the duo driving around in stormy weather to get footage of tornadoes. Jaeger was a certified storm spotter for the National Weather Service.
On March 28, 2017, Williamson and Yarnall were chasing an intense storm front across Texas. They were streaming live footage directly to TWC’s Facebook page when, according to police, they ran a stop sign on a country road and plowed into the car driven by Jaeger. All three men died instantly.
A Wrongful Death?
It is always tragic when a life is cut short, but in the legal world, some tragic deaths are also wrongful deaths. Under Texas law, a wrongful death is a death caused by the “wrongful act, neglect, carelessness, unskillfulness, or default” of another. The loved ones of someone who has suffered a wrongful death can seek compensation.
That is what is happening in this terribly sad storm chasing case. Jaeger’s mother has filed a $125 million wrongful death lawsuit against TWC and the estates of Williamson and Yarnall, alleging that Williamson and Yarnall behaved carelessly, and that the network knew or should have known that Williamson and Yarnall’s antics could cause a deadly accident.
“The Weather Channel had the opportunity to pull these two individuals off the road or hire a competent, law abiding driver,” the lawsuit states. “Instead, The Weather Channel made Williamson and Yarnall television stars, breaking laws, driving on private property, driving off road, in ditches, through hail storms, driving the wrong way on freeway ramps, on the wrong side of the roadway, through red lights and stop signs, all to increase the sense of danger to their television audience and sell advertising and have a hit show.”
Not A Laughing Matter
People are scoffing at the fact that a television channel is being sued for causing a car accident, but this is not a laughing matter. When an employer knew or should have known that its employees were breaking the law or acting carelessly, and failed to put a stop to that behavior, it is just as at fault as the employees who acted poorly.
Our firm has handled many cases where an employer or other third party was held partially responsible for a wrongful death because they failed to stop others from acting dangerously. Lawsuits like this are how we enforce societal norms and force organizations to take responsibility for their own actions, and the actions of their employees.