Mother Files Wrongful Death Lawsuit Against “The Weather Channel”

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.

What Makes A Death “Wrongful?”

“Death, be not proud, though some have called thee

Mighty and dreadful, for thou art not so…”

In John Donne’s famous sonnet that begins with the words above he argues that death is not as powerful as we might imagine. It must bend to the will of “fate, chance, kings, and desperate men.” Nowhere is this more clear than when a death is a wrongful death.

Although every death of a loved one feels wrong, “wrongful death” is a legal term. 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.

Who can file a wrongful death lawsuit?

In Texas, a wrongful death lawsuit can be filed by the spouse, children, or parents of the person who has died. Each of these people may file their own lawsuit, or they may file in groups.

To be successful, one or more of these people must have suffered a financial loss as a result of their loved one’s death. This is harsh, but our lawmakers have decided that allowing people to file a lawsuit just because they are grieving is not the best use of the court system.

If a lawsuit is not filed by one of the people above within 3 months of the date of death, the personal representative of the deceased person’s estate may file a lawsuit so long as the family members above do not object.

Why file a wrongful death lawsuit?

A lot of families struggle to decide whether or not to file a wrongful death lawsuit. Filing a lawsuit is never going to bring your loved one back from the grave. And it can be traumatic to relive the circumstances of his or her death, particularly in a wrongful death situation. So why bother?

In our experience, the biggest benefit of filing a wrongful death lawsuit is that it provides closure. When your loved one’s life has been cut short, you want answers. You want someone to be held responsible. You want your loved one’s death to have meaning. A lawsuit may give you these things.

You may also need financial assistance to help your family recover from your loved one’s passing. By filing a lawsuit, you may be able to get money to compensate you for:

  • You loved one’s lost earning capacity
  • The value of support, services, and guidance your loved one would have provided to surviving family members
  • Lost love, companionship and comfort
  • Your loved one’s pain and suffering
  • Any inheritance surviving family members may have lost
  • Medical expenses
  • Funeral and burial expenses

Depending on the circumstances, “exemplary” or “punitive” damages may also be available if the wrongful death was caused by a willful act or omission or by gross negligence. Such damages are intended to punish the responsible party and to deter others from engaging in similar conduct.

You Don’t Have To Grieve Alone

If you are grieving the death of a loved one who was suddenly taken from you, our heart goes out to you. When you are ready, pick up the phone and schedule an appointment with our experienced Houston-based team. Our attorneys may be able to help you process what has happened and determine if a filing a wrongful death lawsuit would be an appropriate next step.