The battle lines are drawn between four families and three contractors in day one of a wrongful death lawsuit, all stemming from a fatal accident on Highway 6 in 2006.
Opening statements began late Thursday morning in the Robertson County courthouse as contractors T.J. Lambrecht, W.W. Webber and Young Contractors all face suits from the families of three local teens and one Deer Park man killed on September 15, 2006.
With a widening project on Highway 6 underway, a contracted truck was stopped and signalling a left turn in the left lane on a stretch of the undivided highway. That truck was trying to access a work site.
With two cars waiting behind the truck, a dump truck unrelated to the construction slammed into those stopped vehicles, then collided with an oncoming car.
During opening arguments, attorneys for the four victims' families made the claims that the three contractors working on the early stages of the widening project had better access points to the site than the one used that day. They also noted a safety plan drawn up for the project, but claimed it wasn't communicated to key players on the construction team.
"It's not about money," said Jeff Paradowski, an attorney representing Ed King, an 18-year-old College Station teen killed in the wreck. "It's about the death of the family members on this side of the room, and it's about accountability and responsibility."
King was in a car with Sarah Alexandra Nichols, 17, of Bryan, and Bryson Thompson, 18, of College Station. That car was the one hit when the initial collision swept into oncoming traffic.
Augustin Hernandez, 32, was the Deer Park man killed. He was behind the stopped construction truck.
On the defense side, lawyers for the three contractors told jurors that the access point that was being used was the best option, and that TxDOT had OKed it. They also claimed if anyone was at fault, it was the driver of the dump truck that started the collision, who they say should have seen the stopped vehicles.
Grant Liser, an attorney for T.J. Lambrecht, told jurors, "To blame my client for this situation, I don't think, is fair. This would have happened if anybody was turning left."
The two sides conflicted in their statements on whether the dump truck that caused the wreck had good brakes and was safe to be on the road. Defense attorneys said they would prove the truck's brakes were faulty and the vehicle shouldn't have been in service. Attorneys for the plaintiff said they would demonstrate the truck's brakes were in good enough condition to stop the truck before the collision.
Just one witness took the stand Thursday, an eyewitness to the collision.
There will be no courtroom proceedings Friday. Testimony resumes Monday.
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