Fort Worth

Cullen Davis wins civil verdict in suit after Arlington car wreck

Cullen Davis, 82, on Monday, July 25, 2016, outside a Tarrant County courtroom where he was found not negligent in a jury trial of a civil suit. A Grand Prairie woman was seeking damages involving a 2013 wreck in Arlington
Cullen Davis, 82, on Monday, July 25, 2016, outside a Tarrant County courtroom where he was found not negligent in a jury trial of a civil suit. A Grand Prairie woman was seeking damages involving a 2013 wreck in Arlington rosborne@star-telegram.com

Cullen Davis, the oil heir who drew international headlines when he was accused of killing two people at his southwest Fort Worth mansion in the 1970s, was found not negligent Monday in a jury trial of a civil suit filed by a Grand Prairie woman.

In the lawsuit, the subject of a one-day trial in Tarrant County’s 67th District Court, Jennifer McGriff said Davis was responsible for “severe and painful injuries” to her back and neck when he “failed to control his speed and collided” with her car on South Collins Street in 2013 in Arlington.

Davis, now 82 with thinning white hair, testified that he was driving his son to a Texas Rangers baseball game. He was going about 20 mph and was about two car lengths behind McGriff when he saw her brake lights flash, he said.

“I was careful,” he testified. “I drive with my foot on the brake.”

McGriff originally sought $100,000 to $200,000 from Davis, who now lives in Colleyville.

On Monday, McGriff’s attorney, Jane Deleeuw, asked the jury to consider awarding her about $38,000 for medical bills and up to $6,000 for mental and physical “anguish.”

Davis’ attorney, John Stilwell, argued that McGriff’s story about her injuries “changed dramatically” since the accident. Medical Center of Arlington, where she went for treatment, listed her as being in “mild pain” while the woman later claimed she was in “extreme pain,” Stilwell said.

Stilwell also told the jury that the woman’s car sustained about $500 in damage, while the damage to Davis’ Cadillac was about $1,200.

The jury returned a verdict in about 20 minutes.

Infamous past

Stilwell said about 20 percent of the jury pool, including a few who were seated as jurors, knew of Davis.

If the trial had been 40 years ago, Davis said in a brief interview after the verdict, he would have been known by “100 percent” of the pool.

Davis, then one of the richest men in the U.S., was acquitted of capital murder in the 1976 slayings of his 12-year-old stepdaughter, Andrea Wilborn, and Stan Farr, a former TCU basketball player and the live-in boyfriend of Davis’ estranged wife, Priscilla. The 40th anniversary of the murders is Aug. 2.

Davis was in the news again this year when attorneys representing Jon and Heather Farr, children of Stan Farr, filed a motion for summary judgment stating that Davis owes them about $1.8 million after interest is added to an unpaid $250,000 civil judgment from 2003.

It could not be immediately learned whether Davis has paid the Farrs.

Going into Monday’s trial, Davis wasn’t worried about a biased verdict. He felt comfortable on the stand, he said after the trial.

To know me is to like me.

Cullen Davis after a jury found him not negligent in a suit over a car wreck in Arlington.

“To know me is to like me,” Davis said.

He said he wasn’t surprised McGriff filed a lawsuit over what he described as a “bump,” not a negligent crash.

“I knew they’d file [a suit] once they knew who I was,” he said.

In closing arguments, dStilwell said McGriff’s claimed medical costs were “greatly exaggerated.” Stilwell told the jury that Davis should be responsible for nothing more than McGriff’s hospital co-pay of $20.

“Give her the $20,” Stilwell told the jury.

When the jury left the courtroom to deliberate, Davis approached the bench.

“I’ve met a lot of judges in my day,” he told state District Judge Don Cosby as he reached up to shake his hand.

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