Loose cows lead to $8.9 million verdict over fiery crash in Amarillo

A Dallas judge awarded a plaintiff $8.9 million in damages in a lawsuit over a fiery wreck and loose cows.
A Dallas judge awarded a plaintiff $8.9 million in damages in a lawsuit over a fiery wreck and loose cows.

A Dallas judge awarded $8.9 million in damages to a man who was injured in a collision with several cows on a road near Amarillo in 2011, KFDA-TV in Amarillo reported.

Bobby Tunnell, who had to be pulled from a pickup before it exploded after the wreck, sued the cows’ owner, Richard Archer, for negligence.

The lawsuit alleged that the fencing on Archer’s property was not properly maintained and that “there was a history” of his cows breaking free and roaming onto roads.

The lawsuit was originally filed in 2012 in Dallas County, where one of the former defendants was living. The suit stayed in the 298th District Court, even as it was amended several times.

At one point, Archer’s attorneys, citing state tort reform law, argued that the case should be treated as a medical malpractice lawsuit because Archer is a doctor, even though he did not know Tunnell, according to the KFDA.

This week, Judge Emily Tobolowsky awarded Tunnell the following, the TV station reported:

  • $700,000 for medical bills
  • $1.4 million for lost wages
  • $2.5 million for pain and suffering
  • $1.5 million for mental anguish
  • $2.5 million for disfigurement

Explosive wreck

Tunnell was riding in the front seat of a pickup when the wreck happened on Aug. 3, 2011, according to the lawsuit. His son was driving, and his grandchildren were in the back seat. As they drove north on Dowell Road, “five or six” cows appeared in the road, the lawsuit said.

Tunnell’s son slammed the brakes but hit two of the cows. The truck then rolled eight times, coming to rest upright.

As the truck caught fire, Tunnell’s son and a passer-by got Tunnell out and about 10 yards away before it exploded, the lawsuit said.

Tunnell broke his right arm, clavicle, right shoulder blade and ribs, and he had to have surgery on his spine, according to the lawsuit.

He also suffered a concussion, skull and facial fracture, brain swelling, a blood clot and a severely deformed right arm, among various other injuries.

Tunnell’s lawyer, Dean Boyd, told KFDA that Archer’s cows “were getting out again and again and again.”

“If the son had not pulled his father out of the car,” Boyd said, “it would have exploded with him in it and my client would be dead.”