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“I have been prosecuting serious injury and wrongful death cases against trucking companies, auto makers and tire manufacturers for more than 30 years. Our firm maintains this blog to share information and insight on transportation safety issues that continue to arise on our nation’s highways and roads.”

Federal judge issues more than $230M verdict against US government for Sutherland Springs shooting

SAN ANTONIO, Texas, February 7, 2022 — U.S. Federal District Court Judge Xavier Rodriguez issued a more than $230 million verdict today against the United States government for its role in causing the shooting at Sutherland Springs First Baptist Church on Nov. 5, 2017.

Having claimed the lives of 26 people and seriously injured 22 more, the mass shooting was the deadliest in Texas history, and it resulted in the first case of its kind to go to trial. The verdict will compensate more than 80 family members of victims and survivors who filed suit against the government.

The Ammons Law Firm filed the first notice of claim and lawsuit stemming from the 2017 massacre on behalf of Pappa Joe and Claryce Holcombe.

The Ammons Law Firm represented several other members of the Holcombe family, which lost nine loved ones spanning four generations in the tragic shooting. Additionally, the firm represented Juan and Jennifer Macias, Gary and Ronald Ramsey, and Fred and Kathleen Curnow.

“The stories of these families shared during the trial were extraordinary,” said plaintiffs’ attorney April Strahan, of The Ammons Law Firm. “Their courage in re-living November 5, 2017, and the days and years that followed was remarkable. I am humbled by the spirit of this community and hope the Court’s verdict is a meaningful step towards making sure that other families never experience such tremendous losses.”

In April 2021, Judge Rodriguez ruled that the U.S. Air Force was 60% responsible for the shooting. Rodriguez found that the U.S. Air Force negligently and dangerously failed to report thousands of violent felons, including the shooter, into the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS).

The NICS is designed to prevent convicted criminals from purchasing or possessing firearms. Had the U.S. Air Force reported the shooter’s domestic violence convictions into the system, he would have been blocked from buying the rifle and high-capacity magazines that he used to commit the shooting at Sutherland Springs First Baptist Church, Judge Rodriguez found. 

In a 185-page opinion, Judge Rodriguez individually evaluated each of the victims’ losses and rendered a verdict that family legal representatives agree falls within settled law in Texas state and federal courts for similar instances of grievous loss.

“The losses and pain these families have experienced is immeasurable. Our civil justice system only allows us to rectify these kinds of losses through money damages. Valuing human life, pain, and suffering is a task that our justice system has imposed on judges and juries, and the methodology used by both has been varied,” the Court’s opinion reads. “Ultimately, there is no satisfying way to determine the worth of these families’ pain.”

The Court rejected the government’s approach to limiting the victim’s recovery, writing that, “Its effort to obfuscate its responsibility by attempting to import a no-fault damages model into a case in which the Court has already found liability is wholly unavailing.

“It has been an honor to represent these families and have April Strahan, of The Ammons Law Firm, serve as co-lead counsel for the plaintiffs,” said Robert E. Ammons, founding and managing partner of The Ammons Law Firm. “The result was a team effort and April’s contributions were invaluable.”

Read the full verdict here

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The Ammons Law Firm has a nationwide personal injury practice focusing on tire defects, truck accidents, rollovers, consumer protection and product liability, catastrophic injury, wrongful death, post-collision fires, seatbelt defects, airbag defects, plant explosions and policyholder litigation against insurance companies.

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