$1.1M verdict levied against TxDOT for woman's death

David Yates Jul. 10, 2011, 5:30am

A jury hit the Texas Department of Transportation with a $1,145,000 judgment on June 28, finding that uncut grass obscured a woman's vision and caused her to steer into oncoming traffic.

In March 2009, the children of the late Hazel Marie Zapf filed suit against TxDOT and MD Johnson Tractor Service, alleging their mother was killed because she was unable to see oncoming traffic due to high, uncut grass.

MD Johnson Tractor Service was non-suited by the plaintiffs on Feb. 5, 2010, court records show.

The trial of Zapf et al vs. Texas Department of Transportation began Monday, June 27 in Judge Milton Shuffield's 136th District Court and ended the following day.

Court records show Zapf was driving in Jefferson County on Aug. 20, 2008, when she attempted to make a left turn on Highway 347. She was allegedly unable to see the road due to tall, uncut grass in the median owned by Texas DOT and maintained by MD Johnson.

Jurors found that TxDOT was 90 percent negligent in causing the incident, assigning the remaining 10 percent to Zapf.

According to the charge of the court, the jury awarded her children - Richard Zapf, Gary Angelle, Lowell Angelle, Barbara Rogers and Tricia Tooley - $1 million for their mental anguish and loss of companionship.

An additional $145,000 was awarded for Hazel Zapf's mental anguish, medical expenses and funeral costs.

Matthew C. Matheny of Provost Umphrey in Beaumont represents the plaintiffs.

Austin attorney David Strain represents TxDOT.

Case No. D183-372

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