Family blames auto fatality on poor visibility, sues TxDOT

By Kelly Holleran | Mar 2, 2009

Five children of a woman have filed suit against the Texas Department of Transportation and MD Johnson Tractor Service, alleging their mother was killed because she was unable to see oncoming traffic due to high, uncut grass.

Hazel Marie Zapf was driving in Jefferson County on Aug. 20 when she attempted to make a left turn on Highway 347, according to the complaint filed Feb. 24 in Jefferson County District Court.

However, the suit alleges Zapf was unable to see the road due to tall, uncut grass in the median owned by Texas DOT and maintained by MD Johnson.

As a result, Zapf was struck by oncoming traffic and died, her children – Richard Zapf, Gary Angelle, Lowell Angelle, Barbara Rogers and Tricia Tooley – allege.

The plaintiffs claim Zapf experienced extreme pain, suffering and mental anguish before her death.

Because of Zapf's death, her children incurred funeral and burial expenses, the suit states.

The children claim they suffered pecuniary loss including the loss of their mother's care, maintenance, support, services, advice, counsel and contributions.

They also lost the right to love, affection, solace, comfort, companionship, society, emotional support and happiness, the suit states.

The Texas DOT and MD Tractor were negligent by failing to properly maintain the premises, by failing to warn Hazel Marie Zapf of the dangerous condition, by failing to correct the dangerous condition and by failing to properly supervise the premises, the children allege.

They are seeking actual and special damages, plus costs, post-judgment interest and other relief to which they may be entitled.

They are represented by Matthew C. Matheny of Provost Umphrey in Beaumont.

The case has been assigned to Judge Donald Floyd, 172nd District Court.

Case No. D183-372

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