Families of teens in collision file suits against allegedly drunk driver

By John Suayan, Galveston Bureau | Apr 1, 2009

GALVESTON � A two-car collision in La Marque which killed a 17-year-old Texas City girl and seriously hurt three other young women during the early morning hours of March 21 has spawned two lawsuits.

Tracy Leal of Texas City is suing Jim Howard III of La Marque on behalf of her late daughter Samantha Renee Romero in Galveston County Court.

Howard also faces a personal injury lawsuit from Connie Onhiser, the paternal grandmother of Raquel Nicole Martinez.

Both suits were filed by Texas City attorneys Russ Burwell III and Jimmy Nebout in Galveston County Court No. 3 on March 27.

Leal and Onhiser allege Howard was drunk when his Ford Taurus rear-ended the Toyota Scion in which Romero and four other high school students were riding along FM 1764.

Four of the girls were from Texas City High School and one was attending Clear Springs High School in League City.

"The defendant's conduct, involved an extreme degree of risk, considering the probability and magnitude of the potential harm to others, and the defendant was actually, subjectively aware of the risk involved, but nevertheless proceeded with conscious indifference to the rights, safety, and welfare of others," the original petition says.

Court papers state that Romero, who was a junior and drill team member at Texas City High School, died on the scene while driver Priscilla Selvera, Jaslynn Perkins and Martinez were injured.

Selvera, Perkins and Martinez were immediately rushed to the Texas Medical Center in Houston.

Seventeen-year-old Martinez, who attends Texas City High School, remains at Ben Taub General Hospital where she had a leg amputated on March 30.

She is listed in critical condition.

Howard was also hurt. He was transported to the University of Texas Medical Branch's John Sealy Hospital in Galveston.

Authorities charged Howard with one count of intoxicated manslaughter with a vehicle and three counts of intoxicated assault with a vehicle.

The Galveston County Daily News reported on March 25 that he will be taken into custody on bonds totaling $850,000 as soon as he recovers from surgery.

The suits also name Kasia Evette Scott of Hitchcock as a defendant.

The suits claim Scott negligently entrusted her vehicle to Howard and proximately cause the plaintiffs' injuries despite knowing he was unlicensed and intoxicated.

The plaintiffs' attorneys plan to also bring claims against establishments that served Howard alcoholic beverages the night of the accident.

The litigation has been assigned to Judge Roy Quintanilla.

Docket No. 60, 674

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