Lawsuit against man who killed toddler in car accident dismissed

By Sara McCleary | Mar 3, 2017

THIBODAUX — A judge has dismissed a 2015 lawsuit over a car accident that killed a young girl in a shopping center parking lot in Thibodaux.

According to a report by Houma Today, the accident occurred on Jan. 30, 2015, when Jessica Walker’s 2-year-old daughter, Amyri Windham, ran away from her mother in front of Ryan Lirette, who was driving a Chevrolet Silverado in the parking lot. Lirette, who told police he had been looking for a parking spot and did not see the child in front of him, hit Windham.

Walker initially told police that Lirette had not been speeding and that it was an accident, but filed a lawsuit on Dec. 14, 2015. Walker’s lawsuit accused Lirette of such “acts of negligence” as failing to properly operate his truck, driving carelessly, failing to stop, and excessively speeding considering the circumstances.

District Judge Buddy Larose dismissed the suit on Dec. 27, 2016, upon request of the plaintiffs, with extreme prejudice, Houma Today reported.

Walker’s lawyer, Tommy Richardson of Usry, Weeks, and Matthews, told the Louisiana Record in an email interview that “this matter was dismissed after mutual resolution between my client, Ms. Walker, and Mr. Lirette’s insurance carrier.”

According to Blaine LeCesne, a law professor at the Loyola University College of Law in New Orleans, such an about-face is not uncommon in these types of cases.

“She was speaking from a layman’s perspective immediately after the accident from what she perceived,” LeCesne told the Louisiana Record in a phone interview. “But after consulting an attorney, she was probably made aware that there were considerations that may not have been evaluated from a liability standpoint and realized that there actually could be a potential legal claim here, notwithstanding her statements immediately after the accident.”

LaCesne said that if the case had a resolution, a financial settlement probably was involved.

“… Even though it may have been defensible, from an insurance company’s standpoint, it comes down to a cost-benefit analysis and whether they’re willing to take that risk of a potential seven-figure reward versus settling for something substantially less,” he said.

But how the trial may have gone is difficult to predict.

“It’s a very, very difficult case from a liability standpoint, because notwithstanding the mother’s initial statements which definitely hurt her case, you’re dealing with the loss of a very young child which is likely to generate great empathy with the jury,” LeCesne said. “The bottom line is you should not run into a pedestrian, even a child that’s dodged in front of the car, if you’re going at the appropriate speed and watching what you should have been watching.”

LeCesne offered further insight to how the case may have looked.

“One [defense] in particular would have been the mother’s own negligence in failing to keep her child from running into the car and keeping a closer watch on the child’s movements. So the mother could have borne some responsibility for that,” he said. “But at the end of the day, you have a very sympathetic plaintiff, who’s grieving the loss of a young child, and that could potentially resonate very strongly with a jury and manifest in a very high reward… [The insurance company] simply wasn’t willing to take the litigation risk associated with that, even though it may have had some defenses.”

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