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Jury gives large verdict to family of woman killed in collision

Scott Lauck//August 21, 2023

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Jury gives large verdict to family of woman killed in collision

Scott Lauck//August 21, 2023

A Cass County jury on Aug. 9 awarded $10 million to the family of a woman killed in a head-on collision.

The case, which was originally filed in Henry County, stemmed from the Nov. 12, 2018, death of Kathleen Miller, 62, who was driving on Missouri Highway 52 when a 2012 Toyota Tacoma crossed the center line and struck her vehicle. Miller suffered massive injuries and died at the hospital.

The lawsuit alleged that the pickup truck’s driver, Maria Ramirez Gudino, had operated it negligently. Dirk Vandever, an attorney for Miller’s husband and eight daughters, said the defense conceded liability prior to trial but contested the damages, as Miller’s children are all adults.

“I believe truly that regardless of zip code, people value life, people value family values and people believe truly in equality of life, and I think this reflects that,” Vandever, who tried the case with attorney Andrew Gelbach, said in an interview.

He said he suggested the jury award as much as $16 million, while the defense suggested $500,000.

Todd Barrett of McCausland Barrett & Bartalos, an attorney for Ramirez Gudino, didn’t return a message seeking comment.

The lawsuit initially named the truck’s owner, Jose Mendoza Gonzalez, the defendant’s long-term partner, alleging that he was negligent in allowing her to drive the vehicle. He was dismissed from the case shortly before trial.

According to the suit, both defendants came to the U.S. illegally from Mexico and had limited ability to speak or read English. However, Vandever said Ramirez Gudino’s undocumented status didn’t play a role at trial.

“In voir dire, I specifically said that of all the human beings on this planet who would want to make sure there was nothing whatsoever that is held against someone because English isn’t their first language or that they were not born in the United States, it would be Kathy Miller,” Vandever said.

The plaintiffs now intend to seek to recover the judgment from the truck’s insurer.

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$10 million verdict

Wrongful death

Venue: Cass County Circuit Court

Case Number/Date: 20CA-CC00111/Aug. 9, 2023

Judge: Stacey Lett

Caption: Mark Miller, Tiffany Miller, Deone Hansen, Tara Miller, Katrina Mitchell, Heather McCoy, Rachel Ash and Jennifer Stephens v. Maria Ramirez Gudino

Plaintiffs’ Attorneys: Andrew J. Gelbach, Warrensburg; Wm. Dirk Vandever, Popham Law Firm, Kansas City

Defendants’ Attorneys: Todd Barrett and Layne Dingler, McCausland Barrett & Bartalos, Kansas City

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