The mother of a Kansas City teen fatally struck by a U.S. Postal Service van won a judgment of more than $2.9 million against the federal government.
Tony White, 15, died on July 1, 2020, when he was run over on East 20th Street in Kansas City while riding his bicycle. White’s family alleged that Shaniel Barnes, the postal carrier driving the van, was on her cell phone at the time of the crash and was distracted.
According to the judgment entered by Judge Fernando J. Gaitan Jr., Barnes — who died of unrelated causes later in 2020 — didn’t brake and continued driving for several seconds with the bike under her van before stopping.
Gaitan found no evidence, as the government argued, that White had entered the road from a hidden alley or that the bike’s brakes were defective. He noted that Barnes herself had never made such claims and that she’d initially told police she had seen tennis shoes in the roadway and swerved to avoid them.
“The evidence clearly proves Barnes failed to even attempt evasive action pre-impact, during, and post-impact, despite her own post-collision statements suggesting that such evasive action was possible,” Gaitan wrote.
The Montee Law Firm filed the suit on behalf of Cheri Williams, who adopted White and his older brother in 2008 after serving as their foster parent.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office has since appealed the judgment to the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.
$2.9 million judgment
Breakdown: Economic damages: $928,771 (based on $19,930 in medical bills, $10,340 in funeral and burial expenses, $898,441 pecuniary loss); $2,000,000 in noneconomic damages
Venue: U.S. District Court for the Western District of Missouri
Case Number/Date: 4:21-cv-00307/Sept. 5, 2023
Judge: Fernando J. Gaitan Jr.
Last Pretrial Offer: $75,000 offer of judgment
Plaintiff’s Experts: John Ward, Prairie Village, Kansas (economics); Stan Oglesby, Midwest Accident Reconstruction, Concordia (accident reconstruction); Anthony Nelson, Garrett Discovery Inc., Orlando, Florida (forensic audio/video analyst)
Defendant’s Experts: Kristian Keberlein, McKinzie & Associates, Overland Park, Kansas (accident reconstruction); Adam Hyde, Cooper Barrette Consulting, Woodstock, Illinois (accident reconstruction); David Rosenbaum, Lincoln, Nebraska (economics)
Caption: Cheri Williams v. United States of America
Plaintiff’s Attorneys: Amanda Blackwood and James Montee, Montee Law Firm, St. Joseph
Defendant’s Attorney: Cari F. Walsh, U.S. Attorney’s Office, Kansas City