By LeaAnne Klentzman
Yet another wrongful death suit has been filed against lame duck Fort Bend County Sheriff Milton Wright and his staff for the death of Janie Hidalgo.
Mark D. Bankston of Farrar & Ball, LLP, the Houston law firm which represents the family of Janie Hidalgo, filed the suit late last week on behalf of Ms. Hidalgo’s three children. “Janie Hidalgo, a completely innocent bystander, was senselessly killed by the department’s failure to adopt and abide by a reasonable vehicle pursuit policy,” said Bankston. He went on to explain, “Every other Fort Bend County law enforcement agency has adopted a sensible pursuit policy which complies with Texas immunity law, but the sheriff’s department refuses to do so.”
This suit stems from a June 16, 2011 motorcycle pursuit where Janie Hidalgo was a passenger on the back of a motorcycle driven and operated by an acquaintance, Esteban Cardona. According to the documents filed, “The initial traffic stop of the motorcycle by Fort Bend Sheriff’s Patrol Sergeant David Clary was on US 59 and TX 99 for two minor traffic violations; an obscured license plate and speeding.” As a result of that traffic stop, Cardona fled with Janie Hidalgo trapped as a passenger on the back of the motorcycle. “In response, Deputy Clary initiated a pursuit of the motorcycle at speeds over 100 mph. This dangerous high speed pursuit continued north-bound along US 59, where Deputy Clary chose to continue the pursuit into Harris County. The Sergeant’s pursuit of the motorcycle concluded in a predictably tragic manner when the motorcycle crashed into another vehicle on the Sam Houston Tollway. As a result, the driver of the motorcycle was killed and pronounced dead on the scene, while San Juanita (Janie) Hidalgo sustained injuries from which she died later that morning,” said Bankston.
Bankston said the department’s lack of transparency was a factor in the decision to bring the lawsuit. “The family made multiple requests for information relating to the death of their mother, but the Sheriff’s Department has refused to discuss the incident with the family or provide any details or documents beyond a single sheet of a paper which gives the date, location, and names of individuals involved in the pursuit.”
“There is simply no justification for Janie’s death, which was the tragically predictable result of this highly unorthodox high-speed pursuit which spanned across two counties.”
This lawsuit will be added to other pending wrongful death lawsuits that have been filed against Sheriff Milton Wright, his staff and Fort Bend County in the last 12 months. This case was filed in the 333 District Court in Harris County.