Archive for Friday, August 3, 2012

Lawsuit seeks $5M for U.S. 56 fatality

August 3, 2012


An attorney for the estate of an Overbrook woman who died from injuries in a January highway crash in Douglas County has filed a lawsuit against several parties seeking $5 million in damages.

Jamie J. Ullery, 47, died about two weeks after the 1 p.m. Jan. 3 crash involving two vehicles on U.S. Highway 56 near Worden. A Kansas Highway Patrol report said Ullery was a passenger in a westbound minivan and that the driver, Joann O’Brien, 76, also of Overbrook, fell asleep and drifted into the eastbound lane before striking an eastbound pickup truck just after O’Brien woke up.

According to the suit filed July 26 in Douglas County District Court, Ullery needed in-home care because of a disability, and Ullery’s two caregivers were O’Brien, who the attorney said is also her mother, and the other passenger in the vehicle O’Brien was driving, Alice Beatty, 51, of Independence, Mo. The suit lists O’Brien and Beatty both as defendants, and identifies them both as employees of Windsor Place At-Home Care, which operates throughout the state.

The suit alleges O’Brien and Beatty took Ullery with them to Lawrence that day for a mandatory training session, and that O’Brien suffered from diabetes, which caused her to fall asleep at the wheel on the way home even though she was “cautioned not to drive” before leaving the training session but “failed to heed that warning.”

Attorney Linus Baker said he filed the lawsuit on behalf of Tracy Ullery, who is the special administrator of Jamie Ullery’s estate and the father of Jamie Ullery’s son.

“We cannot get this settled out of court because it involves a minor,” Baker said. “He’s the sole heir of the estate.”

Baker, who said he had conversations with O’Brien before filing the suit, said the home-care program Ullery participated in was designed so that family members could be made into caregivers. Windsor Place operated the care program through a contract with state agencies.

The suit lists as defendants Windsor Place At-Home Care; O’Brien; Beatty; Monte Coffman, who is executive director of Windsor Place At-Home Care; Health Management of Kansas Inc., which obtained insurance for Jamie Ullery’s benefit; and Darren Othick, a 42-year-old Baldwin City man who drove the other vehicle in the crash.

Baker in one count of the 10-count the suit alleges that Othick was negligent because as a former police officer he was trained in emergency driving situations to avoid head-on collisions by swerving to the right or off the roadway. Baker claims instead he moved his truck to the left of the center line to try to avoid a collision. Othick and his two children, ages 10 and 12, were also injured in the crash.

“Driving into a ditch or off the roadway is far less dangerous than driving into the opposing lane of traffic,” Baker wrote.

The Kansas Highway Patrol report — which listed O’Brien’s inattention and falling asleep as contributing factors — stated that she woke up and tried to slam on her brakes before the crash, but it was too late. The suit alleges O’Brien returned to the correct lane, but then she swerved back left because Othick’s vehicle was traveling in the wrong lane. Then the vehicles “appear to have collided in the middle of the roadway.”

“By Othick traveling in O’Brien’s lane, Othick deliberately gambled that O’Brien would not obey the law,” Baker wrote in the petition.

Attempts to reach Coffman and Darren Othick were not successful Friday.

Chief District Judge Robert Fairchild has not scheduled any hearings in the case.

— Reporter George Diepenbrock can be reached at 832-7144. Follow him at


Pywacket 5 years, 7 months ago

SERIOUSLY? The dude is naming Darren Othick in this suit? He and his kids were seriously injured and could have been killed because an elderly diabetic chose to ignore doctor's orders--and her daughter, who very likely knew Mom shouldn't be driving, got in the vehicle as a passenger!

If anyone should be suing, it's Othick. He ought to sue the old lady and also the estate of the dead daughter, who should have insisted that Mom hand over her keys. She was an accessory. It's too bad she lost her life over that error in judgment, but her ex-husband (??--I am assuming this, since he is not listed as her husband, but has the same last name and is listed as her child's father) has no business suing anyone.

Bob Forer 5 years, 7 months ago

A good example of why lawyers are held in such low esteem by the public.

Steve Jacob 5 years, 7 months ago

I agree with suing Windsor Place At-Home Care, but naming Darren Othick in the suit is BS.

skinny 5 years, 7 months ago

Yep, I agree, suing Othick is stupid. I hope Othick counter sues!

LawrenceTownie 5 years, 7 months ago

I think Mr. Othick didn't take the ditch because of the steepness of it. Anyone who has driven that road knows how steep the sides are, and with no shoulders to pull off on. If he had taken the ditch his car would have rolled over, maybe numerous times. I hope they get good pictures of the roadway and the ditches. I don't think he had much choice other than to go to the other lane, most of us would have. Of course this will involve everyone's insurance companies, and that will "insure" the public's rates will go up.

thebigspoon 5 years, 7 months ago

With an attorney named Linus probably not much hope unless the Judge is Charlie Brown...

Joe Hyde 5 years, 7 months ago

Suppose driver Othick had not executed a centerline crossover to slip past the onrushing vehicle that suddenly invaded his driving lane. If he stays in his own lane this accident is a head-on collision that very likely instantly kills both drivers and all passengers.

This lawsuit against Othick is illogical and uncalled for. Hiss alertness and driving skills, his protective insistence that his daughters wear seatbelts, saved the day for everyone. Everyone except the unfortunate passenger in the O'Brien vehicle -- the vehicle that caused the accident.

marymo70 5 years, 7 months ago

It's called the shotgun approach. Sue everyone and see what sticks. Never mind innocent people have to pay. It's a game lawyers like to play witth other people's lives. Scums!

Ron Holzwarth 5 years, 7 months ago

Joann O’Brien caused the accident. There is no one else to blame, if the content of the article is actually true.

Does Joann O’Brien have $5,000,000, or a liability policy to cover that amount?

But, everyone should keep in mind that this accident will haunt her the rest of her life, no matter what transpires in the courtroom.

3LHSfans 5 years, 7 months ago

Thank you to all the intelligent responses. Darren Othick, who happens to be my brother, is an excellent driver and happened to have the reflexes to save 5 people. She died several days later, which is extremely unfortunate. Now after paying medical bills that he should not have had to pay or even deal with, he will incur more attorney fees. Believe me, he does not want to sue anyone. We all want to work and live "normal" lives. I thank God that I didn't lose my family that day. Sounds to me like an attorney we all want to stay away from. Where do people come up with these crazy ideas? It was an unfortunate accident as many of you have stated.

Biker 5 years, 7 months ago

Can an attorney be disbarred for poor taste and human cruelty? This is the single worst abuse of the law I can recall in recent memory.

Linus Baker, I am calling you out! You should be ashamed on yourself and your profession of making money off of other people's misfortune!

farmer2012 5 years, 7 months ago

Everyone is blaming the lawyer for coming up with the suit but maybe it's not the lawyer. I am a close friend of the O'brien family and from what I hear it's the fact that the ex husband and his family is wanting this money. And I also believe that we should try to get all the facts before we start jumping to conclussions. Do I think the lawyer has a big say in all this? Yes. But you have to remember who would have contacted him.

classclown 5 years, 7 months ago

"Do I think the lawyer has a big say in all this? Yes. But you have to remember who would have contacted him"


Actually lawyers contact people in situations like this all the time. See a story about about an accident such as this, find the injured party or relative and convince them that somebody needs to pay.

They're called ambulance chasers.

costello 5 years, 7 months ago

I'm sorry for Mr. Othick. I do hope his insurance company pays the attorney fees, but the stress from the lawsuit would be awful.

verity 5 years, 7 months ago

I would like to hear from a legal authority on this, but my understanding is that once a lawyer takes a case, he can't resign unless there are certain mitigating circumstances. He has to do what the client asks unless it is illegal. So often when the lawyer gets bashed, it may be that he's doing what the client demands and not what he thinks is sensible or right.

If the facts as presented here are correct, then I feel very sorry for Mr. Othick and what he and his family have to go through. It sounds like his quick thinking saved lives in both cars.

As for this being an accident, just because we call it an accident doesn't mean it couldn't have been avoided. Many, and probably most, so-called accidents are caused by negligence and could be avoided.

Tom McCune 5 years, 7 months ago

In situations like this, lawyers often sue everybody in sight just to cover their own backsides from an "errors and omissions" (professional liability) point of view. They also do it because 95% of these cases are settled by the insurance companies.

If the lawyer failed to sue someone that might possibly have some small degree of liability, the lawyer can later be sued by his/her own client for "malpractice" in failing to name a possible payer. Also, the more insurance companies that are dragged into the lawsuit, the bigger the pool of money becomes to pay the aggrieved parties.

The problem with our system is that there is very little downside to naming lots of defendants in a civil lawsuit. Many of those parties can eventually get out of the lawsuit, but they have to spend their own money doing it. Our courts should have much more latitude in requiring plaintiff lawyers to pay the legal fees of defendants cavalierly dragged into lawsuits for which they have no real responsibility.

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