Jury awards $41M in “Kari’s Law” lawsuit

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A lawsuit filed by the family of a woman who was murdered in an East Texas hotel room was deliberated by a jury, with the verdict being returned by the jury in favor of the family.

Hank Hunt, the father of the victim, Kari Hunt, filed suit on behalf of Kari’s children against Brad Dunn, who was convicted of her murder, as well as OM Lodging, Wyndham Hotel Systems, and the Baymont Franchises.

After deliberating, the jury in the case returned a verdict in the lawsuit in the amount of $41,550,000 for Kari Hunt’s family, with the jury assessing 80 percent fault on Dunn, and 20 percent on OM Lodging.

In 2013, Kari Hunt was attacked by her estranged husband during a domestic violence incident inside of a motel bathroom in Marshall. Kari’s nine-year-old daughter attempted to call 9-1-1 for help four times from the motel room phone.

Unfortunately, the call never went through, because she did not know to first dial “9” for an outbound line before dialing 9-1-1. Kari died before help could arrive.

Dunn is serving a 99-year prison sentence for the murder and is currently incarcerated in the Michael Unit of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice in Tennessee Colony, near Palestine.

Since Kari’s death, Hank Hunt and his family have made it their mission to educate the public and elected officials across the country about the need to change multi-line phone systems to provide direct access to 9-1-1.

Kari Hunt’s murder prompted a law named in her memory, “Kari’s Law,” signed into law by President Donald Trump in February, which was sponsored by Texas U.S. Rep. Louie Gohmert and Sen. John Cornyn.

The date of the bill signing in February was special due to the date being what would have been Kari Hunt’s 36th birthday, as well as the 50th anniversary of the first 9-1-1 call made in the United States.

“Although this law will not reverse the heartbreaking loss of Kari Rene Hunt and all the horrors of that day, her legacy will now live on and safeguard others from experiencing a situation of this magnitude,” said Gohmert. “Today is monumental - no longer should a child, or anyone for that matter, pick up the phone to call for help and get nothing”

Under the bill passed by Congress and signed into law, all business will be required to use only multiline systems that allow emergency calls to automatically connect to a 911 operator without having to dial a “9” in order to get an outside line.

Texas Senate Bill 788, also known as Kari’s Law, which requires direct access to 9-1-1, was signed into law by Governor Greg Abbott in May 2015.

Rule 251.16 (Direct Access to 9-1-1 Service) to implement Kari’s Law was adopted by the Commission on State Emergency Communications adopted in March 2016.

“I signed Kari’s Law to ensure that all Texans have the ability to access 9-1-1 services no matter where they find themselves during an emergency,” said Abbott. “This important change to Texas law is only as good as the compliance that follows. The use of multi-line telephone systems should not impede on anyone’s ability to make a life-saving phone call, and I am urging all business service users employing a multi-line telephone system to ensure they are compliant. Lives depend on your cooperation.”

Texas was the fourth state to enact a Kari’s Law. The states of Illinois, Maryland, Tennessee, as well as New York City have also passed similar legislation.

Kari’s Law mandates that all businesses must have their phone lines in compliance within two years. The Federal Communication Commission is charged with enforcing the law.

For more information on the history of Kari’s Law, visit www.texas911.org.

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