The wife and adult children of a longtime Waco oral surgeon who died after being struck by an SUV in the parking lot of Bird-Kultgen Ford in April have filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the auto dealership.
Kayron Lance, widow of Dr. Jerry Don Lance, and Shelly Lance and Jason Lance are seeking more than $1 million in damages in their lawsuit, filed Wednesday against Bird-Kultgen Inc. and Ernesto Ramirez, the dealership employee the suit states backed a Ford Expedition into the 77-year-old Lance while Lance was looking at new cars.
The suit was filed in Waco’s 414th State District Court on the family’s behalf by Waco attorneys John Mabry Jr. and John Lewis.
Claire McDonald, a vice president at Bird-Kultgen Ford, declined comment on the lawsuit.
The Lances were married 46 years. Lance practiced oral surgery for 40 years in Waco and treated more than 87,000 patients.
“We held off on filing suit to give Bird-Kultgen’s insurance company the opportunity to resolve this matter without litigation, but the insurance company chose to low ball the Lances and add insult to injury by refusing to settle,” Mabry said. “Blame for Dr. Lance’s death falls on Bird-Kultgen Ford and their employee, but blame for having to file this lawsuit falls on their insurance company. Dr. Lance was a beloved member of our community, and we believe a McLennan County jury will show the insurance company how wrong they were for refusing to do the right thing for the Lance and Kultgen families.”
According to the lawsuit, Lance dropped his car off at Bird-Kultgen, 1700 W. Loop 340, for service at about 7:30 a.m. and was looking at new cars while waiting for his wife to pick him up.
While walking around the lot, he was struck by a 2017 Ford Expedition “that was traveling backward down the aisle of new vehicles at a high rate of speed,” the lawsuit alleges.
Ramirez drove the Expedition, with another dealership employee in the front seat, according to the suit.
“Detectives from the Waco Police Department investigated the incident and determined that Mr. Ramirez was at fault for ‘backing without safety,’ ” according to the lawsuit. “The Expedition was traveling so fast, and struck Dr. Lance with such force, that his body crumpled the rear lift gate and crimped the metal.”
Investigators said Lance was dragged more than 20 feet by the Expedition, which was going about 22 mph in reverse when it struck him, the lawsuit states.
Ramirez and the passenger told detectives they did not see Lance and did not know where he was or what he was doing there, according to the lawsuit.
“This may seem like a freak, isolated accident, but the risk of harm for customers like Dr. Lance was present on a daily basis at Bird-Kultgen Ford because of its flawed policies and procedures,” the lawsuit states. “Mr. Ramirez and the passenger both described a similar procedure for unlocking the gates in the mornings, which involved retrieving keys for the locks from the manager and backing multiple vehicles hundreds of feet down the aisles from one gate to another around 8 a.m.”
The lawsuit alleges gross negligence and charges that Ramirez failed to back safely, failed to keep a proper lookout, failed to control his speed and failed to yield to a pedestrian.
“Unfortunately, Mr. Ramirez and the passenger presumed that nobody would be in the new car lot, as Mr. Ramirez sped backward for over 300 feet down the aisle of vehicles on display before hitting Dr. Lance, because the sales office did not open until 8:30,” the suit states.
The service department opened at 7:30 a.m., and employees should have known that patrons might be in the lot looking at new cars, the suit claims.
Lance suffered head injuries, internal bleeding, multiple facial fractures, eight broken ribs, a fractured pelvis and a broken hand, according to the lawsuit.
He died 11 days later at a local hospital.