“GARDA knew this would happen – the Martinez family didn’t know. The GARDA executives made the decision to roll the dice. The Martinez family didn’t agree to roll the dice with Mr. Martinez’s life.”
– Chris Hamilton (in closing argument)
The victim was on his motorcycle when he and a Garda armored truck collided in Arlington on Collins near Six Flags.
According to a police report, the Garda truck driver, King Easley, blamed Martinez for the accident. Easley told police he was in a turning lane ready to make a legal left-hand turn when Martinez zipped around him in front of oncoming traffic and hit the armored truck. On the day of the crash, the official story was what the police officer wrote in his report: Martinez caused his death.
That was the story his wife was told. It was the story that aired on the local news. It was a story the company embraced.
Garda sent an investigator who took note of the truck’s tracking device but didn’t look at the data or ask Easley any questions.
Although Arlington Police initially believed Easley’s story and said Martinez caused the accident, Martinez’s wife, Beyanca, had doubts.
She begged attorney after attorney to investigate but was turned down each time.
Beyanca eventually found Chris Hamilton and the Hamilton Wingo law firm who uncovered surveillance video from a nearby bank that told a different story.
“They really duped police because the only honest witness was now dead,” said attorney Chris Hamilton, in an interview with WFAA.
The footage shows the truck was in the far right-hand lane, not the center lane. The driver made a fast left turn and crashed into Martinez.
Arlington police looked at the video and six months later arrested and charged Easley with negligent homicide.
Hamilton Wingo sued Garda and forced the company to turn over the armored truck’s GPS tracking data. The GPS data, which was only uncovered after the Court held Garda and its attorneys in contempt, showed that the Garda driver—not Martinez—caused the crash.
At trial, the Garda driver Easley testified that he felt the illegal turn had been safe. Garda’s attorney acknowledged to the jury that its driver had been “a cause of this accident.”
Attorney Chris Hamilton told jurors during his closing argument that Garda had a history of failing to adequately supervise armored truck drivers, both in terms of their vetting and conduct behind the wheel.
Hamilton argued that Garda offered drivers no training specific to armored trucks and that Easley’s record of traffic violations should have disqualified him from driving a heavy vehicle. Hamilton told jurors that Easley received a speeding ticket after his first shift with the company, and when questioned about his habits under oath, Easley responded, “That’s just how I drive.”
Hamilton told jurors that in addition to Easley’s conduct and the company’s supposed pattern of failing to address safety issues with drivers, that the accident was also caused by Garda’s decision not to install GPS monitors in their fleet of trucks.
He asked the jury to award Martinez and her children between $80 and $100 million, the same amount he initially suggested during his opening statement.
The case settled for an undisclosed amount just one day after jurors heard closing arguments.
A reporter with the Tampa Bay Times watched the entire trial, and subsequently published an expose on Garda’s business.