Opening arguments begin in wrongful death suit, after her child couldn’t dial 9-1-1 for help

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Kari Hunt Dunn 6-19-18_1529445057030.JPG.jpg

(MARSHALL NEWS MESSENGER) The family of Kari Hunt Dunn returned to the 71st Judicial District Court Monday,  once again seeking justice for their daughter who was fatally stabbed by her husband, Brad Dunn, at Marshall’s Baymont Inn as the Dunn’s 9-year-old attempted to dial 9-1-1.

Opening arguments in the wrongful death civil jury trial began, on Monday, following jury selection. The wrongful death lawsuit was filed in November 2015 by Kari’s father, Hank Hunt, on behalf of Kari’s estate and her children.

Defendants in the case are OM Lodging LLC and Kari’s killer himself, Brad Dunn, who is serving a life sentence for the crime. OM Lodging, based in Gilmer, owned Marshall’s Baymont Inn at the time of Kari’s death. Kari’s then-9-year-old daughter attempted to dial 9-1-1 for help, at the time, but was unsuccessful because she wasn’t aware that the phone system required an extra “9” in order to reach an outside line.

“The simple truth is that in an emergency, every second counts,” said Casey Carlile, of the Carlile Law Firm in Marshall, who is representing Kari’s family.

He said they are suing Brad Dunn because he stabbed his wife and created a medical emergency that ultimately resulted in Kari’s death. Jurors will hear from the inmate, via deposition.

“We’re suing OM Lodging because they failed to train their employees on how to respond to an emergency,” said Carlile.

Plaintiff’s arguments

Giving background of the incident, Carlile noted that Brad Dunn was separated from his wife, of 10 years, at the time, when he rented the hotel room to spend some time with their children. When Kari arrives, the two go into the bathroom to talk as their children stay in the bedroom, watching TV. Brad becomes enraged, and fatally stabs Kari. Kari fights back and yells for her oldest daughter to call 9-1-1.

Carlile said what jurors will view, in efforts to illustrate a timeline of events, is footage taken from the surveillance cameras that were located throughout the property.

Giving a timeline of events, documented from the surveillance, Carlile started from the time Brad Dunn was seen checking into the hotel at 8:24 a.m.; to the time Kari was seen going to the room a couple of hours later; to the time the two youngest children — a 2-year-old boy and 4-year-old girl — were seen by staff roaming the halls alone, shortly after. He noted that the manager can be seen, alone, in the lobby surfing the Internet, instead of watching surveillance video.

Carlile argued that the non-English speaking parents of the manager, the Patels, violated their training, by not calling their son or 9-1-1 if they suspected any suspicious activity.

“The Patels are cleaning around Room 153,” he said of Brad’s room number. He said they saw the youngest children wandering around the hall, but never notified their son, the manager, about any concerns.

Carlile goes on to say when the 9-year-old comes to the door and begins gesturing to one of the Patels, they still don’t notify their son or call for help.

“At 11:11 a.m., Brad Dunn exits,” Carlile said, noting Brad tries to take all the children with him, but ends up leaving with the youngest daughter, after the oldest child put up a fight, holding on to their little brother.

“The Patel (parents) are there witnessing the exchange,” Carlile argued. He said they even watched Brad leave, but still didn’t call for help.

He said the plaintiff’s expert witness, a board certified trauma surgeon, will testify on Kari’s chances of survival, in the event the hotel staff would’ve responded appropriately in the emergency situation.

“He concluded that Kari Dunn did not die immediately and all her injuries were correctable (with prompt medical attention),” Carlile said of his expert witness.

The attorney noted that Kari sustained multiple cuts and stabs to her body, two punctured lungs, injuries to her spleen and diaphragm, and a cut to her jugular vein.

“Kari Dunn was losing blood slowly,” Carlile noted. “Brad Dunn testified that Kari was alive and spoke to him before he exited the room.

“Brad left the knife in Kari’s neck, which extended the survival time,” Carlile added.

“Kari Dunn did not die immediately because all of her injuries were correctable,” he argued.

Carlile said it took emergency medical technicians nine minutes and 34 seconds to arrive to Kari’s body. Had help been sought immediately by the hotel staff, EMTs would’ve arrived at Kari’s side when she was alive and could’ve administered medical care, Carlile said. He said the window of time is important because Kari was probably alive minutes before emergency officials came.

“OM Lodging’s failure to respond in an emergency caused a delay in medical care that led to Kari Dunn’s death,” said Carlile.

Defendant’s contentions

Representing OM Lodging, attorney Aaron Pool, of Donato, Minx, Brown & Pool PC, of Houston, also gave a background of the case, noting that Brad was upset about his estranged wife seeing another man during their separation. He said she made him get a hotel room in order to see their children.

“They get the kids situated on the bed to watch Nickelodeon,” Pool said. “You’ll see, on the video, during this time there’s no problem.”

Pool said the smaller children start “toddling” outside the door. The oldest child is nowhere to be seen.

“You’ll see (Mr.) Patel’s father start following these kids around and you can tell while he can’t communicate with these kids, he’s following them around,” Pool argued.

“It appears he’s trying to figure out where these kids belong,” Pool said.

Pool said the manager’s father is then shown taking out his master key and opening Dunn’s room. He said Dunn’s daughter comes to the door, making gestures.

“They do not have any way to know that in the bathroom Brad Dunn is in there killing Kari Dunn,” Pool contended. “There’s no evidence of any blood; there’s no screaming; any banging — anything.”

“This man is standing in the doorway; he’s been following two kids around and there’s no way for him to know,” Pool said.

He noted that one of the hotel guests, a woman, heard the commotion, and responded.

“She finally figures out what (the daughter) is saying,” Pool said.

The hotel guest knocked on the bathroom door, and notified Dunn that she had called the police.

“He said, ‘I’ll be right out,’” Pool recalled.

He said Dunn then flees as the lady’s boyfriend calls 911.

“Is it a perfect operation,” he asked, regarding the hotel. “No. But there’s no way if you were in that hallway, that day with these kids (and) knew that something was going on in that bathroom.”

“All you know is you have unaccompanied kids,” Pool argued.

Pool further argued that Brad’s testimony in his criminal case about Kari turning blue is relevant to this civil case.

“(It shows) what she died of was a lack of oxygen and it happened really quickly,” he said.

“When paramedics got there at 11:26, there’s no electrical activity —whatsoever,” Pool said.

Pool said Kari had more than 20 stab wounds to her body, multiple other lacerations and punctured lungs. He said their expert witness, a professional emergency medical doctor at Baylor College of Medicine’s Ben Taub, will testify that the air would suck into that cavity, further collapsing the lung. He said the knife in her jugular also compromised her breathing abilities.

“It bleeds profusely,” he said of the jugular.

“We have a collapsed lung, a damaged lung and something in the airway. There was no saving her no matter what anybody did,” Pool argued. “There’s no way anybody could’ve gotten there in time to prevent her death. When you have a plethora of injuries, more likely than not she’s gonna die — even with proper immediate treatment.”

“Brad Dunn is the 100 percent reason we are here, the 100 percent reason Kari was taken from her parents and her kids,” said Pool.

Regardless of Brad’s testimony, Pool said Brad knew Kari was dead when he left the room.

“It is a horrible situation,” said Pool. “My heart goes out to these folks. They are in a position no one on the planet wants to be in; but nothing this hotel did or didn’t do put them in this position.”

Regarding the harms and losses suffered by Kari Dunn and her family, Carlile said they are not seeking sympathy from the jurors.

All they want jurors to do is to honor their promise to wait and hear all the evidence before rendering their decision, Carlile said.

“We are not seeking of any less or of any more,” he said.

Hank Hunt told the News Messenger before that he just wants his grandchildren, who have now lost both parents, taken care of.

“If there’s anything else that comes out of that, so be it; but, the main thing, the goals for me are that those kids are taken care of,” he said.

The plaintiffs are seeking monetary relief in excess of $1 million. District Judge Brad Morin is presiding…by Robin Y. Richardson

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