Lawsuits settled in 2019 crash that claimed life of Falls County deputy, critically injured Central Texas police chief

FILE PHOTOS:  A wreck outside of Riesel on State Highway 6 in 2019 claimed the life of Falls...
FILE PHOTOS: A wreck outside of Riesel on State Highway 6 in 2019 claimed the life of Falls County Deputy Matt Jones (RIGHT) and critically injured Riesel Police Chief Danny Krumnow (LEFT). (Photo by Drake Larson)(KWTX)
Published: Oct. 19, 2022 at 5:19 PM CDT
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WACO, Texas (KWTX) - Two lawsuits filed in the October 2019 traffic crash that claimed the life of Falls County Deputy Matt Jones and critically injured Riesel Police Chief Danny Krumnow have been settled the week before the cases were set for trial.

Attorneys for the Jones and Krumnow families confirmed Wednesday that they had reached confidential settlements in their lawsuits, which sought millions from Michael Palmer, the Fort Worth man who lost control of his car on State Highway 6 and crashed into the officers while they were assisting a stranded motorist stopped on the side of the roadway just south of Riesel.

Other defendants in the lawsuit included AAA Texas; Phil Thweatt Wrecker Service; Pilger’s Tire and Auto Center;  and Mazda Motor Corp.

A trial of the lawsuits had been set for the end of this month in the 82nd State District Court of Falls County.

“While nothing will ever bring back the life of Deputy Matt Jones, we believe lessons learned from this case can prevent a similar tragedy from happening in the future,” said Houston attorney Rob Ammons, who, along with Waco attorney Jim Dunnam, represented Deputy Jones’ wife, Courtney Jones, and his parents, Ronnie and Debbie Jones.

While Krumnow’s law enforcement career was placed in jeopardy because of his extensive injuries, he was fortunate to be able to resume his duties as Riesel police chief, said Houston attorney, Mo Aziz, who represented Krumnow and his wife, Carnelia, with Waco attorney Robert Stem.

FILE: The community was on hand to greet Riesel police Chief Danny Krumnow as he headed home...
FILE: The community was on hand to greet Riesel police Chief Danny Krumnow as he headed home following his release from the hospital. (Courtesy photo)(KWTX)

“Chief Krumnow suffered serious injuries while performing his duties on Oct. 11, 2019, when he was struck by a vehicle going highway speed, as he responded to stranded vehicles on the roadside,” Aziz said. “The vehicle hydroplaned while navigating a curve in the roadway in rainy conditions. Despite the grave nature of Chief Krumnow’s injuries, after a lengthy recovery he resumed his duties as the chief of the Riesel Police Department, where he continues to serve today.”

Attorneys for the defendants in the lawsuits did not immediately return phone messages on Wednesday.

At the heart of the lawsuit was the alleged improper installation of what the lawsuit describes as a “directional tire.”

“Directional tires are characterized by having a ‘directional’ tread design, that is, a tread pattern designed to perform its best when rotating in one specific direction. The tread design points in the same direction as v-shaped tread blocks. The v-shaped tread grooves enhance hydroplaning resistance at high speeds by pumping water more efficiently through the thread pattern. Tire manufacturers and industry standards require that a directional tire must be installed in the intended direction of rotation,” according to the lawsuit.

Directional tires installed in reverse can contribute to hydroplaning and loss of control during wet-weather driving, the suit alleges.

According to the lawsuit, Palmer hit a curb and damaged the left front tire and wheel on his 2006 Mazda in August 2019. Palmer calledAAA Texas for roadside assistance and AAA installed a spare tire.

Needing a replacement tire and wheel, Palmer drove to Pilger’s Tire and Auto Center in College Station and ordered the items. On Oct. 11, 2019, Pilger’s told Palmer that it would take hours to install the new directional tire and used wheel.

“Instead of waiting, Defendant Michael Palmer determined it would be more efficient to have Defendant AAA Texas do the work. Defendant Michael Palmer paid for the items, took his tire and wheel, and left,” the suit alleges.

Palmer called AAA Texas and asked for assistance at his home. AAA Texas “directed” Phil Thweatt Wrecker Service of Bryan to install the new tire and wheel, according to the suit.

“The new directional tire was installed backwards – in reverse of the intended direction of rotation,” the lawsuit claims. “Installing the directional tire backwards deprived the tire of hydroplaning resistance and other performance driving benefits the tread is designed for.”

Later that day, Palmer, driving through Falls County on wet roads, lost control of his car and skidded into Jones and Krumnow. Jones was thrown into a ditch and died at the scene. Krumnow was pinned beneath a Falls County Sheriff’s Department vehicle and life-flighted to a Waco hospital.

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