Car AccidentEmployment & LabourLatest Legal NewsPersonal Injury

What Happened in the Ashton vs. Whataburger Accident Case?

If you or someone you know has been involved in a similar situation, you might want to consult a Whataburger Workers Compensation attorney for legal advice and support.

In this blog post, we’re going to break down the court case involving Ashton, a 14-year-old girl, and the fast-food chain Whataburger. This case is about an unfortunate accident and the legal decisions that followed. We’ll explain it in simple terms, so everyone can understand.

Read More: Dangers of Speeding and Accidents Causing Injuries

The Accident

On October 31, 2005, Ashton was out trick-or-treating with her friends. They were trying to cross a busy highway in Laguna Heights, Texas, when Ashton was hit by a truck. The truck was driven by Robert Gonzalez Garza, a Whataburger employee, and another driver named Michael Lee Mettlen was also involved.

The Lawsuit

Ashton’s father, Duane Muhs, filed a lawsuit against Whataburger, Garza, and Mettlen. The lawsuit claimed that their negligence caused Ashton’s injuries. The jury had to decide who was responsible for the accident and how much each party should be blamed.

The Jury’s Decision

The jury found that all three parties were negligent but assigned different levels of responsibility:

  • 60% to Ashton: The jury believed that Ashton was mostly at fault for the accident because she was crossing the highway outside of a designated crosswalk.
  • 37% to Whataburger and Garza combined: They were found partly responsible because Garza’s truck hit Ashton.
  • 3% to Mettlen: He was found to have a minor role in the accident.

Because Ashton was found to be more than 50% responsible, the court ruled that she could not receive any compensation for her injuries. This is based on Texas law, which says you can’t recover damages if you’re more than 50% at fault.

Key Evidence Excluded

Duane Muhs tried to present several pieces of evidence to support his case, but the court excluded them:

  1. Testimony and Diagrams: Muhs wanted to show that Garza’s truck might have sideswiped Mettlen’s truck before hitting Ashton. The court ruled this as accident reconstruction, which requires expert testimony, and Muhs was not an expert.
  2. Mettlen’s Prior Arrest: Muhs wanted to introduce evidence of Mettlen’s previous arrest for public intoxication and possession of Valium. The court excluded this because it was not directly related to the accident.
  3. Mettlen’s Subsequent Accidents: Muhs also tried to introduce evidence of four car accidents Mettlen was involved in after the October 31 accident. The court excluded this as well, deeming it irrelevant to the case at hand.

Muhs argued that the jury should have been given specific instructions about Texas highway laws and the voluntary undertaking of duty. The court did not include these instructions, believing that the general instructions on negligence were sufficient.

Muhs claimed that Whataburger’s director of risk management, Sandra Hale, destroyed important photographs of Garza’s truck. The court did not find sufficient evidence that the photos were intentionally destroyed or that their absence significantly harmed Muhs’s case.

Lessons Learned from the Ashton vs. Whataburger Case

This case offers several important lessons for both individuals and businesses when it comes to handling accidents and legal responsibilities.

For Individuals:

  1. Pedestrian Safety: Always use designated crosswalks when crossing busy roads. This case highlights the severe consequences that can arise from not following pedestrian safety rules.
  2. Understanding Legal Responsibilities: Knowing the laws in your state can help you understand your rights and responsibilities in the event of an accident. For example, Texas law states that if you are more than 50% at fault, you cannot recover damages.
  3. Collecting Evidence: If you are involved in an accident, gathering evidence such as photographs and witness statements can be crucial. This evidence can significantly impact the outcome of any legal proceedings.

For Businesses:

  1. Employee Training: Ensure that all employees, especially those who operate vehicles as part of their job, are thoroughly trained in safety protocols to minimize the risk of accidents.
  2. Documentation and Preservation of Evidence: Maintain meticulous records and preserve all relevant evidence in the event of an accident. In this case, the alleged destruction of photographs of Garza’s truck was a point of contention.
  3. Risk Management: Regularly review and update your risk management policies. This includes having clear procedures for employees to follow in the event of an accident.
  1. Expert Testimony: When presenting complex evidence like accident reconstructions, ensure that you have qualified experts to testify. This can make a significant difference in the court’s acceptance of your evidence.
  2. Relevance of Evidence: Be prepared to argue the relevance of the evidence you want to present. In this case, several pieces of evidence were excluded because they were deemed irrelevant.
  3. Jury Instructions: Clear and specific jury instructions are crucial. Make sure to advocate for instructions that accurately reflect the laws pertinent to your case.

By understanding these lessons, individuals, businesses, and legal professionals can better navigate the complexities of accident cases and improve their chances of a favorable outcome.

Read More: How to File a Wrongful Death Claim After a Car Accident


In the end, the court ruled in favor of Whataburger, Garza, and Mettlen because Ashton was found to be mostly at fault for the accident. This case highlights the complexities of determining fault in accidents and the importance of presenting strong, relevant evidence in court.

If you or someone you know has been involved in a similar situation, you might want to consult a Whataburger Workers Compensation attorney for legal advice and support.

Back to top button