The father of Athena Strand is suing the delivery driver accused of kidnapping and murdering 7-year-old, the contracting company that hired the driver, and FedEx. Jacob Strand’s lawsuit alleges that FedEx and its contracting company, Big Topspin, were negligent in employing and failing to supervise 31-year-old Tanner Lynn Horner.
Authorities earlier this month charged Horner with one count of capital murder of a person under 10 years of age and one count of aggravated kidnapping in Athena’s late November death.
Horner claimed he was delivering a package to Strand’s home on Nov. 30 when he accidentally reversed his FedEx delivery truck into Athena, who was playing in the front yard. Though the child was not seriously injured, Horner allegedly “panicked,” put the girl in the van and drove off. Afraid Athena would tell her father about being struck by the vehicle, Horner allegedly confessed to speaking with the child briefly inside of the van before brutally killing her.
“[Horner] stated, when he attempted to break Athena’s neck it did not work so he strangled with his bare hands in the back of the Fed Ex van,” court documents state.
The civil complaint, filed in the 271st Judicial District in Wise County, Texas, attempts to establish that FedEx and Topspin had “significant control” over Horner as he delivered packages along a route that “Big Topsin services for FedEx Ground.”
“FedEx Ground retains significant control over the specific manner in which Big Topspin and its employees and contractors deliver FedEx Ground packages and maintains significant control over Big Topspin and its employees,” the suit states.
The complaint went on to allege that both companies “breached the duty of care” to the public in numerous ways, including their alleged “negligent hiring” of Horner and alleged failure to investigate his “criminal history, mental health history, and prior employment.” The companies are also accused of placing “dangerous persons in a position of trust,” failing to properly supervise Horner, and failing to promulgate and enforce reasonable safety policies and procedures.
The suit further asserted that FedEx drivers have committed “numerous assaults, rapes and murders of persons across the country” in recent years. Such instances include a driver in New York who murdered a woman on his route and then burned her house down, and a driver in Connecticut who earlier this year broke into a woman’s home and held her at gunpoint, according to the complaint.
“FedEx has continued their normal business operations although it is clear that their current efforts, if any, to ensure that they are not putting dangerous persons in a position of trust wearing FedEx uniforms, driving FedEx branded vehicles, and sending them to the doorsteps of the homes of nearly every person in America is woefully inadequate to avoid endangering the public,” the suit said.
The suit is seeking a judgment in excess of $1 million in damages and a jury trial.
FedEx responded to the lawsuit with the following statement: “Our thoughts remain with the family of Athena Strand in the wake of this tragedy. We are aware of the complaint filed against FedEx Ground.”
Jacob Strand is represented in the matter by attorneys Jason Bowles and Paul Belew.
[Image via Wise County Sheriff’s Office]
Have a tip we should know? [email protected]