Back in March 2017, three storm chasers for The Weather Channel (TWC) were involved in a car accident in northern Texas that claimed each of their lives. Now, the mother of one of the storm chasers recently filed a lawsuit against TWC for $125 million.
The mother, Karen Di Piazza, filed the suit in federal district court in Lubbock, Texas in an effort to get justice for her son’s death, Corbin Lee Jaeger. Jaeger was only 25-years-old when he died. What happened, though? How did the accident happen? Well, according to the suit, Jaeger was tracking a severe storm on March 28, 2017, near Spur, a remote Texas town. At the time of the accident, he was driving through an intersection when a “Chevrolet Suburban driven by Randall Yarnall, 55, and occupied by Kelley Gene Willamson, 57, ran a stop sign” and struck his vehicle. The force of the impact killed all three of them.
Di Piazza’s suit alleges “both Williamson and Yarnall, who were chasing the same storm being pursued by Jaeger, were acting in the course and scope of their employment as storm chasers and television personalities with TWC to collect footage for the second season of the show ‘Storm Wranglers.’” When commenting on the case, attorney Robert A. Ball, who is representing Di Piazza, said:
“The Chevrolet Suburban driven by Yarnall was live streaming for TWC when it ran into the path of the Jeep Patriot Jaeger was driving…The force of the collision caused the equipment-laden Suburban to catapult over a five-foot-tall fence 150 feet from the point of impact.”
“TWC transformed Williamson and Yarnall — who were not trained as meteorologists — into television celebrities although they broke multiple laws, including driving on the wrong side of roadways. Upon our review of several hundred live stream videos posted by Williamson, we determined it was just as likely Williamson and Yarnall would drive through a stop sign or traffic light rather than stop at one.”
Jeremy Rovinsky, the dean and general counsel of the National Paralegal College said the “plaintiffs will likely argue that the storm chasers acted within their regular duties to The Weather Channel when they drove recklessly.” He also issued the following email statement:
“The court may rule that the storm chasers took it upon themselves to drive recklessly, and therefore, even if the mother just brings a lawsuit for wrongful death against The Weather Channel, the storm chasers went beyond what [they] should have done by driving recklessly, and the mother will not be able to recover.”
How has TWC or AccuWeather responded to the lawsuit? So far, AccuWeather Extreme Meteorologist Reed Timmer chimed in with the following comment about storm chasing:
“The vast majority of storm chasers are safe, law-abiding citizens, striving to help out in the severe weather warning process, and are instrumental in educating emergency officials on the location and severity of storms, and the science behind that…Life is incredibly fragile and I hope storm chasers continue to work hard to practice their hobby safely during this storm season and beyond.”