Kari Hunt, 31, was stabbed to death by her husband, Brad Dunn, in a hotel room in eastern Texas in front of her three young children. Her oldest child who was 9 years old at the time tried to call 911 multiple times but was unable to be connected because the hotel phone system required first dialing a “9” to access an outside line. She asked the hotel staff for assistance, but they did not speak English and were unable to help her. Kari's father, Hank Hunt, brought a claim of wrongful death against Dunn and the hotel and was awarded $41 million by a jury in a court in Marshall.
After the incident, Dunn was convicted and given a life sentence. Hank Hunt contends that if his granddaughter had been able to reach emergency responders that the outcome may have been less tragic. Hunt then led a campaign to implement a law that requires hotel phones to allow for direct dialing of 911 in hopes that a similar situation does not happen again. The hotel where the murder occurred then updated their phone system and his efforts ultimately led to the new “Kari's Law.”
Kari Hunt Foundation
Hank's mission began in the following years by establishing the Kari Hunt Foundation with the motto “no nine needed.” He hoped that it would heighten awareness regarding the ability for young children faced with emergency situations to be able to reach the authorities. States across the country slowly began to adopt these laws. When dialing the three digits, phones could now access the Public Safety Answering Point.
Over the last several years Maryland, Tennessee, Illinois, and Texas adopted Kari's Law. In Maryland, this was based on HB1080, which was approved by the governor in 2015. The law established a statewide deadline for telephone system modification of December 2017. The provisions state that an “individual dialing 9-1-1 is connected to the public safety answering point without requiring the individuals to dial any other numbers." Hank Hunt on Change.org was encouraging the use of tax credits for businesses to offset potential costs associated with the transition.
On Kari's birthday this past February, congressional action was taken that eventually was signed formally into law by the president. Hank's granddaughter was able to meet the president to thank him for supporting the measure. Hank stated that “it was surreal the way it felt” after realizing that his efforts led to tremendous results. The measure gives businesses a two-year period to implement the needed phone system changes.
Maryland Wrongful Death Overview
Maryland law allows for surviving relatives such as a spouse or child to bring a civil action of wrongful death against a party believed to be liable for a fatality. The state has a three-year statute of limitations in place for bringing a claim. These cases may be difficult to prove and generally will require that you seek experienced legal counsel. Some of the commonly pursued damages include:
- Economic Damages
- Funeral expenses
- Loss of future income
- Loss of future benefits
- Noneconomic Damages
- Pain & suffering
- Loss of companionship
- Mental anguish