FORT WORTH (CBSDFW.COM) – It’s been more than three years since a North Texas family all but lost their son to a drunk driving crash in Arlington, and while the suspect’s criminal trial remains on hold, the family is seeking justice in civil court.
Stewart Richardson rear-ended the Khader family as they sat stopped at a red light on Cooper Street. The impact of the crash left their then two-year old son, Abdallah Khader, with damage to 80 percent of his brain.
Tests showed Richardson had a blood alcohol level more than three times the legal limit.
But Sunday, the worries of the life-changing crash were pushed aside to celebrate Abdallah’s sixth birthday.
Complete with Mickey Mouse party favors, several cakes and a bounce house, friends and family brought Abdallah out of his room and outside to enjoy the sunshine and the party that was organized in his honor.
“I know before the accident, he wanted this,” said his mother, Loubna Elhazarin. “He wanted a birthday cake and candle and unfortunately because of what happened he never a got a chance to celebrate his birthday so every year. I’m going to do this for him.”
Abdullah’s baby sister, Jannah, just one-year-old, kissed her brother.
Since the crash in 2009, the family succeeded in getting Abdallah’s Law passed, which makes harsher the punishment for those who drive while intoxicated.
The family was motivated to seek changes to law after finding out Richardson had previously been convicted of DWI seven times in four other states. The family had hoped to send Richardson to jail for life, but a judge granted pre-trial defense motion limiting the punishment to a maximum of 20 years.
Richardson’s lawyers argued his previous DWI convictions were misdemeanors. Had they been seen as felonies, prosecutors would have been able to seek a life sentence. The family is appealing the judge’s ruling so Richardson’s criminal trial has been put on hold.
Elhazarin hopes Abdallah’s Law will help future victims.
“The law says that if you have previous DWI convictions in different states, that no matter what state it is in, it could be used here in the courts,” she said.
But while the family awaits justice in a criminal trial, they have moved forward with a civil lawsuit seeking over $10 million for care for Abdallah’s physical needs, loss of earnings, past medical expenses, mental anguish and pain and suffering.
“Our lawsuit is against Stewart Richardson, the driver, and Mr. B’s, the bar where Mr. Richardson went after he left Applebee’s,” said Charla Aldous, attorney for the family. “But our primary case in against Applebee’s.”
Aldous believes Richardson was served too much alcohol at the Applebee’s and left intoxicated before he rear-ended the family.
“My goal is to, number one, let the public know that corporate America, like Applebee’s, needs to be held responsible when they serve alcohol,” Aldous said. “I can’t take a lot off Fahad and Loubna’s load, but at least maybe I can get them the money to help Abdallah get the best care.”
The civil trial is set for June 4th.
But neither money, nor a life sentence for the man who changed their lives forever will bring back the Abdallah the family used to know.
Several young children attended Abdallah’s birthday party, many of unaware of Abdallah’s fragile condition. Elhazarin is hoping they will learn from their tragic story.
“As they grow older, they are going to realize what happened to my son and maybe this will prevent them from drinking and driving in the future,” she said.
Elhazarin hopes to campaign in the future to enact Abdallah’s laws in other states.