On March 28, 2013 the family of Dr. Joseph Sonnier filed a wrongful death lawsuit in Lubbock County against Amarillo plastic surgeon Thomas Dixon and David Shepard. Last July, Sonnier was murdered in his west Lubbock home after police say Dixon hired Shepard to kill Dr. Sonnier because he was dating Dixon's ex-girlfriend.
"When somebody is killed either intentionally or negligently, the family has a claim for wrongful death," said Lubbock lawyer Kevin Glasheen. Glasheen specializes in wrongful death lawsuits and says it can be tricky to collect from an individual.
"Usually the defendant has no assets. A notable exception is the O.J. Simpson case where the Goldman family and the Brown family pursued O.J. and got a big judgment," he said.
He believes that because Thomas Dixon is a plastic surgeon, the Sonnier family may receive some money, but getting there may take a long time.
"It's easy for the defendant to delay a case like this for a year," he said. "Since there's no insurance, there's nobody to pay for these guys to have defense attorneys so they may not even answer this lawsuit. They may just let the plaintiffs take a default judgment against them."
Glasheen explains that even if the case ultimately goes to court there's no guarantee that any assets would still be available. That's because Dixon and Shepard could end up in bankruptcy court and by the time a year has passed, every asset may be distributed. He says that the plaintiffs are the last ones in line to receive defendants' assets after all is said and done.
Glasheen added that a criminal case would most likely be completed before the civil case goes to court. We contacted the Lubbock County District Attorney to ask when they think a criminal trial would begin for Dixon and Shepard and they said right now the court has not given them an exact time frame.
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