On Friday, October 21, 2022, a Nashville jury awarded $20.7 million to the grieving families of Taylor Nixon (19) and Robert Underfinger (18) who were killed in a motor vehicle accident on June 16, 2014. The Plaintiffs, represented by Joseph “Joey” Morris of Morris, Andrews, Talmadge and Driggers, LLC along with co-counsel Tracy Cary (Birmingham, AL) and William Hickey (Nashville, TN), alleged that in 2014 the teenage boys were selling CDs and merchandise in convenience stores, gas stations, and Wal-Mart parking lots across the United States for country rap entertainer Jason Cross (stage name Mikel Knight) as part of Mikel Knight’s Maverick Dirt Road Street Team (“MDRST”).
As members of the MDRST, the Plaintiffs and other young men ranging in age from 19 to 25 were required to work long hours and drive many miles a day for the benefit of Mikel Knight. Plaintiffs allege these working conditions led to extreme driver fatigue.
On June 16, 2014, in Texas, the driver of one of Mikel Knight’s vans fell asleep at the wheel, killing passengers Taylor Nixon and Robert Underfinger. Mikel Knight is the self-proclaimed “Maverick of Music Row” and “Country Rap King” and takes credit for being one of the early influencers of country rap. Knight had as many as 20 vans and a tour bus at any one time traveling from town to town selling his CDs through the Maverick Dirt Road Street Team.
The verdicts were $3,006,937 for the mother of Taylor Nixon and $2,711,638 for the mother of Robert Underfinger. In addition, the jury found that Mikel Knight was grossly negligent in the hiring, training, supervision, and entrustment practices of his company, which led to the deaths of these two young men, and awarded punitive damages of $15,000,000.
Attorney Joey Morris was extremely pleased with the verdict and stated, “This case involved many delays due to COVID, Mikel Knight changing counsel, procedural issues, tracking down witnesses, and taking many depositions, but in the end it was worth it seeing the satisfaction of the mothers finally having a jury hold Mikel Knight accountable.”