The Missouri Lawyers Media award recognized the attorneys for obtaining the largest personal injury verdict in Missouri for 2012. This verdict was also the third-largest wrongful death verdict in the country last year.
The Independence, Missouri-based attorneys work for the law firm Humphrey, Farrington & McClain and have developed a reputation for taking difficult cases that other firms won’t touch.
Danny Thomas says that he remembers when Gail and Darrell Mansfield came into his office and told him about the death of their 30-year-old daughter, Misty Horner. The upset couple told Danny that they had already been turned down by every other law firm in town.
“I signed them on right away. I didn’t hesitate,” he said. “Obviously, I was worried about it, but nobody would fight for these people, and it sounds cliché, but that’s really our job.”
During the course of their investigation, Danny Thomas and Jonathan Soper discovered that Misty Horner was in a relationship with a local police officer named Caleb Horner. The police officer’s brother, John Horner, happened to be a charismatic cult leader who taught faith healing and that women should be completely submissive to their spouses.
The cult slowly brainwashed Misty and then kept her from seeing doctors when she became pregnant in 2006. Misty’s baby was breech, but the Horners failed to secure medical help and forced her to undergo a gruesome home birth.
Misty’s baby suffocated after about four days of labor and Caleb cut the baby out of Misty using unsterilized household scissors. Cult members then tried to resurrect the dead baby by having the father lay in the pushup position with the baby on his back for about nine hours.
“The defendants admitted it,” Danny Thomas said of the trial. “To them, it doesn’t sound crazy at all.”
After failing to resurrect the dead baby, the cult members kept Misty trapped in her home as a massive and horribly painful infection spread through her body. She died after failing to receive medical attention for a month.
Danny Thomas and Jonathan Soper sued the cult members for wrongful death for failing to call for medical help. Evidence at trial indicated that the cult was also responsible for the deaths of six other babies and two adults.
One cult member’s homeowners insurance settled for $300,000 before trial and Danny says that it is unlikely that Misty’s parents will recover the full verdict from the remaining cult members.
“Will they ever see the full $108 million? No,” Danny Thomas said. “But what we will do – and what I told the Horners we will do – is as soon as the judgment is final, we will begin execution on all of their property, garnishing and liens and we will force them to liquidate everything. For every penny they earn for the rest of their lives, they’re going to be writing a check to the Mansfields.”