Father Of Texas Girl Allegedly Killed By Contracted FedEx Driver Sues Companies For $1 Million

The father of a 7-year-old Texas girl who authorities say was killed by a contracted FedEx driver is suing her accused killer, the contractor that hired him and FedEx.

The lawsuit filed by Jacob Strand in Wise County District Court on Tuesday is seeking $1 million in damages. The lawsuit, obtained by Oxygen.com, alleges Big Topspin, Inc. and FedEx Ground are “jointly and severally liable” for what happened.

Tanner Horner, 31, is charged with capital murder and kidnapping in Athena Strand’s death on Nov. 30. Wise County Sheriff Lane Akin has said the state will seek the death penalty for Horner if he is convicted, according to Fox News.

The lawsuit accuses the two companies of negligence by allegedly failing to properly investigate Horner’s criminal history, mental health history or prior employment. It also accuses both companies of failing to implement and enforce safety policies and procedures. (Horner does not appear have an adult criminal history in the state of Texas, according to the Fort Worth Star-Telegram.)

A police handout of Tanner Lynn Horner
A police handout of Tanner Lynn Horner

Tanner Lynn Horner Photo: Wise County Sheriff's Office/AP

The lawsuit seeks damages for past and future medical and burial expenses, past and future pain and suffering, mental anguish, lost income and loss of enjoyment of life.

The lawsuit lays out a series of allegations against Horner — many of which are contained in the indictment in the case. The suit alleges that Horner delivered a package to Athena’s home while she was playing in the front yard on Nov. 30, hit Athena by accident — with his FedEx van and while wearing a FedEx uniform — and then took or lured Athena into the van, the lawsuit said.

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It further alleges Horner told police that, while Athena was in his vehicle, she was not seriously hurt but he was concerned she would tell her father that she had been hit by a FedEx vehicle, so he tried to break her neck and failed. It alleges that he instead then strangled her until she died. It goes on to allege that Horner took Athena’s body in his FedEx truck and concealed it in a remote area.

The lawsuit does state that Horner never reported to Big Topspin or FedEx that he had hit Athena with his vehicle.

A police handout of victim Athena Strand
A police handout of victim Athena Strand

Athena Strand Photo: Wise County Sheriff's Office

Horner was technically employed by Big Topspin, though he wore a FedEx uniform and delivered packages entrusted to the company in a FedEx van.

“FedEx has continued their normal business operations, although it is clear that their current efforts, if any, to ensure that they are not putting dangerous persons in a position of trust wearing FedEx uniforms, driving FedEx branded vehicles and sending them to the doorsteps of the homes of nearly every person in America is woefully inadequate to avoid endangering the public,” the lawsuit states.

Dallas ABC station WFAA reached out to FedEx and asked how long Horner had been contracted to work with FedEx, when he began driving for the company, how many drivers are contracted through Big Topspin and what FedEx's hiring protocols are for Big Topspin. 

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The spokesperson replied in a statement to the station, "Service provider companies utilize their own employees, vehicles and equipment. As such, we are not at liberty to discuss details of personnel employed by service providers."

Oxygen.com also reached out to FedEx about the lawsuit, with the company replying in a statement, “Our thoughts remain with the family of Athena Strand in the wake of this tragedy. We are aware of the complaint filed against FedEx Ground.”