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Athena Strand's mother files wrongful death lawsuit against FedEx, Big Topspin

Athena Strand's father sues FedEx, contractor who hired Tanner Horner
Athena Strand's father sues FedEx, contractor who hired Tanner Horner 00:38

DECATUR, Texas (CBSDFW.COM) – The mother of a 7-year-old girl who was kidnapped and killed by FedEx driver Tanner Horner has filed a wrongful death lawsuit against them and the contracting company that hired him, Big Topspin. 

Athena Strand
An undated photo of 7-year-old Athena Strand, who was killed on Nov. 30, 2022.  Maitlyn Presley Gandy via Facebook

Maitlyn Gandy, the mother of Athena Strand, has sought justice since her daughter's slaying at the hands of Horner on Nov. 30, 2022. 

Filed on Feb. 17, the 18-page lawsuit seeks "fair and reasonable" compensation for "acts and omissions" that led to Strand's murder. The child's father, Jacob Strand previously filed a lawsuit in Dec. 2022. 

"This lawsuit is about Athena Strand – a vibrant young girl who deserves to have her memory live on for the good she brought to the world," the lawsuit states. "It is about a life that was taken senselessly – a child who could have been any of ours. It is about a loss that could have and should have been prevented."

The document also calls into question how drivers like Horner are hired, trained and supervised. 

"It is about implementing better hiring, training, and supervising practices to prevent vicious killers from arriving at our doorsteps bearing an insignia that has been cultivated to instill trust," the lawsuit states. "It is about preventing billion-dollar organizations from insulating themselves from liability by using fly-by-night contractors instead of acknowledging the responsibility they bear when we trust them to come onto our property, to our doorsteps, and even inside our homes."

Strand was playing in the front yard of her father's Paradise home when Horner abducted her. Wise County sheriff's deputies later learned that FedEx Ground had delivered a package of "You Can Be Anything" Barbies to the home around the time she disappeared.

Law enforcement determined the FedEx route that serviced her father's home was contracted to Big Topspin, a Dallas-based delivery contractor. Horner was driving for the company that day. 

He later admitted to kidnapping and killing Strand before dumping her body.

The lawsuit accuses FedEx and Big Topspin of negligence in their hiring of Horner by failing to properly investigate his criminal history, mental history, and prior employment history; failing to properly train and supervise him; and failing to implement and enforce safety policies and procedures.

The suit also accuses FedEx of negligently hiring Big Topspin; failing to properly investigate the company's hiring practices and procedures; and failing to properly supervise the company.

"FedEx has a problem – a big one," said Benson Varghese, managing partner at Varghese Summersett. "There is a pattern that can no longer be ignored. The company has the resources to ensure its drivers and contractors are properly vetted, trained, and supervised. No parent should have to bury a child because of gross negligence. Tanner Horner should have never been given a FedEx uniform or a delivery van."

Ty Stimpson, partner at Varghese Summersett, said Gandy's hope is that this litigation will bring about systemic change in the hiring, training, and supervision of big delivery companies and their contractors.

"Maitlyn's life mission now is to make sure that what happened to Athena never happens to another child," Stimpson said. "And for everyone to remember Athena as the vibrant little girl that she was."

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