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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    “Injured as a teen, quadriplegic returns to court against Toyota”

    Green is in her first year of teaching at Joshua High School, her alma mater, and is experiencing the problems any rookie teacher encounters.

    “”I’m 22, so it’s hard because I can be their peer,”” Green said. “”But I am their teacher, and they understand that.””

    She’s also dealing with being a quadriplegic.

    Green’s five-year journey to her “”dream job”” after a 2005 rollover crash that broke her neck is, to some, nothing short of a miracle.

    She has also not allowed her five-year legal fight with Toyota Motor Corp. to define her, although she returns to a Johnson County courtroom Wednesday after a Texas Supreme Court ruling that Green can pursue contempt charges against the automaker. Accusations surfaced that Toyota withheld information on safety defects before she settled her case in 2007.

    “”After I got hurt, I was devastated,”” Green said. “”I allowed myself to wallow in self-pity. But then, I thought, I have two options: continue down this road of self-destruction or change my attitude.””

    On June 8, 2005, Green was driving her 1997 silver Toyota Camry on Farm Road 1187 near Aledo when another Camry, driven by a Burleson, Texas, man, failed to yield before turning left.

    Green’s car broadsided the other car, which had five people inside. Both vehicles then skidded into a patrol car driven by a Tarrant County sheriff’s deputy, who was waiting at a stop sign.

    Green’s car landed upside down in a ditch, the roof collapsing to the driver’s side windowsill and breaking her neck. A back-seat passenger in the other Camry was killed, and a toddler and two other passengers were injured. The driver and the deputy were not seriously injured.

    Green, then about to start her senior year in high school, sued Toyota, alleging that defects in the car’s seat belts and roof caused her injuries. She settled in 2007 for $1.5 million and the case was dismissed.

    But then her case took a strange turn.

    Dimitrios Biller, a former lawyer for Toyota who had represented the company in Green’s case, sued the carmaker, saying it withheld safety-related documents in many cases, including Green’s.

    In 2009, state District Judge John Neill conducted an investigation into whether Toyota should be held in contempt because of Biller’s assertion, said Jeff Embry, Green’s attorney.

    Toyota labeled Biller a “”disgruntled former employee.”” It also said Neill lost jurisdiction over the case when it settled with Green.

    But her attorney argued that Neill had ordered Toyota to release the safety information in 2006, and that judges can enforce court orders even after a case is closed. Toyota asked the Texas Supreme Court to halt the proceedings, but this summer it lifted the stay on the contempt proceedings.

    Toyota is confident that it has “”acted appropriately with respect to product liability litigation and discovery practices, including in the Green case,”” according to a statement by Celeste Migliore, a Toyota spokeswoman.

    “”We continue to believe that there is no legitimate basis for another party to reopen, or attempt to get the court to revisit this case based on the unfounded and misleading accusations being made against Toyota,”” Migliore said.

    Getting her life back has not been easy.

    After the crash, Green went to a rehabilitation facility in Colorado for three months before returning to Joshua to start her senior year. Among the top students in her class, she did not want to miss graduation.

    It was a team effort that included her friends and close-knit family. Her home, for example, was adapted for her wheelchair with the help of Arlington police officers. Her father, Eddie Green, is an Arlington detective.

    Eventually, Green regained “”full arm function.”” She insisted on teaching herself to type and to eat without assistance, although her left hand is in a fist and her right hand is weak and she often drops things.

    Green attended the University of Texas at Arlington and graduated in May with a degree in mathematics. She landed her first teaching job at the high school where her former teachers and principal are now her colleagues.

    Green helps students who fall behind or have poor attendance. She might work with one student on algebra and another on reading “”The Odyssey”” for an English class.

    For fun, Green keeps score for the junior varsity and varsity girls’ volleyball teams — a sport at which she excelled during high school.

    Green hopes to teach math full time. “”I was a math geek. I want to show kids that math is exciting,”” she said.

    Perhaps a poster in Green’s classroom says it best: “”Thirty years from now, it won’t matter what shoes you wore, how your hair looked or the jeans you bought. What matters is how you learned and how you used it.””

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