Attorney John O'Quinn killed in wreck

October 29, 2009 8:40:33 PM PDT
One of Houston's most prominent attorneys, John O'Quinn, has died after he and another man crashed into a tree Thursday morning. [PHOTOS: John O'Quinn through the years ]
[WATCH: Press conference from John O'Quinn's office]

The accident happened on Allen Parkway just west of Montrose, where it appears O'Quinn lost control of his SUV.

O'Quinn, who made billions by winning high profile cases against tobacco, breast implant, and chemical manufacturers, was killed, along with his passenger, Johnny Cutliff. Cutliff was a 26-year employee of the company who worked as an administrative support person.

"We just saw the smoke starting to come out of the car," said witness Stephany Moore.

Police say it was around 8am Thursday morning when a black Suburban travelling westbound on Allen Parkway near Montrose lost control, crossed a median and struck a tree on the south side of the road, killing the two men inside. Speed and wet roads may have played a role.

"It doesn't take a lot of speed when you have a vehicle of that weight striking an immoveable object to create a lot of damage," said Lt. Larry Satterwhite with the Houston Police Department.

The force of the impact was tremendous as the vehicle appears to have wrapped itself around the tree. Police say witnesses told them no other vehicle was involved. There have been 12 traffic fatalities on Allen Parkway in the past 14 years. Accident investigators spent the morning taking pictures and measurements and hope to recreate the accident in an effort to fill in the missing pieces.

"These investigations do take a long time and we want to do it right so it's going to take some time," said Lt. Satterwhite.

Colleagues say O'Quinn, who is diabetic, appeared to be in good health lately. You may remember he passed out during the Anna Nicole Smith trial. That was attributed to his diabetes.

There is no criminal investigation at this point. No one else was hurt. Police tell us that both of the deceased men were not wearing seat belts.

About John O'Quinn

O'Quinn is a well-known as a personal injury attorney. He was at the forefront of national litigation like the breast implant cases and was one of the lead lawyers in the state of Texas' massive settlement from the tobacco industry. He also was prosecuted by the State Bar of Texas for how he obtained cases and found in contempt midtrial for sleeping in a jury room.

O'Quinn, a University of Houston Law Center alumnus, was a dedicated and passionate supporter of the university. He served on the UH System Board of Regents from 1993 to 1999, holding the office of vice chairman from 1994-96.

UH Chancellor and President Renu Khator said, "He worked tirelessly in behalf of this university and was one of its most generous financial contributors. The O'Quinn Law Library and O'Quinn Field at Robertson Stadium are the most prominent examples of his philanthropy at UH but are by no means the extent of it."

O'Quinn's car collection

John O'Quinn was an avid collector of classic cars. He owned more than 600 cars, worth more than $100 million, including a Batmobile and a 1975 Escort once driven by Pope John Paul II before he was named pope.

Dangerous stretch of road?

The road where O'Quinn crashed has been the scene of numerous accidents over the years. City officials even took steps to give drivers along Allen Parkway more traction as they negotiate the curves along Buffalo Bayou after our own Marvin Zindler got involved.

O'Quinn was 68 years old.

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