Eight years ago, Katy Hayes, of Kingwood, lost all of her limbs due to a group A streptococcal, or GAS, infection following the home birth of her third child. Last year, Hayes filed for divorce from her husband, and after mediation with her former attorney, her ex-husband was awarded temporary conservatorship of their children. KoonsFuller Managing Shareholder Sherri Evans saw Hayes’ need for adequate counsel in the matter, and KoonsFuller associate Jordan Turk took on the case pro bono. Turk was able to settle the case without going to trial and obtained primary conservatorship of the children for Hayes. The Texas Bar Journal sat down with Elizabeth Lampert, where we discussed the background of Hayes’ medical battles, the ongoing legal battles after her divorce, and Turk’s work in helping Hayes get conservatorship of her child.
Can you give me some of the background on the case?
In 2010, Katy Hayes lost all of her limbs to a catastrophic infection—invasive group A streptococcal disease, or GAS—following the home birth of her third child. Since Hayes’ journey navigating this disease began, the Kingwood community has come together to help her and her family—from sending her to Boston for two years where she was to receive arm transplants, which ultimately failed, to providing her with a van.
In 2017, Hayes filed for divorce. Prior to Jordan Turk taking on the case pro bono, Hayes had gone to mediation on temporary orders with her previous attorney, which resulted in her ex-husband being awarded temporary conservatorship of their children.
How did this case come to your attention?
Sherri Evans knew of Hayes and from local Kingwood acquaintances heard of her divorce and custody challenges with the ex-husband’s attempts to take the kids away.
Can you give me some details of the case?
Prior to Turk taking on the case pro bono, Hayes had gone to mediation on temporary orders with her previous attorney, which resulted in her ex-husband being awarded primary conservatorship of their children. Turk was able to settle the case for Hayes without going to trial, resulting in Hayes obtaining primary conservatorship of her children, keeping the house, and her vehicle.
What made this case a particularly important one to take on pro bono?
Since February 14, 2010, when doctors determined Hayes had been infected with GAS, she has overcome tremendous obstacles, beating all odds. This case was important to show that being physically disabled does not prevent you from being an effective parent. Hayes never let her disability define who she was as a mother. Above all, she loves her kids, and KoonsFuller just needed to channel that into positive advocacy for Hayes.
What serves as your motivation to do pro bono—for this case—and in general?
We established the KoonsFuller Family Law Foundation this year. We are awarding the North Texas area and Houston nonprofit organizations grants totaling $200,000 at our 40th anniversary events in November. That $200,000 is in addition to the firm’s “everyday” fiscal charitable contributions. Our dedication to charitable contributions, in addition to our heavy involvement in charitable activities, leadership roles, pro bono, etc., is important to the firm.
Kingwood native Evans felt especially compelled to offer the firm’s services pro bono to Katy with Turk taking the lead.
What would you say to someone who hasn’t done pro bono but is considering it for the first time?
Don’t be scared. Don’t worry about not having time to do it—you will make time. You will be able to give the gift of comfort, of empowerment, to your client. This is one of the reasons why you went to law school. You get to make an indelible mark on someone’s life. Contact your local bar association and they will point you in the right direction. There is an entire community of attorneys who will make themselves available to assist you.
Now, just get out and do it.