Mikel Knight Finally Facing Wrongful Death Lawsuit Trial

It was July of 2014 when a young man named Ky Rodgers first posted a lengthy, firsthand account about his time working on one of the street teams for country rap artist Mikel Knight. This is when many were first made aware of the allegedly dangerous, and ultimately, deadly working conditions street team members were being forced to endure while working for the entertainer, according to accounts.

Along with the harrowing stories of working long hours selling CDs face to face, witnessing fellow street team members being physically assaulted and sometimes left in remote towns for poor sales performance, and others not getting paid for their work, Ky’s account of working on a Mikel Knight street team ended when the van he was riding in fell off a 3-story cliff in Utah and he was severely injured. Ky Rodgers had to be CareFlighted to a hospital from the crash scene. He’d broken his L2, L3, and L4 vertebrae, pelvis, sacrum, and was in the hospital for a week, and left with $38,000 in medical bills.

The Ky Rodgers account of his time employed on one of Mikel Knight’s street teams soon went viral, and would continuously get reshared as street teams traveled to locations across the United States to sell Mikel Knight CDs.

As distressing as the Ky Rodgers story was to read, it was even worse for the families of Taylor Robert Nixon and Robert Joseph Underfinger III, who were both killed in a June 16th, 2014 accident in Donley County, Texas when the 2005 Chevy van they were passengers in veered off the road after overcorrecting and losing control, and rolled several times before coming to a stop. The manager of the Mikel Knight street team and one other individual were also injured in the incident.

Now, after eight years of trying to pursue justice and restitution against Mikel Knight, Ky Rodgers and the families of both Robert Nixon and Robert Underfinger are finally getting their opportunity in court. After combining all three matters into one civil case and numerous delays due to Mikel Knight switching legal teams, a trial will commence with Mikel Knight as a defendant in the court of Judge Thomas W. Brothers starting on October 17th in Nashville’s Davidson County Circuit Court.

To find out more about the Ky Rodgers account, the death of Robert Nixon and Robert Underfinger, and more of the history of Mikel Knight, read The Sound of Deception, Country Rap’s Mikel Knight & His Notorious Street Teams.

The Estate of Robert Nixon represented by his mother Shannon Baseman, and the Estate of Robert Joseph Underfinger III represented by his mother Donna Taylor, is suing Jason Cross—a.k.a. Mikel Knight—his companies 1203 Entertainment, MDRST (Maverick Dirt Road Street Team) Marketing/Promotions, Stephanie Cross (spouse), and Justin Hoskins, who was the driver of the van involved in the fatality accident.

There are eight separate counts in the lawsuit, including Negligence and Recklessness, Negligent Entrustment, Negligent Supervision/Hiring/Training, Fraud, Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress, and violations of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA).

The lawsuit asserts that the poor working conditions and excruciating demands on street team members is what resulted in driver Justin Hoskins falling asleep at the wheel, which ultimately resulted in the death of Robert Nixon and Robert Joseph Underfinger III.

The lawsuit reads in part, “Taylor Nixon and Robert Unfinger were injured and killed as a proximate consequence of the negligence, wantonness, recklessness, incompetence, inexperience and/or impairment of the Defendant Hoskins in concurring with the negligent and/or wanton entrustment of the vehicle to him by Defendants Cross, Knight, 1203 Entertainment, MDRST, and Doe Defendants A-E.”

In the incident involving the severe injury of Ky Rodgers, fatigue of the driver Danny Cantrell was also cited by authorities as the reason for accident, and is also cited in the lawsuit. The lawsuit reads in part:

“While Defendant Cantrell was driving the van east on State Road 44, he fell asleep at the wheel and the van crossed the center line, ran off the road to the left, slid down an embankment, rolled onto the driver’s side and crashed into a tree. Defendants Cross and/or Knight and/or 1203 Entertainment and/or MDRST and/or Doe Defendants A-E knew or should have known Defendant Cantrell was operating their van while fatigued but the Defendants required Cantrell to continue to operate the van while fatigued, and in fact, required or encouraged Cantrell and Plantiff to work long hours and afforded them little opportunity to obtain regular and restorative sleep.”

The lawsuit claims that the extreme conditions street team members were forced to work under is what led to the deaths and injury. The lawsuit seeks actual and exemplary damages, funeral and burial expenses, as well as loss of consortium and companionship by the mothers in the deaths of their sons. No specific dollar amount of what they’re seeking is cited in the complaints.

The stories of Taylor Nixon, Robert Unfinger, and Ky Rodgers are not the only ones detailing abuse and dangerous working conditions on Mikel Knight’s street teams. A Facebook group called “Families Against Mikel Knight and the MDRST” was set up, and shared scores of other accounts from former street team members.

In June of 2016, a Mikel Knight Street Team van was involved in another accident when it T-boned an elderly woman in a small Nissan pickup. The elderly woman was taken to a local hospital via ambulance. “The poor guy actually seemed relieved to have lost his job with them from having the accident,” local police chief Bobby Floyd said about the accident, illustrating the difficult conditions street team members remained under even after the previous injuries and deaths.

For Mikel Knight’s part, the entertainer has always claimed to not be responsible for the injury of Ky Rodgers, or the deaths of Taylor Nixon and Robert Unfinger. He also claims the reason there are so many disgruntled former members of his street team is due to purposely hiring troubled individuals and ex-convicts to give them a second chance. Knight sought his own lawsuit against Facebook for the “Families Against Mikel Knight and the MDRST” page, which became a landmark Freedom of Speech case involving social media companies. MIkel Knight and has also threatened, or brought lawsuits against the families of injured and deceased former street team members, as well as Saving Country Music for reporting on the incidents involving Mikel Knight and his street teams.

Mikel Knight has an extensive criminal past, including six separate assault charges from 1995 to 2006 in the San Antonio area, and numerous assault, theft, and vandalism charges including multiple felonies in Davidson County (Nashville) starting in 2006 when he moved to the area.

After the viral Facebook account from Ky Rodgers and Saving Country Music‘s reporting, the saga of Mikel Night and his street teams became a national narrative, with Gawker publishing an extensive dive into the story, and Vice making Mikel Night a significant part of a documentary on Nashville.

Stay tuned to Saving Country Music as the trial of Mikel Knight moves forward.

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