Posted: Aug 2, 2013 11:56 AM
Updated: Aug 2, 2013 11:56 AM
AUSTIN, Texas (AP) Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott has received more than $5 million so far from a lawsuit over a felled tree in 1984 that left the Republican gubernatorial candidate paralyzed, according to long-guarded details of the settlement finally made public Friday.
Abbott's campaign released a copy of the 1986 settlement with a Houston property owner and a company that had inspected the oak tree before it crashed onto Abbott, who was then a 26-year-old law student out for a jog when the freak accident pinned him to the road and broke his back.
He was paralyzed from the waist down and has used a wheelchair ever since.
The settlement reveals that Abbott, who is considered the early favorite to replace Gov. Rick Perry in 2014, receives annually adjusted monthly payments for life that are currently worth about $14,400. He is also due 14 lump-sum payments through 2022 that total more than $4.2 million.
If Abbott, 55, lives to see that final lump-sum payment, he will have received more than $9 million from the settlement.
Spokesman Matt Hirsch said a copy of the seven-page agreement was made public because Abbott "wanted to end speculation and provide accurate details of his settlement." He did not comment further; Abbott wasn't available for an interview.
The settlement was first obtained by The Texas Tribune.
Abbott, whose salary as attorney general is $150,000, has been in public office since 1993 when he started his political career as a state district judge in Harris County. But only now has Abbott revealed the worth of the settlement, which has been raised in previous campaigns for attorney general.
When it comes to discussing the actual accident, Abbott has long been candid about his paralysis and how it affects his life. The story was the focus of a 10-city campaign swing last month that officially launched his long-expected gubernatorial run, which is starting with a mighty $23 million warchest.
"In piecing my life back together I realized that our lives don't have to be defined by how we're challenged. Instead we can define our lives by how we respond to the challenges we face," Abbott told supporters during a July 16 rally in Wichita Falls.
As the state's attorney and top law enforcement officer since 2002, Abbott is among the state's Republican leaders who have gone after trial lawyers and tightened rules on civil claims in Texas.
That has given opponents ammunition to paint Abbott as a hypocrite for collecting on his own multimillion dollar civil lawsuit. Abbott has rebuffed that criticism, saying that anyone injured today as he was could still pursue a similar claim.
Republican Tom Pauken, the former head of the Texas Workforce Commission, is Abbott's only challenger so far in the governor's race. Democrats have yet to offer a candidate, though state Sen. Wendy Davis is considering a run following her 11-hour filibuster over abortion restrictions this summer that made her a party superstar.
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