Drowning trial in Houston

Anna M. Zimmerman

Practice Area:Personal Injury

Outcome:(Not available)

Description:From the Houston Chronicle, November 21, 2006: The city of Houston should pay $2.5 million to the mother of a 13-year-old boy who drowned after being sucked into a rain-swollen drainage culvert two years ago, a jury decided Monday. "I feel it was a win not only for my child, but for every child in Houston," said Sherry Jones, who filed a wrongful-death suit on behalf of her son, Logan Jones. "We've had a great victory." The city probably will file a request to have the judgment capped at $250,000 as prescribed by the Texas Tort Claims Act, said Anna Zimmerman, Jones' attorney. Zimmerman said the cap does not apply, however, because the city's responsibility to make the culvert safe is outside the act. "This is not over," Zimmerman said. Senior Assistant City Attorney Jaqueline "Jackie" Leguizamón referred questions to City Attorney Arturo Michel. Michel could not be reached for comment. Logan and his friends thought a flooded drainage ditch at Cimarron and Emporia was a playful swimming hole after heavy rains ceased June 25, 2004. They tossed an inner tube in the water and Logan jumped, missing the floating inner tube. Within seconds, he was sucked under by the current and disappeared into the concrete drainage pipe beneath the street. His body was found an hour later 100 to 150 yards downstream - nearly two blocks away - where the nearly 2-foot-diameter culvert emptied. His mother filed a wrongful-death claim against the city, saying the city knew no grate covered the culvert. City attorneys said the city staff had not been alerted to the culvert's condition prior to Logan's death. Following three days of testimony and 2 1/2 days of deliberations, a seven-woman, five-man jury found that the city and Logan shared blame. Jurors determined that the city was 70 percent and Logan was 30 percent at fault. They awarded Jones $2,584,700 for her pain and mental anguish as well as for her son's mental anguish and his funeral and medical expenses. The award will be reduced by 30 percent, to acknowledge the jury's determination that Logan bore some responsibility. Before Jones receives any award, state District Judge Levi Benton, who presided at the trial, will determine if the judgment should be capped at $250,000. Zimmerman said Benton has no time limit to make that decision.