Saturday, August 29, 2009

Siblings' Bystander Claim in Brother's Drowning Death Rejected

Does it make a difference if you actually saw your little brother die, or "just" saw his dead body when it flushed out of a drainage pipe? Apparently it does, but justices on panel reviewing summary judgment in favor of city in suit complaining of uncovered culverts are not of one mind.

Jones v. City of Houston (Tex.App.- Houston [1st Dist.] Aug. 27, 2009)(Jennings)

In the plaintiffs' second amended petition, the Jones siblings alleged that on June 25, 2004, Logan Jones, their thirteen-year-old brother, drowned when he was sucked into and trapped underwater in a culvert owned and maintained by the City. After spending over an hour waiting by the culvert for rescue teams to find their brother, the Jones siblings saw Logan's body float out of a culvert several blocks north of the culvert. After seeing Logan's injuries and that he had died, the Jones siblings "began to experience extreme nervousness, anxiety, depression, mental anguish, distractibility, and difficulty sleeping," and they sought recovery for these damages as bystanders. The Jones siblings based their bystander claims for wrongful death on the City's gross negligence in creating and maintaining the culvert.

The City, in its motion for summary judgment, contended that the Jones siblings were not entitled to recover for their emotional trauma and mental anguish as bystanders.

* * *

[W]e hold that the City's summary judgment evidence established as a matter of law that the Jones siblings could not recover as bystanders for any mental anguish and emotional trauma caused by their brother's drowning.

Jones v. City of Houston (Tex.App.- Houston [1st Dist.] Aug. 27, 2009)(Jennings) (TTCA, drowning death of child, uncovered culvert, siblings' bystander claim rejected, drowning deaths)

Disposition: Trial Court Judgment Affirmed
Appellate Opinion by Justice Jennings
Panel composition: Before Justices Jennings, Alcala and Higley
Appellate cause no: 01-08-00905-CV
Full style of case in the court of appeals: Landon Jones and Loren Jones v. City of Houston
Court below: Appeal from 215th District Court of Harris County
Trial Court Judge: Hon. Levi J. Benton

Dissenting Opinion by Justice Elsa Alcala in Jones v. City of Houston

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