Judge Keeps Louisiana City-Parish in Suit Over Sewer Hole Drowning

July 15, 2016

A state judge has refused to dismiss the city-parish from a lawsuit by the mother of a 4-year-old Baton Rouge, La., boy who drowned in an abandoned sewer hole near his home in 2014.

The East Baton Rouge City-Parish government contends it isn’t liable in the death of Jassiah Clark because it didn’t perform any of the work associated with demolishing the pumping station or filling the abandoned sewer hole.

The Advocate reports District Judge Mike Caldwell, after hearing brief arguments on Monday, decided to keep the city-parish in the suit for the time being.

Caldwell noted that the hole in which the boy drowned was 20 feet deep.

Other defendants are Grady Crawford Construction, of Baton Rouge, and CH2M Hill Inc., of Englewood, Colorado.

Grady Crawford was the independent contractor hired by the city-parish to demolish the pumping station. The city-parish contracted with CH2M Hill to be the project manager over the upgrading of the city’s pumping stations.

Clark was reported missing the night of Dec. 20, 2014, and his body was recovered two days later following a massive search involving about 100 officers from several agencies, including the FBI.

An attorney for the boy’s mother, Brittni Clark, has said the hole was first reported by city-parish inspectors in October 2014 and again by project inspectors two weeks before the fatal accident.

A contractor filled the opening with “flowable fill and sand” two months before the boy’s death, a city-parish official has said, but a “migration of soils” occurred sometime between September 2014 and the time of the tragic accident.

Lewis Unglesby, one of Clark’s attorneys, said the hole resembled a typical mud puddle. There were no signs, barricades or fencing around it at the time of the accident.

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