Widow Can’t Sue City|for Drowning Deaths

     (CN) – A woman whose husband and twin daughters drowned at a manmade beach cannot sue Texas City for its “deadly undertows,” the Texas Supreme Court ruled.
     The Texas City Dike is a manmade peninsula that extends more than 5 miles into Galveston Bay. Created more than 100 years ago to limit siltation from the Texas City Ship Channel, the dike has been open for public recreation since 1963.
     Texas City is across the ship channel from Galveston. Visitors can boat, fish and hunt crabs, but swimming is allowed only in designated areas. Signs in English and Spanish warn of the undertow from passing ships.
     The dike suffered heavy damage from Hurricane Ike in 2008, and not all of the damaged warning signs were replaced.
     Weeks after the dike reopened in 2010, Hector and Edith Suarez visited it with their 9-year-old twin girls and other family members.
     The girls, still in their street clothes, waded into the water and soon were struggling to stay afloat 10 feet from the beach.
     Hector and two other men were unable to save them. The girls and their father were swept away.
     Edith Suarez sued Texas City for negligence and gross negligence, saying the city knew of the dangerous conditions of its beach.
     The trial court denied the city’s claim of immunity, but the Texas Court of Appeals reversed.
     On June 19, Texas Supreme Court Justice Eva Guzman wrote for the court that Texas City is covered by immunity.
     “When gross negligence is alleged, immunity is waived only if the governmental entity (1) knew about a condition of the property giving rise to an extreme degree of risk and (2) proceeded with conscious indifference to the rights, safety and welfare of others,” Guzman wrote.
     She noted Suarez’s allegation that the city did not establish a swimming area after Hurricane Ike and that other people had drowned at the dike.
     However, “(t)o the extent this evidence raises any inference that the city knew uniquely perilous conditions existed at the beach (or at the dike generally), the evidence is equally consistent with mere knowledge of the risks inherently associated with open-water swimming,” Guzman ruled.
     She affirmed the appeals court ruling dismissing the case for lack of jurisdiction.

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