National News

Family of girl who died after being shocked settles suit

Posted 1:51 p.m. Friday

— Salina has settled a civil lawsuit with a family whose 12-year-old daughter died several months after being shocked while playing in a rainstorm.

The amount of the settlement with Jaymie Hicks and Jonni Cullison wasn't disclosed, The Salina Journal reports. The couple's daughter, Jayden, was 11 in May 2013 when she slipped in a puddle and fell onto an in-ground junction box at the entrance to a plaza in downtown Salina. The box had been installed without a grounding wire and contained damaged wires.

Jayden underwent months of hospitalization and rehabilitation before she died in December of that year.

Her parents previously reached undisclosed settlements with the manufacturer of the junction box and the company that the city hired to install it in the 1980s. According to court records, the city never inspected the wiring inside the box.

A judge initially had dismissed Salina from the litigation, citing recreational use immunity. Under Kansas law, municipalities aren't liable for damages on public property, such as parks and playgrounds, unless the government or a government employee "is guilty of gross and wanton negligence."

Judge Bill Elliott, a retired senior judge assigned to hear the case, determined the city's actions didn't constitute gross and wanton negligence. The Kansas Court of Appeals later overturned the lower-court ruling, finding that it was wrong to decide the matter without a trial. A jury had been scheduled to hear the case in May.

City Manager Jason Gage said the city's insurance carrier resolved the matter. According to a court journal entry, the case was dismissed upon mutual motion of the city and the Hicks family on Aug. 30, with each party paying its own legal fees.

"The resolution is confidential, consistent with the wishes of the family," Gage wrote, in a message to the newspaper. "In order to honor the family's wishes, I don't believe it would be appropriate for me to comment further."

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