Wrongful Death Lawsuit Reaches Settlement

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In Kansas City, parents of Christopher Dill, fourth-grader, allege that their son wrongfully died as a result of the city’s poorly designed and maintained storm drainage system.

On May 30, 2007 Christopher Dill was walking with friends through a field near Maplewood Elementary School when rainwater swept him off his feet and carried him into a storm drainage ditch. Rain filled the ditch as the strong current pulled Christopher under water and trapped him at the opening of the drainage tube. Christopher was submerged under water for several minutes before the neighbors were able to pull him out. The neighbors attempted to revive Christopher but an emergency crew rushed him to the hospital and Christopher was pronounced dead later.

Christopher’s parents, Angela Phelps and Lynn Dill, filed a wrongful-death lawsuit against the city and North Kansas City School District. His parents alleged negligence and that the drainage ditch near Northeast 52nd Street and Beacon Avenue was unguarded, overgrown with vegetation, and located on school property. The parents contend that the city should be held accountable for maintaining the streets, sidewalks, and storm-water sewers.

After the civil lawsuit was filed, the city granted a motion to be dismissed from the lawsuit because the parents of Christopher Dill failed to present that state law allowed the city to be sued over the issue and that the drainage ditch was owned by the district, not the city. The parents appealed that ruling shortly after.

A decision released from the appeals court reversed a ruling to dismiss the city from the lawsuit and to be sent back to Clay County Circuit Court. The Missouri appeals court ruled that Kansas City does not have immunity in the death of 10-year-old Christopher Dill.

In the amended petition, the district is unnamed due to both parties reaching a settlement and the lawsuit alleges that the city’s storm water drainage system was poorly designed and maintained by the city. Christopher’s parents contend that their son drowned as a result of the design and lack of maintenance.

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