Court of Appeals of Texas, Thirteenth District, Corpus Christi-Edinburg
LECREASE JACKSON, INDIVIDUALLY AND AS SURVIVING PARENT OF XX, A DECEASED MINOR, AND CEDRIC CORBIN, INDIVIDUALLY AND AS SURVIVING PARENT OF XX, A DECEASED MINOR, Appellants,
THE CITY OF TEXAS CITY, TEXAS, Appellee.
appeal from the 405th District Court of Galveston County,
Justices Rodriguez, Contreras, and Longoria
V. RODRIGUEZ Justice
Lecrease Jackson and Cedric Corbin appeal from an order
dismissing their suit against appellee the City of Texas
City. Appellants filed suit individually and as the surviving
parents of Kaloni,  a two-year-old girl who tragically drowned
in a public park owned and maintained by Texas City. By one
issue on appeal, appellants contend that the trial court
erred in granting Texas City's plea to the jurisdiction
on the basis of governmental immunity. We affirm.
time the trial court granted dismissal, appellants' live
petition alleged as follows. On July 6, 2013, appellants and
their daughter Kaloni attended a family reunion at Carver
Park in Texas City. During the reunion, appellants took turns
watching Kaloni, with one parent present at all times. Over
the course of several hours, Kaloni played at the park's
playground, which was approximately forty feet away from the
edge of a pond- one of two ponds which Texas City constructed
at Carver Park in 1974. Kaloni also sat with her parents and
relatives at a group of picnic tables, which were
approximately thirty feet away from the pond.
conclusion of the reunion, Jackson went to help relatives
round up their children, leaving Kaloni with Corbin.
According to the petition, Corbin "turned to gather
items from the picnic table and seconds later noticed that
[Kaloni] was not present." Corbin immediately began
searching for Kaloni, and he was soon joined by Jackson. They
soon contacted authorities, fearing that Kaloni had fallen in
the water. In the hours that followed, a diving team arrived
and discovered Kaloni's body at the bottom of the
undisputed that Texas City had posted at least one warning
sign near the ponds which read "No Swimming, Beware of
Snakes." The parties also agree that there were no
barriers or fences along the edge of the pond nearest to the
playground and picnic areas.
filed suit based on these allegations, raising claims for
negligence and gross negligence. As to gross negligence,
appellants alleged that Texas City had actual awareness of
the extreme degree of risk that children would drown in its
"unprotected, artificially created bodies of water,
which were positioned near the playground and easily
accessible by children." According to appellants, Texas
City "allowed children and others to visit Carver Park
with conscious indifference of this risk." Further,
appellants alleged that Texas City was grossly negligent in
failing to place protective barriers around the pond or to
adequately warn of the dangers associated with the water.
City submitted a plea to the jurisdiction and a supplemental
plea. The supplement argued that there had been no incidents
at Carver Park which would provide Texas City with notice
that the pond presented some risk beyond the understanding of
ordinary recreational users. Attached to the supplement was
an affidavit by the custodian of records for the Texas City
Police Department. The affidavit certified that the custodian
was unable to locate any records of drownings or
near-drownings in Carver Park in the last five years.
submitted a response with new allegations-among them, that
Texas City had fenced off a concrete structure near a
different area of the ponds. According to appellants'
response, the alleged presence of the fence demonstrated
Texas City's awareness of the ponds' risks.
Appellants attached exhibits to this response, including
photographs which showed various aspects of Carver Park. One
photograph showed a picnic table near a body of water.
Another depicted a playground, though no water was pictured.
A third showed what was called a "splash pad"-an
area with several fountains in which children could play.
Also included were three aerial photos of Carver Park, with
measurements between various structures and the ponds, as
well as a newspaper article concerning Kaloni's untimely
death. Finally, at the hearing on the plea to the
jurisdiction, appellants asked the trial court to review
portions of a video taken by appellants' counsel. This
video was apparently intended to show various aspects of
Carver Park, including the ponds. However, the video was not
entered into evidence and does not appear in the appellate
record, and the trial court reviewed only a few unspecified
portions of this video rather than its entirety. No other
evidence was received.
to appellants, their photos and other submissions
demonstrated at least four dangerous features of the pond:
its proximity to areas frequented by children, its unsafe
depth, its steep banks, and that certain parts of the banks
were made of unstable soil which would easily give way under
conclusion of the hearing, the trial court granted Texas
City's plea to the jurisdiction on the basis of
governmental immunity. This appeal followed.
appeal, appellants do not contest the dismissal of their
negligence claim. Instead, appellants contend that they
demonstrated Texas City's gross negligence and that the
trial court therefore erred in dismissing this claim.
Appellants argue that this showing of gross negligence was
sufficient to survive the plea to the jurisdiction under the