Parents of Cummins Falls drowning victim threaten to sue state for negligence

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JACKSON COUNTY, Tenn. (WKRN) — The parents of the two-year-old boy who drowned in rushing floodwaters at Cummins Falls are now threatening to sue the state for negligence and gross negligence in the incident on June 9.

According to court documents, Curtis and Hannah Pierce say their son, Steven, died tragically when he was “ripped from his father’s arms” in a surge of flash flooding at the state park.

Because both parents were present at the time of the accident, they plan to make three claims for the full statutory cap of $300,000, asking for a total of $900,000 in damages.

Christopher Smith, attorney for the couple, set forth four claims as to why the state is at fault in the boy’s death. The letter written to TDEC said the couple is willing to settle with the state but will file a lawsuit if they cannot come to an agreement.

First, they claim that the state should not have opened the park that Sunday after learning rain was in the forecast and after closing the park the two previous days due to rain.

Next, they said the state also decided to keep the park open that day despite receiving a call from the National Weather Service at approximately 12:30 p.m. to alert that rain would be in the area of the park later that day.

They claim the state also failed to install a stream water measurement warning system at Cummins Falls after the drowning deaths of two other people in 2017.

Lastly, they say the state failed to provide life jackets at the place where Steven was killed. According to court documents, while life jackets are provided at the park, visitors are required to return them before they reach the part of the park where the dangerous flash flooding occurred. They also clarify that despite this, Steven was wearing a life jacket at the time of his death.

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