IRMO, SC (WIS) - The family of a toddler killed by a tree limb at an Irmo park is suing the Town of Irmo.
The family said it has suffered mental shock, psychological trauma, and funeral and medical expenses from the loss of a child -- all because the town and others were negligent. They're seeking an amount yet to be decided.
In late May 2014, Jacoby Latta was playing at Irmo Community Park during a church picnic when he was struck in the head by a falling tree limb.
He suffered a fractured skull and a traumatic brain injury and died just hours later in the hospital, according to court documents.
Now, more than a year later, the family is suing the town and other parties who helped construct this park.
"When you read the complaint, you get an emotional response," said legal expert Harrison Saunders.
The complaint said Jacoby died in the arms of his mother and his 22-year-old sister, ultimately, because the Town of Irmo and the other defendants were "negligent" and "reckless."
The lawsuit claims "the limb was clearly dead and did not possess a single leaf," that "prior to the incident, Irmo received several communications from concerned citizens notifying Irmo that multiple tree limbs had fallen," and that "the defendants breached their duty by their failure to inspect the trees in the Park and by their failure to warn and/or make safe the risk of falling limbs."
The suit reads, "Despite being on notice of many dead limbs throughout the Park, Irmo elected to do nothing."
"If the plaintiffs can prove most or all of this in the complaint, if there's good documentary evidence of these things and also good witnesses out there, credible witnesses, then it sounds like they've got a strong case, and the defense is probably going to try to cut their losses and resolve the matter," Saunders said.
So far, the town -- along with the other defendants -- have denied the allegations in written responses to the suit.
In the town's response, the town's attorney calls what happened an "Act of God."
"The town has alleged defenses like immunity under the Tort Claims Act, immunity under the Recreational Use Statute, and lots of statutes and defenses that they believe insulate the Town of Irmo from being responsible for this," Saunders said.
To this point, the town has not said much about the incident, but in a previous interview, Mayor Hardy King suggested the limb might have been dead.
King tells WIS he's surprised in one sense about the lawsuit, but he says, in another sense, he's not surprised. He told us he doesn't think the town was negligent. He just believes the incident represents that bad things happen to good people.
King said he continues to grieve with the family and says the incident makes him wonder about his faith.
King also said the town has removed trees and branches in the park since the incident.