Warning sign at natural area.

Firm files $900,000 lawsuit in Cummins Falls drowning case

On behalf of the family of a toddler who drowned at Cummins Falls this June, our law firm has filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the park. Hannah and Curtis Pierce, parents of 2-year-old victim Steven Pierce, formally filed suit on Monday. The Pierces–represented by the wrongful death attorneys of David Randolph Smith & Associates–allege that the park system’s negligence caused the death of their son.

CLICK HERE to read the wrongful death lawsuit.

Family’s initial claim against TDEC

The Pierce family initially filed a claim with the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation on July 1, about three weeks after their toddler’s death. The complaint alleged that the state negligently failed to install proper warning systems around Cummins Falls, in spite of the high incidence of flash-flooding-related deaths at the falls. Park officials also allowed the park to open on a Sunday, after heavy rains had occurred all weekend. More rain was also projected for that afternoon. The family alleges that opening the park to visitors, in disregard of the dangerous weather, was a further act of negligence on the park’s behalf.

Hannah and Curtis Pierce assert that if the state had taken reasonable measures to ensure park visitor safety, their toddler son would still be alive. The Pierces’ claim requested $900,000 in damages, or $300,000 apiece for Steven and each of his parents.

Wrongful death lawsuit

The state ultimately failed to settle the family’s $900,000 claim. Subsequently, the family filed a formal lawsuit this week with the Tennessee Claims Commission, under the Office of the Attorney General. The Cummins Falls drowning lawsuit reaffirms the arguments articulated in the Pierces’ initial claim.

The Pierces’ suit alludes to the previous drowning deaths at Cummins Falls, and notes that Steven Pierce’s death is believed to be the sixth since Cummins Falls became a park in 2011. Sarah Young, professor of recreation park studies at Indiana University, believes that the park’s repeated failure to act spells trouble for the state. In an interview with WPLN Nashville, Professor Young noted: “[It’s] going to be really hard to explain: why didn’t the park do something?”

For further information about Steven Pierce’s death, click here.