It's always tragic when someone dies “before their time.” Especially if it is a young child.
Such is the case with the death of Daysean Jermaine Combest. On or about August first of 2017, Daysean drowned while trapped in a Shreveport culvert.
Although there are no witnesses. Presumably, Daysean decided to play in an open drainage ditch while helping his mother and sister move into a new residence. The shoes of the seven year old were found next to the culvert by his older sister. Evidently, Daysean was playing in the ditch and was swept into the culvert.
Despite an extensive search by city employees, his body was not found until three days later.
Daysean’s parents recently filed a lawsuit against the city of Shreveport, they have asserted that the open ditch was an “attractive nuisance”.
Wikipedia states a landowner may be held liable for injuries to children trespassing on the land if the injury is caused by an object on the land that is likely to attract children. The doctrine is designed to protect children who are unable to appreciate the risk posed by the object.
The lawsuit notes that the culvert did not have a grate or a guard to prevent the child from getting into the ditch and being swept away by the water. Just before the incident, heavy rains had increased the water flow in all Shreveport culverts, including this particular one.
The issues concerning the city’s liability can be overshadowed by this tragedy.
The city of Shreveport has hundreds of miles of open drainage ditches that feed into culverts. These can be seen in practically every neighborhood in the city—from the MLK area to South Highlands. To say the least, the cost to put in protective grates or devices throughout the city would be exorbitant—and not economically feasible.
If the drainage ditch and culvert are considered to be an “attractive nuisance”, then there are many other areas in the city that could also be deemed the same. Start with Cross Lake and its miles of shoreline. Then consider the pond at the Shreveport Dog Park.
The fountain spray park on Clyde Fant Parkway could also fall into this category. This area is currently not working due to needed repairs. Whether if this work should be done is now an open question.
And as distasteful as it is, the issue of appropriate supervision of Daysean is an underlying issue that this litigation will bring to the surface. That plus his age—should he have realized that playing in water is dangerous? These are sad matters that have stayed below the media radar but will now surface, for good or bad.
As a standing rule, the city of Shreveport does not comment on litigation until it is concluded. It was very appropriate that city attorney William Bradford deviated from this policy when he released this statement:
“The city of Shreveport is aware of the lawsuit filed on behalf of Daysean Combest. Ordinarily, the City does not comment on pending litigation, but a matter like this affects not only a grieving home; but also our community. Our hearts are with his family and we will work to conclude this lawsuit with as little emotional impact to them as possible. However, the City of Shreveport must explore all the issues of fact and law related to the passing of Daysean. There are many items to be discussed with the parties and witnesses who are involved. While this process is ongoing we continue to thank the men and women of the Shreveport Fire Department, Shreveport Police Department, Public Works, Engineering, Water and Sewerage and the countless other who works tirelessly to bring conclusion to that painful moment in time.”
There is a revered saying that “a parent should never have to bury a child”. It’s certainly true in this case, which has no good answers for Daysean, his family, and Shreveport.
(This article was published in The Inquisitor on Friday, August 17, 2018)