Salina family sues in death from electrical shock

SALINA, Kan. (AP) — The family of an 11-year-old Salina girl who died several months after receiving an electric shock while playing in the rain has filed a lawsuit against the city and the company that made the in-ground electrical box.

Jaden Hicks died in December after she slipped and fell onto the electrical box during a thunderstorm in downtown Salina in May, The Salina Journal reported.

The lawsuit, which claims the electrical junction box wasn’t property grounded, names the city and Hope Electrical Products, the New Jersey company that made the box. It seeks unspecified damages, including for medical care, burial costs and other expenses.

Jayden was playing with friends in Campbell Plaza during a thunderstorm when she fell onto the electrical box, which had a metal cover, and was shocked. After the incident, investigators found that connections in the box had short-circuited and that the box had not been properly grounded, according to the lawsuit.

Several people who tried to rescue her also were shocked, and firefighters had to use a fiberglass pole to pull her off the box. She was taken to Salina Regional Health Center, and transferred to a hospital in Wichita where she remained in critical condition for several months. She was later transferred to a different facility in Lincoln, Neb., where she died Dec. 31.

The lawsuit says a city electrician told investigators “he knew there was no ground wire as they had not installed the ground,” and that “if they had installed the ground wire, every time there was a power surge, it would trip the breaker and all he would get done would be resetting the breaker.”

The electrician’s quotes were taken from reports that Salina police or fire investigators made on the day of the incident or soon after, said Michael Rader, a Leawood attorney representing the Hicks family.

Salina City Manager Jason Gage said Wednesday afternoon he had neither seen the lawsuit nor talked to the city’s attorneys about it. He also said he was not familiar with the statements attributed to a city electrician and couldn’t confirm that they were accurate.

A woman who answered the phone number for Hope Electrical Products said the only person who could comment on the lawsuit was out of the office until Monday.

The lawsuit also challenges the constitutionality of a Kansas law that caps liability at the amount of insurance carried by a municipality. Salina’s insurance will pay a maximum of $1 million per incident.

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