The Arkansas Supreme Court agreed today with Circuit Judge Tim Fox that the city of Little Rock was immune from lawsuit in the wrongful death case brought by the estate of Le Yang. The seven-year-old died in 2015 after a near drowning in an auto accident.
The Supreme Court agreed that municipalities are immune from lawsuit unless they carry liability insurance, which the city did not. It also rejected a civil rights claim that the child had been denied emergency services to which he was entitled.
The suit was brought by Dayong Yang, the child’s father, as administrator of his estate. His mother, Jinlei Yi, was driving the child to school when her SUV slipped off an icy road and into a pond. A 911 dispatcher called for an ambulance but failed to notify police and fire. That delayed arrival of a water rescue team by 55 minutes. Yi died and her son was severely disabled.
The plaintiff settled a suit against MEMS for $25,000 for each death. The estate won a $17.6 million default judgment against the city dispatcher, but the city was viewed as the likely source of any monetary payment. A claim before the state Claims Commission also was being considered at one point, but I’ve been unable to reach the attorney in the case to see if that possibility remains or if this signals the end of potential action.