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Amari Harley's family seeks to sue city of Jacksonville

Boy, 3, died after falling into unsecured septic tank in October 2017

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The family of a 3-year-old Jacksonville boy who died after falling into a septic tank at a city park seeks to sue the city of Jacksonville, in addition to two city contractors that they've already sued, according to newly filed court documents obtained by the I-TEAM.

The lawsuit now seeks to hold the city of Jacksonville responsible for the way the underground sewage tank at Bruce Park in Arlington was maintained.

The fatal accident occurred in October 2017, at a birthday party and cancer benefit Amari Harley's family was attending. Amari disappeared in the crowded park, and during the search for him, police decided to drain the septic tank next to the bathroom at the park, finding the boy’s body.

According to an investigative report from the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office, the lid to the septic tank where Amari drowned was not properly secured the day he fell in.

In the amended complaint, the family’s lawyers say they discovered "between January 2017 and October 2017, at least two of the septic tank lids at the subject premises were not secured on six separate occasions." 

Lawyers say, "the City of Jacksonville had a nondelegable duty to maintain onsite treatment and disposal systems, including the septic tanks, lids, and risers, on public property and keep them free from hazards."

COURT DOCUMENT: Amended complaint

Attorneys say the city is “liable for the physical harm to and death of Amari Harley consequent to the failure of defendants (ERS, Corp. and A1 Septic Service, Inc.)," who were expected to “exercise reasonable care to take special precautions against the risk of harm and special danger" in their work.

The suit also claims the city was negligent in hiring ERS because the company was not a licensed septic tank contractor or licensed plumber.

Gene Nicholas, an attorney not associated with the case, said Amari's family has a very strong claim. 

"The city of Jacksonville has got to be involved, the fact that this happened, the fact that we are dealing with an area the city is responsible for, we know they hired individuals to take care of this area but at the same time the city is responsible for their city property, they had to be added." 

While this filing is now part of court records for the case, the I-TEAM has learned the city has not been officially served with the amended complaint.

Lawyers for Amari's family had no comment on the recent filing, but expect the city of Jacksonville to be served in the next few weeks. 


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