The parents of a 3-year-old boy killed three years ago by a falling tree limb in an Irmo park have settled a lawsuit for $3.6 million.
The settlement was reached last week, just days before the third anniversary of Jacoby Latta’s death. He was killed May 31, 2014.
His parents, Stuart and Xaviera, filed a wrongful death lawsuit alleging negligence by Town Hall and six companies that designed and built Irmo Community Park, court records say.
Most of the money will be paid by companies involved in creating the park and the playground where the tragedy occurred. The town of Irmo is paying $400,000, with the remainder coming from the companies in varying amounts, records show.
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The final installment of nearly $1.37 million from insurers for two firms was approved in Richland County Circuit Court last week. Neither Irmo nor the companies admitted liability in agreeing to the settlement, records show.
“I do feel like it was an act of God,” Irmo Mayor Hardy King said Tuesday of the incident.
The companies involved in the settlement are:
▪ Grimball, Cotteril & Associates for $790,000.
▪ Clearwater Co., $700,000.
▪ Barrs Recreation, $250,000.
▪ Dennis Corp., $750,000.
▪ Reese Construction, $162,500.
▪ CBG Inc., $500,000.
The settlement bars public comment by the family, according to their lawyer, Wesley Peel.
Their son was playing at a church picnic when the tree limb fell at the 14-acre park, which had been opened less than a month.
Companies involved in creating the park failed to remove vegetation that “posed a threat or danger,” the parents said in their lawsuit. The parents also alleged that town officials ignored complaints prior to the tragedy about limbs falling near the playground. Warnings should have been posted about the risk, their lawsuit said.
Irmo officials denied the claims, according to court records.
Trees in three town parks are inspected weekly for problems, a practice that was in place before the tragedy, King said.
After the youngster’s death, town officials checked trees again near the playground, removing one and trimming limbs on a dozen others. An inspection by independent specialists found the tree from which the limb fell was healthy otherwise.
Detecting tree rot is time-consuming and often impractical in parks, some arborists consulted after the tragedy said.
Irmo contracts with specialists who check trees in its parks four times a year as a precaution, King said. About 100 trees have been removed in the past three years, he said.
Heavily wooded Community Park was developed partly to give the town-sponsored Okra Strut festival a permanent home.
Town officials plan to name a garden near the playground after Jacoby Latta.
Tim Flach: 803-771-8483