Family of children who died in 2019 pond crash suing St. Joseph County, City of Mishawaka

ST. JOSEPH COUNTY, Ind. — The family of two children who died when their car crashed into a retention pond in Mishawaka in December 2019 has filed a civil lawsuit against St. Joseph County, the City of Mishawaka, and other entities.

The lawsuit has been filed under the Child Wrongful Death Act and alleges negligent and reckless behavior by first responders. 

According to the complaint filed on November 29, Brooke and Christopher Kleven are suing for the events leading up to and during the incident that claimed the lives of four-year-old James and two-year-old Natalie and injured Brooke Kleven and her three-month-old son Hendrix.

At 2:45 p.m. on December 31, 2019, Kleven and her three children were traveling in a minivan on University Drive when, according to FACT, the van slid off the road and into a retention pond.

According to police, Kleven and the two deceased children were submerged in the water for several minutes before they were removed.

The lawsuit criticizes how dispatchers handled the 9-1-1 calls.

A previous investigation into the response resulted in the resignation of three St. Joseph County dispatchers. 

According to case documents, the family is suing the following entities:

  • St. Joseph County for allegedly failing to train employees.
  • St. Joseph County – Monell Claim – for custom, police and practice for employees.
  • St. Joseph County for allegedly committing “negligent, grossly negligent and/or reckless acts and/or omissions” in training employees.
  • Jeffrey Downey, who was a telecommunicator for St. Joseph County, for alleged “deliberate indifference and/or reckless disregard of plaintiffs’ constitutional rights”
  • Jennifer Stitsworth, who was also a telecommunicator for St. Joseph County, for alleged “deliberate indifference and/or reckless disregard of Plaintiffs’ constitutional rights”
  • City of Mishawaka for allegedly committing “grossly negligent and/or reckless acts and/or omissions” for approving the placement of the retention pond and not adding barriers around the pond.
  • Clay Township for allegedly committing “grossly negligent and/or reckless acts and/or omissions” in relation to the emergency crews who responded to the scene.
  • Great Lakes Capital Management LLC for allegedly committing “careless and negligent, acts and/or omissions” in relation to the maintenance of the retention pond.
  • Bradley Company, LLC for allegedly committing “careless and negligent, acts and/or omissions” in relation to the maintenance of the retention pond.
  • Motorola Solutions, Inc. for allegedly committing “negligent, grossly negligent and/or reckless acts and/or omissions” in relation to the technology used when emergency crews responded to the scene.

The family is seeking compensatory damages, economic losses, special losses, special damages, punitive damages, attorneys’ fees and costs and expenses related to the case from St. Joseph County, Downey and Stitsworth.

Additionally, the family is seeking compensatory damages from the City of Mishawaka, Bradley Company Entities, Great Lakes Entities and Clay Township.

The family is seeking both compensatory and punitive damages from Motorola Solutions.

We have reached out to St. Joseph County for comment on the lawsuit but we have not received a response. 

Read the full complaint below: 

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