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Houston Family Files Lawsuit Over Girl’s Drowning Death
April 24, 2024

Houston Family Files Lawsuit Over Girl’s Drowning Death

by Jim Adler

Posted on April 24, 2024

What was supposed to be an enjoyable day of swimming turned into tragedy when an 8-year-old Houston girl was found dead in a local hotel pool.

The girl’s mother has filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the hotel asserting premises liability and negligence claims. Her lawsuit says that the drowning was preventable and resulted from an unreasonably dangerous condition in the pool. An inspection of the pool found several violations, including a malfunctioning pipe.

It is every parent’s worst nightmare to lose a child. The mother of the victim is hoping to use personal injury law to obtain justice and send a message that the hotel should have done more to protect her daughter.

“Something Had to Go Terribly Wrong”

Aliyah Lynette Jaico and her family checked into the Doubletree by Hilton Houston Brookhollow on Saturday, March 23, to spend the afternoon at the pool, not knowing that it would be their last day together.

According to a lawsuit filed in Harris County District Court, young Aliyah “suddenly disappeared” from the hotel’s lazy river at around 4:50 p.m. Aliyah’s mother spent a frantic half hour searching for her before requesting that hotel management check video surveillance footage. Management denied her request, explaining that police needed to be on scene to view video surveillance, the suit alleges.

Her mother then called 911 and a search involving Texas EquuSearch and first responders was performed, at which time access to the security footage was granted, showing that Aliyah went underwater and never came up.

The pool was drained and video cameras were attached to 20-foot poles to inspect the pipes, where the girl’s body was discovered. She had been “violently sucked into a 12 to 16 inch unsecured open gap in the swimming pool flow system,” the lawsuit states.

It took the Houston Fire Department around 13 hours to get into the pipe and recover Aliyah’s body, reports Houston ABC affiliate KTRK.

An inspection of the pool identified several issues, documents obtained by KTRK show. Houston Health Department officials said in a report that “multiple violations were observed.” Notably, the pipe Aliyah was pulled from appeared to be malfunctioning by sucking in water instead of pushing it out.

Inspection reports from 2021 and 2023 also listed multiple violations at the pool.

Tim Miller of Texas EquuSearch, part of the team that helped find Aliyah’s body, told Fox 26 Houston that “something had to go terribly wrong” for her to even get into a pipe that size.

“It would have been nearly impossible for her to intentionally swim in that pipe because when I say she was logged in there tight, she was logged in there tight,” said Miller.

Houston police are investigating the incident as a drowning and plan to release an autopsy report establishing the cause of death.

Mother Files $1 Million -Plus Wrongful Death Lawsuit

A funeral was held for Aliyah on March 28. Her mother, Jose Daniela Jaico Ahumada, wrote on social media, “Thank you my love for the eight years you gave me by your side.”

Ahumada has filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the company that owns and operates the DoubleTree hotel property. She is asking for more than $1 million in damages for her daughter’s death.

Hilton, named as a defendant to the lawsuit, issued a statement saying that the Houston DoubleTree is independently owned and operated by a third party and that Hilton does not own, manage, or control day-to-day operations at the property.

Drowning Death Lawsuit Claims

A wrongful death claim is a type of personal injury claim. It is based on the idea that, had the person who died survived the fatal accident, they would have been able to file an injury lawsuit to recover compensation. After their death, the right to pursue legal action passes to surviving family members, such as a spouse, sibling, or parent.

As the beneficiary of a minor decedent, Aliyah’s mother seeks past and future wrongful death damages related to:

Ahumada also seeks exemplary damages, or punitive damages. These are special civil lawsuit damages awarded in response to a defendant’s particularly egregious conduct. Her lawsuit cites “conscious indifference to the rights, safety, and welfare of others” that constitutes “gross negligence” under Texas civil code.

The wrongful death lawsuit makes premises liability claims for negligence, stating that the hotel should have known about the dangerous condition (i.e., the pool defect) on their property. Allowing this condition to persist constitutes negligence and caused Aliyah to drown, the lawsuit claims. Ahumada argues the hotel is liable for negligence/premises liability because it:

Premises liability cases often come down to what a defendant knew—and when they knew it. For example, the lawsuit makes the case that the hotel “had actual or constructive knowledge” about the dangerous pool condition, and that this condition posed an “unreasonable risk of bodily injury.”

Even if the hotel did not actually know that their pool pipe system was malfunctioning (i.e., actual knowledge), they might still be negligent because they should have known about the malfunction (constructive knowledge).

The main questions to be answered in this wrongful death case are whether the hotel had a legal duty to ensure the safety of Aaliyah, and whether their actions, or failure to act, caused her death.

In a news conference, the attorney for the family said Aliyah’s death was “avoidable” and that he will show in court the pool “was not in working order.”  

Every Death is a Tragedy. Some Deaths are Wrongful.

It’s difficult to imagine a scenario more difficult than the premature death of a loved one, especially a child. The death of a family member can also present financial and legal difficulties that should be discussed with an attorney. If you lost a loved one, the wrongful death attorneys at Jim Adler & Associates are available to answer your questions and provide guidance during a free case review.

About Jim Adler

Jim Adler, also known as The Texas Hammer®, is an American trial attorney and owner of Jim Adler & Associates. He has been practicing law in Texas in the area of personal injury for 54 years.

Jim Adler graduated from the University of Texas School of Law where he received his Juris Doctor degree (J.D.) in 1967.

Jim Adler is a member of the State Bar of Texas, American Bar Association (ABA) and American Trial Lawyers Association. He is licensed to practice in the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit and U.S. District Courts of Texas. Read More

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