Judge Rules For City, State In River Drowning Lawsuit

TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) - A Shawnee County judge has ruled against a father in a lawsuit he filed over his son's drowning in the Kansas River.

Judge Larry Hendricks issued a decision Tuesday in favor of the city of Topeka and state of Kansas.

Jim Bryant's 25-year-old son, Josh, and another man died in 2007 when their canoe capsized at a low-water weir near Topeka's water treatment plant.

Bryant contended the city and state were liable under the public duty doctrine. He contended authorities failed to properly warn boaters of the approaching danger and didn't provide a route to carry boats around the weir.

But Hendricks cited a Kansas Appeals Court ruling that the doctrine applies to the general public, not individuals. Hendrix also found no evidence of gross or wanton misconduct on the part of the city or state.

Topeka City Manager Jim Colson said he was pleased with the ruling in a difficult situation.

“The fact that lives were lost in this situation is a tragedy. Our thoughts are with the victims’ families and friends,” Colson said. “The City is satisfied with the decision, and with the hard work of our legal defense team, but the decision does not change our commitment to safety. We are always looking at ways to address safety on the river.”