Suit: Landlord locked house with mom, kids still inside

By David Yates | Feb 6, 2008

In a case that sounds more like a criminal matter than a civil one, the mother of three young children has filed suit against a Groves landlord for allegedly locking her and her kids inside a rental home.

Grace Dollins claims Johnny Orta shut off the water and power to his rental property while she and her children were trapped inside. Her suit was filed in the Jefferson County District Court on Feb. 4.

According to the plaintiffs' petition, Dollins, and her husband had rented a residence from Orta. A dispute arose between the Dollinses and Orta because of complaints from the Groves building inspector.

The suit does not give any details about the complaints, but evidently Orta threatened to evict the family. "Rather than continue the dispute, Dollins and her husband agreed to voluntarily vacate the house and set about packing their property."

The suit continues by stating that Orta then posted a notice of eviction on the front door. On Sept. 14, 2007, Dollins learned Orta had the city of Groves disconnect water service to the house. Two days later, Orta padlocked the rental property's front door while Dollins and her three children were packing their belongings inside.

"Orta then walked around the house to the electrical breaker box where he threw the main power breakers of the house, turning off all electrical power," the suit said. "Dollins saw Orta at the electrical breaker box from a window and hollered to him, but he ignored (her) shouts and left she [sic]and her three children locked inside the house."

The original complaint states "This is a suit for damages for false imprisonment of Grace Dollins and her three minor children, ages five, three and one."

Dollins contends Orta's conduct was malicious, which entitles her to exemplary damages.

"As a result of such acts, Plaintiffs sustained a high degree of mental pain and distress of such nature, duration and severity that would permit the recovery of damages for mental anguish," the suit said.

Dollins is represented by the Gregory Law Firm.

Judge Bob Wortham, 58th Judicial District, has been assigned to the case.

Case No. A181-174

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