Southeast Texas Record

Thursday, April 9, 2020

Lawsuit blames hotel worker's drowning death during Harvey on improper planning for floods

By John Suayan | Jun 11, 2018

General court 07

DALLAS – The surviving relatives of a Houston hotel employee who perished on the job during a hurricane last year have sued her employer and several others, according to recent Dallas County District Court records.

In a lawsuit filed on June 4 in the Dallas County 44th District Court, the late Ella Jill Renick’s family claims Omni Hotels and Resorts are responsible for her death at the Omni Houston Hotel –Galleria on or around Aug. 27, 2017.

Renick, 48, reportedly drowned in floodwaters caused by Hurricane Harvey.

Recent court documents assert that when the hotel began to flood, it woke Renick up and “directed her to come downstairs, without shutting down the elevators, without barricading the elevators, and without warning (Jill) of the flooding.”

“After her elevator car stalled in the waters rising in the hotel basement, trapping Jill, she called the front desk to plea for help,” the original petition says. “She was heard screaming and clamoring for help by people on the first floor. Help never came.”

Renick was believed to have “desperately searched for a way out” before the water “replaced the air.”

“She died of drowning due to the hotel’s gross negligence and conscious disregard for their guests,” the suit says.

It additionally states that the hotel resides in a low-lying floodplain adjacent to the Buffalo Bayou and floods “often and severely.”

“Despite years of notice, the hotel did not properly plan for future floods, either with appropriate safety operations or with basic physical safety measures,” the complaint says. “Despite significant warning of heavy rains accompanying Hurricane Harvey, the hotel did not take basic precautions for the event and cared more about evacuating furniture from their flooding hotel than its guests.”

Otis Elevator Co. is among the co-defendants in the litigation.

Consequently, Renick’s estate seeks unspecified monetary damages.

Robert D. Crain of the law firm Crain Lewis Brogdon, L.L.P. in Dallas serves as its lead counsel.

Dallas County 44th District Court Case No. DC-18-07211

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