Child Abuse Law Suit Results

Attorney(s) for Plaintiff:
Wesley T. Straw and Matthew D. Emerson
Emerson Straw, PL
www.emersonstraw.com

$3,727,697 VERDICT INCLUDING $1,110,000 IN PUNITIVE DAMAGES – CIVIL ASSAULT – ABUSE OF ONE-YEAR-OLD GIRL AT DAY CARE CENTER – HEAD TRAUMA – CONCUSSION – DEVELOPMENTAL DELAYS – ARTICULATION DISORDER – VISUAL AND HEARING IMPAIRMENTS.

Pinellas County, FL

This action involved allegations of child abuse which occurred at a Pinellas County day care center. The plaintiff alleged that the defendant caregiver caused head trauma to the child resulting in a learning disability and other complications. The plaintiff also claimed that the defendant daycare center negligently hired and supervised the caregiver and failed to take corrective action when notified of the abuse. Another caregiver, as well as the director of the facility, were also named as defendants in the case. The defendants denied that the child was abused and denied that her learning problems were causally related to the alleged treatment at the daycare center.

The plaintiffs alleged that their one-year-old daughter was placed in infant room “B” at the defendant’s facility under the care of the two defendant caregivers. The plaintiff introduced testimony that the defendant caregiver forcefully dropped the minor plaintiff into her crib out of frustration. The plaintiff claimed that the little girl struck her head against the side of the crib and showed signs of concussion.

Shortly after being placed in room “B”, the plaintiff parents claimed they noticed obvious changes in the little girl’s behavior. She would become terrified and would cry and pull away when left with her caregivers, according to testimony offered. The child was voluntarily removed from the center by her parents after less than one month in the room of the defendant caregivers. The plaintiffs alleged that the minor plaintiff sustained abusive head trauma during that time.

The plaintiff parents testified that, prior to their daughter’s enrollment in the defendant’s facility, they were given a tour and a presentation representing a safe, secure and nurturing environment at the center. The plaintiffs contended that the defendant caregiver had a history of violence with small children. The plaintiff also claimed that a former daycare employee reported the abusive treatment to the defendant director, but the director did nothing to stop the abuse or notify the parents or law enforcement authorities. The defendant challenged the credibility of the witnesses who allegedly observed or learned of the claimed abuse.

The plaintiff claimed that the little girl began showing signs of developmental delays that typically follow abusive head injury in infancy. The minor plaintiff was diagnosed with articulation disorder and a learning disability, causing her to read below the level of her classmates. The minor plaintiff also claimed visual impairments, as well as a rare hearing disorder, known as audiological processing disorder, which originates in the brain. The child wears a special hearing aid at school so she can hear the teachers. The plaintiff claimed that she did not show signs of developmental issues prior to the incident in question. The defendants argued that the minor plaintiff exhibited learning disabilities which were unrelated to the alleged abuse. The jury found that the defendant daycare center was negligent and that punitive damages were warranted against it. It also found negligent misrepresentation on the part of the defendant daycare center. The plaintiffs were awarded a total of $3,727,697 in damages including $1,110,000 in punitive damages.

Reference

Plaintiff’s child care expert: Sherryll Kraizer from Denver, CO. Plaintiff’s economic expert: John D. Lloyd from Tampa, FL. Plaintiff’s economic expert: Brenda Mulder from Tampa, FL. Plaintiff’s pediatric expert: Randell C. Alexander from Jacksonville, FL. Plaintiff’s psychological expert: Valerie R. McClain from Tampa, FL.

K.S vs. Kindercare Learning Centers, Inc., et al. Case no. 09-22725-CI-19; Judge Jack Day.

Attorney for plaintiff: Wesley T. Straw and Matthew D. Emerson of Emerson Straw in St. Petersburg, FL.

Commentary

Perhaps one of the most disturbing features of this child abuse action was that a former employee of the daycare center claimed that she reported the abuse to the facility’s director who took no action to investigate, report or halt it. The defendant reportedly declined to negotiate settlement of the case until after trial commenced; choosing instead to attempt to causally disconnect the child’s learning problems from the abuse that was reported. The magnitude of the damage award, including punitive damages in excess of $1.1 million, signals the jury’s total outrage at the behavior which occurred and the physical and emotional price paid by the innocent child victim. Following the jury’s total damage award of $3,727,697, a confidential global settlement was reached.

The case was brought in connection with a companion case (R.E. vs. Kindercare Learning Centers, Inc.) which proceeded to trial separately and resulted in a plaintiff’s verdict. The companion case involved another minor plaintiff who alleged similar complaints regarding the caregiver in question. The defendant caregiver was convicted of child abuse in connection with the companion case, but the trial court would not allow the conviction into evidence for this trial.

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