In July 2014, a Georgia day care worker left a 3-year-old child outside to play on the equipment while she went inside to check on other children. When the worker came out 20 minutes later, she found the toddler lying on the ground unresponsive. A large piece of twine was wrapped around the child’s neck. He was rushed to the hospital and sustained on life support for a few hours. When the doctors told the parents their child was brain dead, the life supporting equipment was disconnected.
It was ultimately determined that, as the child slid down the slide, he caught his neck in a twine loop that was attached to the slide and choked to death. The daycare worker acknowledged that the child was outside unsupervised at the time of the incident.
The death occurred just six months after an inspection had deemed the playground equipment unsafe. The daycare worker also had seven children in her care the day of the incident – but she was only licensed to care for six. Her license was revoked and she was charged with second degree murder.
After a long wait and protracted trial, in July 2016, a jury acquitted the daycare worker of the murder charge. Whether or not a civil wrongful death suit has been filed is not known.
Playground Death Statistics
Every year, 15 children die in the U.S. from playground-related incidents. More than 218,000 are treated in emergency departments each year. Most of the deaths or injuries are due to falls, while nearly a quarter of them are due to defective playground equipment.
In a similar California case, a 2-year-old unsupervised boy at a daycare center was climbing the ladder to a slide when the cord to his hoodie got caught in the slats and he was strangled to death. Parents are now cautioned to remove all such cords from any children’s jacket and the U.S. Consumer Product Commission prohibits selling such garments.
Earlier this year, an Indiana day care provider pled guilty to negligent homicide and was sentenced to a term in prison following the death of a 5-year-old who had been entrusted to her care. The child accidentally hung himself on a jump rope that was left looped over playground equipment.
The mother of the young boy filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the daycare facility and the state asking for $700,000 in damages. As it turns out, the facility had been operating on probation due to numerous allegations of misconduct. Parents had not been notified of the probationary status of the facility. As of the most recent news, the wrongful death suit is still pending.
Elements of a Wrongful Death Lawsuit
There are no words or amount of money that can ease the grief of parents who have lost a child due to a daycare playground death caused by the negligence of the daycare provider. Recovery of damages may provide some consolation to parents who can at least know that the provider was held at least financial accountability for the death of their beloved child.
Elements of a wrongful death claim are the same for proving negligence and include proof that:
- The defendant owed a duty of care to the deceased.
- The defendant breached that duty.
- The breach of the duty was the direct and proximate cause of the death.
- The death caused the damages the plaintiff is trying to recover.
It is often difficult to determine a numerical figure for the amount of the damages suffered by parents over the loss of the child. Some considerations courts consider include, but are not limited to:
- The age and the sex of the child.
- The expected earning potential of the child.
- The expected future contribution of the child to the financial well-being of the parents.
The younger the child, the more difficult it is to estimate the measure of damages – this is in addition to medical expenses. If the conduct of the person responsible for the death is considered particularly egregious, punitive damages, designed to punish the defendant, may be available.
Contact Us for Assistance
Collecting damages for the wrongful death of a child is a complex area of the law. If you are a parent who has suffered such a tragic loss, contact Georgia Trial Attorneys either by calling us at (678) 667-8965 or contacting us online. We offer a free confidential case evaluation where we will discuss with you all of your options and help you determine how to proceed.