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Who Is Responsible If a Child Dies at Day Care?

Published on Mar 31, 2022 by Thomas Law Offices.

Swingset seat in playground

On Dec. 16, 2021, 13-month-old Shivani Jishnu became unresponsive in her classroom at Kayfield Academy II preschool on Nelson Miller Parkway in Louisville. She was administered CPR and rushed to the hospital by Emergency Medical Services. Doctors believe that before arriving at Norton Children’s Hospital, she was deprived of oxygen for at least 20 minutes. After remaining on life support for three weeks, Shivani lost her life on Jan. 7, 2021.

Louisville Metro police are currently conducting investigations into the death that occurred at Kayfield Academy II. The child care facility has since shut down following the incident.

How could such a horrific tragedy be allowed to happen? Incidents such as this have an immeasurable impact on family members, friends, and fellow classmates, in addition to countless parents across the country who depend on preschool facilities to keep their children safe. When a child loses their life under the supervision of a facility specifically devoted to the care of children, there must be legal recourse.

The Consequence of Negligence at Day Care Centers

Knowing who is responsible if a child dies at a day care is the first step toward holding child care facilities to a higher standard of accountability. If the day care is found to be negligent in its duty to adequately and appropriately care for children, it is probable the facility will be found liable for an injury or death that results. Wrongful death attorneys work to bring justice to situations like these.

Negligence can never be reversed. But it can be prevented. Wrongful death lawyers advocating for families who have lost a child to day care negligence work to eradicate the systemic wrongdoings that led to the death of a child. By identifying and putting an end to negligent behaviors, these legal actions strive to protect every family that relies on the services of a day care facility.

An inspection of Kayfield Academy II by the Kentucky Cabinet for Health and Family Services (CHFS) revealed at least two primary issues that could endanger the wellbeing of children. Firstly, the day care was found to be “Not in Compliance” with mandatory staffing requirements. This means that there weren’t enough staff members on hand to adequately care for the number of children. The day care was further determined to be in violation of Kentucky statute 922 KAR 2:090. Section 8: a licensed child care facility has a duty to “protect and assure the health, safety, and comfort of each child.”

When child care facilities violate state laws, children are at risk. If a care center is found to be in violation of federal or state regulations and a child is consequently injured or dies at the day care, a wrongful death attorney may be able to prove negligence and represent the family in filing a wrongful death claim.

Kentucky Staff-to-Child Ratios for Child Care Providers

The investigation at Kayfield Academy II was initiated Jan. 5, 2022 and concluded Jan. 6, 2022. A total of 151 children were present. In the report made by the Kentucky Cabinet for Health and Family Services, it was noted that one staff member was the sole caretaker of six children aged 8 months to 11 months. Another sole staff member was the only caretaker of ten children aged 1 to 2 years. Two staff members were the caretakers of sixteen 1-year-old children.

These staff-to-child ratios are not compliant with Kentucky Child Care Center Health and Safety Standards. State law requires child-care facilities to adhere to the following ratios based on age group:

  • Infant. One staff for five children. (Maximum group size: ten)
  • Toddler-Age 12-24 Months. One staff for six children. (Maximum group size: 12)
  • Toddler-Age 24-36 Months. One staff for ten children. (Maximum group size: 20)
  • Preschool-Age 3 to 4 Years. One staff for 12 children. (Maximum group size: 24)
  • Preschool-Age 4 to 5 Years. One staff for 14 children. (Maximum group size: 28)
  • School-Age 5 to 7 Years. One staff for 15 children. (Maximum group size: 30)
  • School-Age 7 Years and Older. One staff for 25 children before and after school. One staff for 20 children full-time day care. (Maximum group size: 30)

Kayfield Academy II is considered a Type I child care facility like many day care centers. The maximum group size referenced above only applies to Type I child care centers. These are day care centers that are licensed to regularly provide child care services for four or more children in a nonresidential setting, or 13 or more children in a residential setting that has separate living and day care facility spaces. This differs from a Type II child care center, a residential facility providing care for no less than seven but no more than 12 children.

Kentucky Safety Regulations for Day Care Centers

The CHFS Kayfield Academy II inspection report also listed noncompliance with the statute to “protect and assure the health, safety, and comfort of each child.” Investigators noted that music was played at an excessively loud level in rooms designated for infants and children up to 11 months of age. Because the music was unreasonably loud, it was found that staff members were unable to hear each other even when standing close to one another. This created a situation in which caregivers were prevented from hearing the cries of a child while the music was playing.

What may seem to be a relatively harmless situation at first glance, like loud music, can endanger children’s wellbeing when poor judgment or carelessness motivates decisions. Licensed facilities must be held to the highest standards because children’s lives depend on it.

The following are only a few of the requirements listed in the Kentucky Child Care Center Health and Safety Standards. All licensed day care centers have an obligation to know and follow the law to the full degree of compliance. A wrongful death lawyer can look to any of these or other requirements to determine if a day care was noncompliant and negligent in their duties.

  • Adequate supplies of appropriate snacks and beverages
  • Limits on screen time
  • Designated rest and activity periods suitable for the age group
  • A stock of working, non-expired first aid supplies
  • No excessive punishment, corporal discipline, or abusive language
  • Care for children with special needs consistent with the care proposed by their doctor
  • Proper cleanliness and sanitizing protocol
  • Knives, plastic bags, garbage, and other dangerous objects inaccessible to children
  • Regular, documented fire drills
  • No smoking or vaping near children
  • Premises and facilities kept in good repair

Knowing Who Is Liable if a Child Dies at a Day Care

Personal injury attorneys who handle day care negligence and other types of wrongful death cases in Kentucky help guide their clients through the legal process of filing a wrongful death claim against a negligent facility. “Wrongful death” is defined as a death that results from negligent or wrongful behavior. It is a death that could have been prevented with adequate care. If a child dies at a day care and negligence is found to be a factor, the care center may be held liable under the law.

The law in Kentucky governing civil actions for wrongful death allows for damages to be recovered from the person or entity who caused the death. When gross negligence occurs, punitive damages may also be recovered. In Kentucky, a personal representative for the deceased’s estate must file the lawsuit, and individual family members benefit if the lawsuit is successful. When the deceased person has no surviving spouse or children (as would be the case in the death of a child), the parent or parents receive the entire award.

In a wrongful death case involving a child care facility like a day care, a lawyer must work to prove the day care’s liability in the event. In cases such as these, attorneys may find evidence of abuse, child neglect, failure to guard against unseen hazards, and violations of state regulations, as we saw in the case involving Kayfield Academy II in Louisville.

To speak with a wrongful death lawyer who specializes in cases involving day care negligence, we invite you to complete a free case evaluation form. An attorney from Thomas Law Offices will contact you to schedule an in-person discussion regarding your legal options.

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Tad Thomas has dedicated his practice to representing plaintiffs in various types of civil litigation, including personal injury, business litigation, class actions, and multi-district litigation.

After graduating with his law degree in 2000 from Salmon P. Chase College of Law at Northern Kentucky University, Mr. Thomas immediately opened his own private practice and began representing injury victims.

In 2011, Thomas Law Offices was established in Louisville, Kentucky. Over the past decade, Mr. Thomas has expanded his firm and now has offices in three additional locations: Cincinnati, Ohio, Columbia, Missouri, and Chicago, Illinois. He is also a frequent lecturer on topics like trial skills and ethics and technology.

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