Daycare Accidents: The need for childcare is simply a fact of modern working life in America. When an injury occurs to a child while at daycare, the effects can be drastic on the entire family. The law provides redress for injuries suffered due to the carelessness and intentional wrongs of daycare providers. The facility itself may also be liable, either for its own wrongs or certain wrongs performed by its employees. Below is a brief overview of common types of claims that may arise from daycare facilities.
Intentional Wrongs Resulting In Injury: Daycare employees are entrusted to treat children with care. When a daycare employee intentionally harms a child, the child (through his or her parents) can seek redress for injuries resulting for the wrongdoing. A common type of wrong is physical abuse of the child. This may be in the form of corporal punishment (such as hitting or spanking) or sexual touching. Though these actions will also likely constitute criminal action, they are also actionable as civil lawsuits for battery. Under Kansas law, a battery is a harmful or offensive contact with the victim. A battery can be pursued whether the contact was made by an employee of the daycare, another child at the daycare, or an unrelated third-party. However, the wrong will only attach to the actor, i.e., only the one that made the contact can be sued and recovered from. An exception may exist for an employee of the daycare, allowing suit against the daycare facility if the action is found to be done with sufficient intent to benefit the facility. An example would be punishing a child with force so that the other children’s naps are not disturbed.
Verbal and emotional abuse is also prohibited by Kansas law. These types of claims are known as intentional infliction of emotional distress or “outrage” claims. The type of conduct prohibited by must be borderline unbelievable, as noted in Robert v. Saylor. Thus, simply rude or mean behavior, even when directed at young children, is not enough to have a valid claim of outrage. The fact that the daycare worker is in a position of care with the child will factor into how extreme the conduct is, but the threshold is still very high. A related claim is negligent infliction of emotional distress, which prohibits unintentionally emotionally harmful conduct. Because this conduct is less outrageous, a plaintiff cannot recover unless the emotional distress results in a physical injury. Common injuries include vomiting, nightmares, and fainting.
Carelessness Resulting In Injury: Daycare workers must look after children with reasonable care. This means that an employee must be careful while performing tasks at work. This includes not only tasks related to caring for the children, but also routine-type tasks. Thus, an employee must be careful when mopping floors and supervising the children as they play. If the carelessness of an employee leads to injury, the child will have a claim for negligence against the employee. Further, the facility will also be liable for the carelessness of the employee. This is true so long as the employee was performing a task assigned or to benefit the facility. This can be extremely important because the facility likely has insurance that will cover such claims while the employee does not.
Unlike other settings, a daycare worker has an affirmative responsibility of ensuring children are safe. This means providing assistance to children in an emergency and supervising the children to prevent fights or other harm. Thus, if a daycare worker fails to act to provide assistance to a child, a claim for negligence can exist. The same is true if a daycare worker allows one child to harm another, failing to act.
The facility may also commit careless acts itself, rather than through its employees. The most common example of this is negligently hiring employees. A facility must exercise reasonable care in selecting employees to work with children. If a facility is careless in doing so and one of its employees harms a child, the facility will be liable for a second, separate wrong. The motivation behind attaching this liability is ensuring that facilities properly vet employees to ensure they don’t pose unreasonable risks to children (and coworkers). Under this theory of negligently hiring, the facility would have connected (though separate) liability for criminal acts of its employees.
Injuries Resulting From Property: Daycare facilities must also ensure that their property is reasonably safe for the children. This means that the property must be properly constructed, free from dangerous conditions. The staff must also ensure that spills, toys, and other potential hazards are cleaned up or otherwise addressed. If a child, parent, or even other employee is injured by a dangerous condition on the property, the facility will be liable for those injuries. This liability is not unlimited, however. The facility must be aware of the defect or the defect must have been present for a sufficient time to hold the property owner liable for failing to correct it.
Daycare is a routine, regular part of everyday life for most families. However, when a child is injured while under the supervision of daycare workers, the experience can be extremely damaging. Injuries suffered because of the carelessness of the employees can and should be redressed by the responsible party. To ensure recovery is fair and adequate, a capable attorney should be contacted regarding the occurrence and injuries. When a good lawyer is retained, full recovery can be achieved and the occurrence can be remedied.