Day care centers have become a reality for most families, as the majority of households have two working parents or caregivers. According to Child Care Aware of America, there are approximately 4,100 center-based child care programs in North Carolina, employing some 25,000 workers. The average salary for those workers is about $21,000 annually.
These facilities are entrusted to care for vulnerable infants and young children, who often cannot yet fully communicate and are unable to defend themselves. These centers have a significant responsibility in ensuring the children in their care receive the appropriate supervision and that staffers are fully vetted. Unfortunately, that doesn’t always happen.
Take the following case recently reported by NJ.com, wherein two day care workers are accused of initiating a “fight club” of toddlers, who were encouraged to fight one another so that the day care workers could record the incidents on their cell phones.
The two workers were arrested. So far, one parent has filed a personal injury lawsuit against the pair and the day care, alleging her child suffered severe psychological, mental, emotional and physical injury, requiring extensive medical care and costs.
The employees involved have since been fired from the facility, and were later sentenced to probation following convictions for fourth-degree child abuse. The worker who filmed the interactions on her phone was additionally charged with endangering the welfare of a child. She had posted video clips of the fights to social media platforms. Each of the women will serve three years on probation.
A spokeswoman for the day care told a reporter that while she had not seen a copy of the initial complaint, she does not believe any of the children involved in this case were seriously injured. The kids in the videos ranged in age from 4 to 6 years old. Authorities also indicated no child was seriously physically injured. Certainly, being encouraged by a trusted caregiver to inflict harm on your peers could result in psychological and emotional damage, however.
In North Carolina, there is no specific jury instruction addressing recovery of emotional damages in a standard negligence action. It’s generally assumed plaintiffs can recover for negative impact to his or her mental condition as a result of someone else’s negligence, but generally speaking, such claims involve bodily injury that results in emotional damage. The state does recognize the torts of negligent infliction of emotional distress and intentional infliction of emotional distress, which can be separate from any bodily injury. The North Carolina Supreme Court held in Johnson v. Ruark Obstetrics & Gynecology that such claims of action can be asserted when:
- Defendant negligently engaged in conduct;
- It was reasonably foreseeable that such conduct would cause plaintiff severe emotional distress (mental anguish);
- Conduct did in fact cause plaintiff severe emotional distress.
Plaintiffs must prove that severe emotional distress was a foreseeable and proximate result of such negligence. Merely temporarily frightening or disappointing someone isn’t enough.
Severe emotional distress is often characterized by a diagnosis of a disabling emotional or mental condition.
Our child injury lawyers know this definition could possibly be applicable in a case like this.
Contact the Carolina injury lawyers at the Lee Law Offices by calling 800-887-1965.
Daycare ‘fight club’ severely injured girl, suit alleges, March 12, 2017, By Tom Haydon, NJ.com
More Blog Entries:
Auto Maker Accused of Defective Vehicle for Alleged Throttle Issue, March 6, 2017, Charlotte Child Injury Lawyer Blog