A jury in Florida awarded an infant, whose leg was broken in 2006 at a day care center, $3 million in damages, with $2 million of the verdict being punitive. KinderCare was the owner and operator of the facility. About the time the infant’s leg was broken, licensing authorities were monitoring five of KinderCare’s six Pinellas County centers for serious or repeat rule violations. It appears that KinderCare has since cleaned up its violation history.
The ten-month-old boy who was injured was said to have been squirming on the day care center’s diapering table. It was reported that a caregiver — frustrated that the baby wouldn’t stay put — bent his tiny leg back until it broke. The caregiver, Stacey Doty, told authorities at the time that didn’t mean to hurt him and that she was just trying to hold him in place. But when licensing officials and a Pinellas County jury took a closer look at the day care center, owned by KinderCare, the nation’s largest child care chain, they found a disturbing pattern.
Several workers and parents said they had told the center director that Doty was mishandling children. One co-worker said Doty had dropped a clipboard on a toddler’s fingers as punishment and had picked up another toddler by the wrist and moved her across the room because she wouldn’t obey. On the day of the incident, in September, 2006, another caregiver on duty went on a break, leaving Doty alone with the six infants. She broke the baby’s leg while changing his diaper.
When the parents’ lawsuit went to trial last month, the child’s leg had healed. The issue was whether he had suffered lasting brain trauma. Several witnesses said Doty sometimes dropped infants into their cribs. One girl’s head reportedly bounced against the crib’s backboard. The jury awarded $250,000 for future medical costs and $750,000 for future pain and suffering.
The jury faulted the center director for not heeding repeated warnings that Doty was mishandling children. KinderCare had not installed cameras so supervisors could monitor classrooms. With 1,700 schools in 38 states, KinderCare grosses $1.5 billion a year. Day care facilities have both a legal and moral duty to provide good care for children – and especially infants – in their facilities. When they fail to do so, they must face the consequences.