A Calgary family, whose son was injured in a fall and suffered severe brain trauma, has filed a lawsuit seeking more than $18 million in damages. The lawsuit alleges that staff at Bright Beginnings Day Home in the community of Tuscany were negligent in caring for their children.
According to the statement of claim, Lochlan Linehan (“Lochlan”), who was one years old at the time, experienced catastrophic injuries when he suffered a fall on April 20, 2017 at a day home in northwest Calgary.
Lochlan and his brother Faolan were dropped off by their parents at Bright Beginnings Day Home. Their mother, Stacey, received a call at approximately 2:45 p.m. from the co-owner, Laura Fleming, advising that Lochlan was vomiting and exhibiting unusual breathing sounds.
According to the court document, Emergency Medical Services arrived at the day home to find Lochlan unresponsive and suffering from severe physical injuries.
The Linehan family alleges that the incident at the day home caused severe, permanent injuries to Lochlan. Lochlan was hospitalized for 16 days and was operated on six times.
The lawsuit also seeks damages on behalf of Faolan, who witnessed his brother being resuscitated by paramedics and taken away by ambulance, and seeks damages on behalf of Lochlan’s parents.
None of the allegations have been proven and a statement of defence on behalf of Bright Beginnings Day Home has not been filed as of yet.
WHAT IS A DAY HOME?
One type of child care option in Alberta is an approved family day home. This option offers child care in an individual’s private residence to provide care for six or less children (including the caregiver’s own children) with one caregiver.
According to the Child Care Licensing Act, any individual caring for 7 or more children must be licensed by the Government of Alberta. Those who care for 6 or less children do not require a licence. However, these facilities have the option of becoming an approved family day home.
An approved family day home must meet a set of provincial standards. These accredited facilities receive support from consultants, have access to child care training and professional development opportunities, enable eligible families to qualify for child care subsidies, receive home visits to ensure the safety of the program, and may qualify for accreditation funding.
On the other hand, caregivers who provide child care out of their homes that have not been approved to operate as a provincial family day home operator are simply considered private babysitters. In these circumstances, these facilities are not regulated, approved or monitored and there is no government supervision.
FATALITY INQUIRY INTO THE DEATH OF MACKENZY WOOLFSMITH AT A DAY HOME
An equally devastating event that occurred at an unlicensed day home in Alberta took place on May 2, 2012. On that date, Mackenzy Woolfsmith (“Woolfsmith”) suffered multiple blunt-force trauma injuries and swelling to her brain as the result of an incident at an unlicensed day home.
Woolfsmith had apparently fallen down stairs and hit her head. When the 22-month old stopped crying and her breathing became shallow, day home operator, Caitlyn Jarosz (“Jarosz”), panicked and began shaking the toddler causing her head to strike the floor. Woolfsmith died the next day in hospital.
Jarosz pleaded guilty to manslaughter and was sentenced to five-and-a-half years in prison.
The fatality inquiry into Woolfsmith’s death began in February 2018 and concluded last January. Provincial Court Justice Joshua Hawkes recommended a need for extensive changes to child care services in Alberta.
Justice Hawkes stated:
The death of a child at the hands of a trusted caregiver is a parent’s worst nightmare. That this nightmare is not an isolated incident, but part of a pattern in which children and child care workers are at elevated risk, is a serious public policy issue requiring urgent and sustained attention.
Justice Hawkes set out several recommendations including:
- A comprehensive review of provincial legislation governing child care in Alberta aimed at reducing risk to infants and children;
- The implementation of a complaint review process and a mechanism to track ongoing investigations;
- Allowing parents/guardians the right to information regarding serious incidents, which takes precedence over the privacy of child care providers;
- The power to immediately close daycares deemed to be unsafe and prohibit individuals from providing child care services;
- More support for child care providers;
- Improved documentation and tracking serious incidents; and
- More enhanced enforcement tools to protect children’s safety.
Justice Hawkes specifically stated that Woolfsmith’s parents did not have access to independent information regarding Jarosz’s past as a caregiver, which included three previous cases of injury suffered to children under her care (which have not been proven in court). Justice Hawkes noted that had Woolfsmith’s parents had access to this information, they would likely have made a different choice in terms of child care provider.
We will continue to follow any developments that become available regarding the Lochlan Linehan lawsuit and will provide details of any updates in this blog.
At Cuming Gillespie Lawyers we are committed to helping you and your loved ones. If you or your loved one has suffered serious injuries as a result of an accident and you would like information about your legal options, please do not hesitate to contact the experienced and award winning personal injury lawyers at Cuming & Gillespie Lawyers. Please contact our office for a free case evaluation online or by calling 403-571-0555 to learn what options are available.