What if a Child Wanders Away From a Day Care Center? Can the Center be Sued?

Kids Block Spelling Dad As Symbol for Fatherhood And ParentingOne basic duty of every day care center is to supervise the children to make sure that the children do not wander out of the facility and into harm’s way.  The fact is that most day care centers are located on or near a busy road or expressway.   The busy roads are dangerous.  The parking lots are also dangerous to children especially toddlers who have very poor safety awareness.  Keeping a child safe should be a priority for every day care center.  Unfortunately, some day care centers are not so diligent with the supervision of the children.  Doors are left open, facilities are not kept in good repair, and most importantly supervision is lax.  Many day care centers put profits or income over the safety and supervision of the children.  Many hire low paying personnel with little or no training.  Furthermore, many such day care center workers are not motivated to put in a hard day’s work and do as little as possible just to get through the day and to the next paycheck. Of course, there are many hard working child care providers out there who work diligently to keep children safe and well supervised during the day.
When a child wanders out of a day care facility, the consequences can be disastrous and even deadly.  What if a chid wanders away from a day care center?  Can the center be sued?  These are common but excellent questions. There are four basic elements to bring forth a legal case or lawsuit against a day care center.
1. Duty;
2. Breach of Duty;
3. Causation; and
4. Damages.
 
Let’s explore two different similar cases that have different outcomes or damages.
Case #1.
A three year old child wanders out of the front door of the day care center.  He wanders into the street and crosses the road.  He is fortunately spotted by a local police officer who brings him back to the day care center facility. The parents are notified.  The three year old was scared but did not suffer any physical injuries and soon forgot about the whole incident. The three year old thought it was an adventure of sorts rather than a scary moment in time.
Case #2
A three year old child wanders out of the front door of the day care center.  He wanders into the street and crosses the road.  The child then attempts to cross the road again and then is hit by a vehicle. The child suffered broken / fractured leg as a result of the incident.
Case Analysis
In both case examples, the day care center breached its duty of supervision by allowing a three year old child to wander out of the facility.   The damages, however, in each case are quite different. In Case #1, the child was scared for a moment in time but seemed to get over the ordeal rather quickly.  In Case #2, the child suffered a broken/ fractured leg.
The damages for Case #2 are more tangible than those in Case #1.  Could a case be pursued for the incident as described in Case #1? The answer is possibly.   Case #1 lacks some physical injuries and will lack documentation showing the “damages”, injuries, or harm caused by the incident.
The book titled – Florida Day Care Center Injuries – Legal Rights of the Injured Child – Building Blocks of Knowledge for Parents – has chapters on Indoor Facilities, Outdoor Facilities, Emergency Procedures, Incident Reports, and other topics. You can get this book for free at Florida Day Care Center Injuries.