Day care centers have a duty to provide supervision to the children enrolled in the program. As part of this supervision, child care providers should make sure that all exits and areas are secure and that no children wander away from the facility. It is well known that children are curious and lack good safety awareness. As such, at times, a child will wander away from the facility. This, in turn, may lead to serious personal injuries or even the death of the child. This raises the issue as to whether the day care center is liable when a child wanders away from the facility. From a practical standpoint, it may be difficult to pursue a civil case or claim when there was no physical harm caused to the child during the wandering away incident or event.
For instance, let’s say that a child wanders away and is just about to cross the street. The child is outside of the facility for about 5 minutes and is found by a police officer who happened to be in the area. The child is promptly returned to the day care center. Certainly, the child could have been seriously harmed in the busy traffic just outside of this day care center. Furthermore, the child would have been seriously injured but for the presence of the attentive police officer. However, based on the facts as presented, the child was unharmed and promptly returned to the facility. The day care center was certainly negligent and may be fined or even closed for such conduct; however, there was no physical harm caused to the child.
In some States, a physical injury would be required to pursue a civil case or claim for personal injuries or harm to a child. In other States, not such proof would be required; however, in each instance, it would be a difficult case to pursue from a damage / value perspective. If the facts are changed, the case is much different.