Child, 3, Dies at an Alpharetta, Georgia Daycare while Playing Unsupervised by Hanging himself on the Playground Equipment. This was Not the First Safety Violation at said Daycare.

playground july 12 blogOn Tuesday, July 8, 2014, a child age 3, Thomas Stephens, while playing unsupervised at Ms. Janna’s Daycare in Alpharetta, Georgia, died by accidentally hanging himself on a piece of twine attached to a slide on the playground equipment at said Daycare.

According to State Records, this particular daycare was cited earlier this year for other safety violations in and around the play area outdoors such as nails protruding out of a wooden ladder on the wooden climber, too many tree limbs and pine cones, an untangled water hose, and the like.  It has not been said if the daycare was inspected again after being cited for said safety violations to insure that the violations had been corrected as such.

After the incident on July 8th, the daycare was immediately Ordered Closed by by the Georgia Department of Early Care and Learning, also known as DECAL. Although the case seems to be accidental, there is an active, ongoing investigation.  Regardless of whether or not any criminal charges are filed, there will most likely be a civil suit brought by the parents of young Stephens for the Wrongful Death of their Son.

This is a sad story and our sympathies reach out to little Thomas Stephens’ family. It is imperative that daycare centers in Georgia and any facility who takes care of young children have the appropriate certifications, and that the staff are appropriately trained as such. The Daycare in which this death took place had been in operation for approximately 25 years.


Child Dies in Georgia After Being Strapped in a Car Seat All Day and Left in a Hot Car: Parent forgets to drop the child off at Child Care on the Way to Work

chid dies in hot car blog june 19One of the most sad and worst case scenarios happened on Wednesday in Georgia when a parent driving to work forgot to drop off his 22 month old son at daycare leaving his son strapped in the car seat in an SUV all day on a day where temperatures were in the low 90’s, and the child died as a result of the father’s actions.

The father realized the terrible fate only after he left work and was driving home.  Once he discovered the fatal error, he pulled into a parking lot where paramedics were not successful in reviving the child.  WSB TV reported that late that afternoon the child’s distraught father was taken away in handcuffs by authorities.  As of this date, the Father has been charged with the murder of his son in this incident.

Unfortunately, this is not the first time that this has happened.  This happened again Monday only this time in Florida, when a 9-month-old baby died after his father apparently forgot him in his pickup truck for hours with outside temperatures hovering around 90 degrees.  Last year, two babies died on the same day under similar circumstances in Maryland and Virginia.  Furthermore, according to babies dying in hot cars happens about 38 times per year across the United States.

The report comes in similar to this: A parent is going to work with the child in the backseat, the parent forgets about the child, the child is left in the hot car, and the outcome is tragic, and predictable.  Such deaths continue to occur with disturbing frequency and are happening to parents from all walks of life.

In 2009, Washington Post columnist Gene Weingarten wrote a Pulitzer Prize-winning story attempting to answer how parents can forget their own children in cars. “What kind of person forgets a baby?,” Weingarten asked. “The wealthy do, it turns out. And the poor, and the middle class. Parents of all ages and ethnicities do it. Mothers are just as likely to do it as fathers. It happens to the chronically absent-minded and to the fanatically organized, to the college-educated and to the marginally literate. In the last 10 years, it has happened to a dentist. A postal clerk. A social worker. A police officer. … A Protestant clergyman. … An assistant principal. It happened to a mental health counselor, a college professor and a pizza chef. It happened to a pediatrician. It happened to a rocket scientist.”


Teacher Bullies and Assaults Student and Receives “Time Off”

school with bars for may 19 blogWhen we send our children to school in Atlanta, Georgia we expect a safe environment. We are all afraid of another student bullying our children. We know the bullies are out there and some of us may have been bullied ourselves as children by other kids. What happens, however, when it is the teacher that is the bully?  Unfortunately, schools can claim sovereign (i.e. state) immunity in cases in which students are harmed at school, and when it comes to a teacher bullying a student, the law doesn’t appear to have much sympathy; yet.

For example, in the Georgia Court of Appeals case Daniels v. Gordon, 232 Ga. App. 811 where the student claimed that the teacher physically restrained and choked him causing him physical and emotional injuries, the trial court granted the teacher and the principal’s motion for summary judgement.  The Court of Appeals further upheld the trial courts ruling stating that that the teacher’s actions did not amount to corporal punishment such that the provisions of Ga. Code Ann. § 20-2-790 et seq. would have applied.

The court further decided that the principal and the teacher were entitled to official immunity. The Court concluded that there was no evidence of actual malice and, therefore, there was no cause of action in the principal’s performance of discretionary acts such that the principal would not have been immune from suit.  Although the Daniels case has been followed as precedent, I believe, with the continuous number of cases and the increased severity of cases of bullying by students and teachers alike, that the tide is turning and that more protection shall, and will be, offered to students in these situations.

For example, the Official Code of Georgia § 20-2-751.7 outlines a State mandated process that students may follow in reporting instances of alleged inappropriate behavior by a teacher or other school personnel including reporting instances of alleged inappropriate behavior by a teacher, administrator, or other school employee toward a student to law enforcement authorities. Furthermore, each local school system shall be required to implement and follow such state mandated processes and shall include the mandated process in student handbooks and in employee handbooks or policies.


$ 5.2 Million Awarded to a Florida Boy who was Bullied on the Bus and at School

stop bullying 2014A South Florida jury has awarded more than $5.2 million to a boy who sued a charter school claiming he was bullied and sexually assaulted by an older student; the bullying started when the child was age 7.  The jury decided that the school was negligent in failing to stop the assaults.  In many cases in Georgia, however, schools claim sovereign (i.e. State) immunity when a child is hurt at the school.  

In fact, the leading case in Georgia decided by the Georgia Supreme Court clearly absolved the schools from liability if a student was injured at school.  Bullying, however, seems to be changing the landscape as discussed in my Spring, 2014 newsletter Legal Matters.

Bullying is not a new issue.  Bullying has been going on since the 1800’s and has been litigated in the Georgia Courts as early as 1871.  It has only been recently that we are taking a more serious approach to this crime against a person.

In Georgia, the code that covers actions by juveniles is governed by the Official Code of Georgia Annotated Title 15.  For adults, this type of behavior could fall into many legal crimes against a person including, but not limited to, simple assault, aggravated assault, simple battery, aggravated battery, intentional infliction of emotional distress (IIED), stalking, and even rise to the level of homicide.

If a person is injured when bullied, then it is imperative that you seek legal counsel immediately in this matter for personal injuries or death that may have resulted from the attack.  This is unacceptable and there are many legal remedies such as compensation for medical expenses, lost wages, temporary and/or permanent disability, humiliation, scarring on any part of the body, loss of use of a limb, loss of enjoyment of life, pain and suffering, wrongful death, and punitive damages which are not always available in other types of personal injury cases.


Call for Action to Attorneys in Georgia: Guardian Ad Litems and Child Welfare Attorneys Needed

children blog feb 7 2014Almost every day in Canton, Georgia, Atlanta, Georgia, and the Entire State of Georgia we hear of a child abuse case, child neglect case, or a child’s death.  At the same time, we hear about a sluggish economy and that even highly skilled professionals with advanced education and degrees such as Attorneys can’t get jobs.  Well, I have a job for every Attorney who is willing to work, and both offer training and both are desperately needed in our society:  Guardian Ad Litems (Attorneys for Children) and Child Welfare Attorneys.  I have served as a Guardian Ad Litem in many cases and I have found this to be some of the most rewarding work that I have done in my almost 20 years of practicing law.

As a result, I am initiating a Call to Action to Attorneys, especially those of you out of law school still looking for work and want to get your hands on cases that really make a difference.  And, yes, if you are court appointed, which you will be when you complete the necessary training, you will get paid, and, there is no doubt, that you will make a difference.

If you need further encouragement, I invite you to read these two (2) recent news articles.  One article is from the Atlanta Journal Constitution (AJC) dated Sunday, December 29, 2013, titled Neglected in Life, unnoticed in Death.  The other article is from the Cherokee Tribune dated January 3, 2014 titled, No easy answers to keep children safe.  Both of these articles are compelling and for those of you interested in this type of work, there is no better time than the present to get involved.