Court Confirms: Daycare Center’s Liability has Limits

Under Louisiana jurisprudence, daycare workers and other temporary custodians of children are required to exercise the “highest degree of care” toward their charges. However, they are not “insurers of the children’s safety” with unlimited responsibility. Rather, the law requires custodians to follow a standard of care that is appropriate for the age of the children and the particular circumstances. This duty does not require “individual supervision of each child at all times and places,” when such level of attention is not warranted. If a child happens to sustain an injury while under the care of a daycare provider, courts apply the traditional “duty/risk” analysis to determine whether the provider met the applicable standard of care.

The recent case of Wade v. Miniworld Daycare turned on the court’s analysis of whether the defendant daycare facility “failed to conform to the appropriate standard” of care. The action arose after Ta’Marrion Wade, who was two years, nine months at the time, fell and broke a tooth while running around the Monroe Miniworld Daycare Center’s designated outdoor play area. The boy’s mother, Kassandra Wade, filed suit against the daycare alleging negligent supervision. The trial court entered a verdict for Wade and awarded her damages; Miniworld
appealed. The Second Circuit Court of Appeal noted that the daycare unquestionably met the state’s required standards for the ratio of caretakers to children at the facility. It also examined the record for evidence of the circumstances surrounding the incident: Ta’Marrion was engaged in a running game with his peers in the play area. The children were not “running crazy,” and they did not “fight,” “hit,” “push,” or engage in any other prohibited behavior that would have caused a worker to intervene. In fact, a teacher observed Ta’Marrion fall “face down” at one point, but he immediately “got up and started running … some more.” It wasn’t until Ta’Marrion and the other children lined up to go indoors that the teacher noticed the child’s missing tooth. Ta’Marrion appeared to be in no pain, so the teacher cleaned out his mouth, called Ms. Wade, and filled out an incident report. The court reasoned that “under [these] circumstances, defendant daycare was furnishing and maintaining adequate supervision.” Further, while “daycare professionals have a duty to attempt to prevent … injuries, sometimes it is impossible, as in the situation” described by Ta’Marrion’s teacher. “Just because a child is injured while in the custody of a daycare does not mean that the daycare was acting negligently.” Accordingly, the court concluded that the trial court “committed manifest error by finding the daycare liable,” and reversed the judgment.

This result reflects the practicality inherent in the duty/risk analysis. Although it is reasonable for parents to demand a safe environment for their children while at daycare, Louisiana jurisprudence recognizes that it is impossible for caretakers to prevent every possible injury. If your child has been injured while at daycare, an experienced attorney can help you review the specific circumstances of the incident to determine how the duty-risk analysis would apply and counsel you on the likely outcome of a lawsuit.

Call the Berniard Law Firm at 1-866-574-8005 and speak with an attorney who can help you obtain the recovery you deserve.