Family files wrongful death lawsuit after 9-week-old baby suffocates at day care
Suit claims day care received previous complaints about infant room
OXFORD, Miss. (WMC) - The parents of a 9-week-old baby who died last November at an Oxford, Mississippi day care filed a wrongful death lawsuit last week against the facility, its owners and administrative staff.
A worker, Amy Rogers, was arrested and charged with manslaughter by culpable negligence, and the Mississippi State Department of Health ordered Mother Goose Daycare to stop caring for infants.
The suit claims defendants Rogers, owners Mike and Alicia Valle, executive director Renee Hoover, assistant executive director Susan McCollum and 10 John Does “caused or contributed to the death” of the baby.
According to the lawsuit, filed May 14 in Lafayette County Circuit Court, the baby was one of four in Rogers’ infant classroom Nov. 17, 2020. It cites video footage from the day care obtained by Oxford police and the Mississippi State Department of Health as part of their investigations.
The lawsuit claims Rogers swaddled the infant and left her face down on the floor for 35 minutes. It says video showed the baby kicking its legs up and down within the tight swaddle but unable to roll over or lift her head. That lasted for 18 minutes before she lost consciousness, according to the document.
The suit says Rogers spent time talking to other staff over a half-wall in the next room and playing on her phone before finding the baby unconscious with her face bloody from hemorrhaging during suffocation.
The lawsuit says Rogers ran from the room in a panic with the baby in her arms and met other staff members in the hallway. One of the workers started CPR while another called 911 and reported a 3-month-old bleeding but couldn’t say from where.
About the same time, the lawsuit says a parent who is a doctor was picking up their child and began CPR, saying the baby needed immediate intubation.
Paramedics arrived about 10 minutes later and worked for 20 minutes to revive the baby. The lawsuit says they recognized the baby suffered cardiac arrest before their arrival.
When the ambulance arrived at the emergency room, the lawsuit says the baby’s skin was cool to the touch and she still had no pulse. She was flown to Le Bonheur a few hours later, still unresponsive and placed on a ventilator.
The lawsuit says the baby’s father received a call while waiting in the ER from someone at the day care asking for the baby’s “status.” It says he asked for details about the incident but was not given any information.
According to the lawsuit, doctors determined the next day the infant suffered an anoxic brain injury do to oxygen deprivation and she would not be able to recover. She died that afternoon at 9 weeks and 4 days old.
The family received a “daily report” from the day care later of the baby’s last day, which described a routine day and said she was “checked out” at 5:06 p.m., according to the document.
The lawsuit claims this was not the first time the day care received a complaint about Rogers’ classroom -- a family withdrew their 3-month-old son in January 2019 after five and a half days after reportedly witnessing her “inattentiveness” and “dangerous sleep practices.”
The suit says the family alerted administrative staff and contacted the Mississippi State Department of Health, which requested video from the facility; however, the day care said their footage purged after 48 hours and it could not be retrieved.
According to the lawsuit, Mother Goose staff initially cooperated with the police investigation into the baby’s death and allowed Rogers to continue working at the day care. She was fired only after her arrest the next month for manslaughter. The suit claims the day care is no longer cooperating with the investigation.
Two days after the incident, the Mississippi state health officer deemed the care care “a substantial hazard to the health and safety of infants.” The lawsuit claims MSDH found at least eight violations in the baby’s classroom on that day, many involving other infants.
- leaving children unattended
- using physical force to require children to lie down or go to sleep
- creating an unsafe sleep environment by placing infants on their stomachs to sleep and not regularly checking on them while asleep
- using cribs, car seats and high chairs for purposes other than their primary purpose so infants are prohibited from creeping, crawling, toddling and walking
- failing to frequently change the place and position of infants who are unable to move about the room
- failing to place a child on a “firm” and “flame retardant” mat while sleeping
- failing to move children to an individual crib instead of sleeping in a shared space
- using corporal punishment, including hitting, spanking, beating, shaking, pinching, biting and other measures that produce physical pain
- keeping a clean, separate and sanitary diaper changing area that is not used for any other task
- failing to hold an infant while they are being fed a bottle
The suit says the day care waved its right to an administrative hearing, aggreed to a restricted status on its license and agreed to pay a maximum penalty reserved Class I violations, including “failure to prevent the death...of a child.”
The suit also claims the day care has not disclosed to other parents what happened the day of the baby’s death and says the infant room was shut down as part of a routine investigation because CPR was conducted on site.
The family is asking for actual, compensatory and punitive damages of unspecified amount.
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