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June 22nd, 2017

Daycare Lawsuits in Pennsylvania – Child Injuries at Daycare

Reports of Daycare Abuse

In recent years, there has been an increase in the number of daycare abuse cases, where a daycare employee is charged with hitting, striking and even sexually assaulting a child. Here’s a look at some recent cases in 2017, followed by a discussion of daycare lawsuits for child injuries.

Pennsylvania Daycare Worker Pleads Guilty to Assault After Pushing a Child Down Stairs

A daycare worker in Delaware County, PA pled guilty to assault and child endangerment after a video captured the woman pushing a 4 year old child down a flight of stairs. The video camera had been installed just minutes before the assault occurred. Video footage showed the woman pushing the child down a short flight of stairs seconds before looking up and seeing the camera. The daycare employee then helped the girl down the rest of the stairs. Other daycare employees called law enforcement.

Two Daycare Workers in New Jersey Admit to Forcing Children to Fight Each Other

Two daycare workers in New Jersey pled guilty last year to forcing pre-school children to fight each other in a fight club. About a dozen children ages 4-6 were forced to fight each other while the workers videotaped the fights and later shared the clips with friends via social media. The daycare has since been sued by parents of children who were forced to fight.

Employer (Daycare) Liability for Acts of Employee

When an employee commits a bad act or crime, is the employer liable? Not usually, but it depends on two factors. First, did the employer know or should have known about the problem employee? Second, did the employer fail to implement or enforce a policy that would have prevented the incident?

Related: School & Daycare Liability for Negligent Supervision of Students Resulting in Sex Abuse

Before we discuss these two factors, here’s a bit of background info on employer liability for employees. Under the doctrine of respondeat superior, an employer is liable for the acts of an employee if and only if the employee was acting in the course and scope of the employment, i.e., for the benefit of the employer, at the time of the incident.

Generally, employers are not liable for the criminal acts committed by employees, even if they happen when the employee is on the clock. However, if there is evidence that the daycare either knew or should have foreseen that the employee would commit a criminal act, then the daycare could be liable.

For example, an employee with a history of inappropriate behavior towards children is caught physically abusing a child at the daycare. Prior to the incident, other employees had complained that the specific employee was too rough with the kids. Here, the employer had received prior notice about the risk, but failed to take any action. The daycare could be liable for the physical assault.

A daycare center could also be liable if there is evidence that the daycare failed to adopt or enforce a specific policy and that failure led to the incident. For example, a daycare has no policy about employees taking children out of the school. One employee begins removing a child from the school and sexually assaults the child. This occurs over a period of several months. The daycare’s manager had prior knowledge that the employee was taking the child off school grounds, but failed to take any action. Here, the daycare could be liable for the assault.

Visit the crime victim injury law library for more info.

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