The parents of a baby boy who died in a Wichita day care home last year have filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the child care provider, claiming her negligence contributed to the boy’s death.
Lawyers for the parents, Brock and Christina Mosier, said they are pursuing the case pro bono in an effort to shed light on what they say are insufficient child care laws and regulations in Kansas.
“There are gaps in the system that’s there to protect children,” Mark Hutton of Hutton & Hutton Law Firm in Wichita said Wednesday.
“We believe that through our efforts we can make recommendations … that legislation and regulations be enacted to better ensure the welfare and safety of young children.”
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The Mosiers are suing Karin M. Patterson, a licensed child care provider who continues to operate Karin’s Kids in north Wichita. The couple’s 5-month-old son, Bryce, died in August 2011 while he was in Patterson’s care.
After an autopsy and toxicology screening, a coroner determined Bryce died of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome.
Calls to Patterson’s home and cell phone seeking comment on the lawsuit were not returned Wednesday.
The lawsuit, filed Tuesday in Sedgwick County District Court, alleges that Patterson placed Bryce on his stomach for naps, contrary to widely publicized safe-sleep practices and “despite express instructions from Mr. and Mrs. Mosier not to do so.” The suit also claims Patterson placed the baby on soft bedding and failed to monitor him appropriately while he napped.
The Mosiers’ case drew international attention recently after the couple launched a Facebook page and online petition asking state officials to revoke Patterson’s day care license. As of Wednesday, the page had nearly 34,000 likes.
“It’s clear she didn’t do what she was supposed to do,” Brock Mosier told The Eagle last month. “We want justice for our child, and we want to make sure this doesn’t happen to anyone else’s child.”
State Sen. Jean Schodorf requested a formal investigation into the events of Bryce’s death, including documents obtained by the Mosiers that show previous complaints against Patterson and violations noted by the Kansas Department of Health and Environment.
Schodorf said she was “very disappointed” with the response by state officials, who said Patterson did not follow safe-sleep practices when putting Bryce to bed but that they were limited at the time on what sanctions they could impose.
Bryce died about six months before several new “Lexie’s Law” regulations – which more specifically address diapering, supervision, safe-sleep practices and playground oversight – went into effect.
Blake Shuart, a lawyer handling the Mosiers’ case for Hutton & Hutton, said Wednesday that parents and the state should have more discretion to regulate child care providers and hold them accountable.
“New parents put their faith and trust in a child care provider,” Shuart said.
“This lawsuit is about individual accountability, but our efforts are not going to be limited to this lawsuit. … Our hope is that parents would rally behind the cause and want to fix the problem.”
One glaring problem, added Darin Hayes, another lawyer with the firm, is that Kansas does not require daycares to carry liability insurance. Many parents assume a provider’s homeowner’s policy would cover injuries and accidents, but “the vast majority of homeowner’s policies will not cover a business like that,” Hayes said.
The Mosiers’ lawsuit, which asks for “in excess of $75,000” in damages, isn’t really about money at all, Hutton said. His firm is pursuing the case for free “because it’s the right thing to do,” he said.