The family of a 2-year old boy who tragically died after developing complications from an E. coli infection filed a wrongful death lawsuit today in the State of South Carolina Court of Common Pleas (2015-CP-24-00794). The child attended The Learning Vine daycare in Greenwood, South Carolina, at the time of his death on May 31, 2015, and was one of 14 identified victims of the E. coli outbreak linked to the facility.
Attorney Eric Hageman, along with local counsel, filed the suit on behalf of the family. Read the full Complaint here.
The Outbreak Investigation
The first known E. coli O157:H7 illness connected to The Learning Vine was a teacher at the daycare facility who was sick from about May 3 through May 11, 2015. According to the lawsuit filed today, despite knowing of the teacher’s sickness, The Learning Vine took no additional precautionary measures to prevent the spread of illness, allowing the teacher to return to work, where she was in close contact with children, including the 2-year-old child who died. It goes on to allege that daycare required no testing of the infected employee and took no action to improve the sanitation of the daycare facility after learning of the employee’s illness.
It was not until May 18, 2015, that the daycare notified the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) that a teacher at its daycare center was sickened with an E. coli infection. In addition, the daycare did not notify parents of children in its facility that one of its employees was infected with Ecoli O157:H7, according to the Complaint (a document filed in the suit).
As a result, in late May of 2015, the child got sick with an infection of Ecoli O157:H7. His kidneys shut down, and he was diagnosed with hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS), a severe complication of an E. coli infection that causes kidney failure. Unfortunately, all attempts to save him were unsuccessful, and he died on May 31, 2015, as a result of E. coli-induced HUS.
On May 29, 2015, DHEC was notified of his case of coli O157:H7 and thereafter opened up an investigation of a cluster of E. coli infections at The Learning Vine.
At approximately the same time, the South Carolina Department of Social Services (DSS) conducted an on-site inspection of The Learning Vine, which resulted in citations for fourteen deficiencies under South Carolina’s Child Care Licensing Law, Section 63-13-20 et seq., Code of Laws of South Carolina (1976).
Among other violations, the deficiencies in sanitation which were found to exist at The Learning Vine included the following:
- Changing table needs to be adjacent to hand-washing sink in toddler rooms and 2-year-old rooms (violation of DSS Regulation Number 114-505 F(1));
- Front of a refrigerator in 1-year-old room needs to be cleaned (violation of DSS Regulation Number 114-507 A(8)(a));
- Mop bucket full of water in bathroom in toddler room (violation of DSS Regulation Number 114-507 A(5)(e));
- Bottle in 1-year-old room not labeled or covered (violation of DSS Regulation Number 114-509 A(3)(a));
- Kitchen needs probe thermometer to check temperatures of food (violation of DSS Regulation Number 114-508 B(8));
- Trash can in kitchen needs to be covered (violation of DSS Regulation Number 114-507 A(8)(e));
- Trash cans at diapering station needs to be hands-free and within reach of changing table (violation of DSS Regulation Number 114-507 A(8)(d));
- Snack food was stored in a closet with toilet, diaper trash can, basket with dirty towels (violation of DSS Regulation Number 114-508 D(8));
- Unclean floors and ceiling in the afterschool classroom (violation of DSS Regulation Number 114-507 A(5)(d)); and
- Remove or resurface rusted portion in 2 and 3-year-old rooms because of need smooth washable surface (violation of DSS Regulation Number 114-507 A(12)(g) & C(1)).
In explaining the basis for the lawsuit, lead attorney Eric Hageman said, “this was an entirely preventable tragedy. While I’m sure no one at The Learning Vine wanted this to happen, it happened because this daycare didn’t follow the rules. Parents have a right to expect that daycare facilities to which they entrust their children will follow basic safety and hygiene regulations in place to protect them. Here, that didn’t happen and this family is entitled to know why.”
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