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wrongful-death suit filed against California preschool

Posted on in Wrongful Death

Fatal accidents are always troubling and hard for family and friends to recover from, but for parents of children who die while in someone else's care, there's an extra emotional burden: the feeling that if more care and attention had been taken with their child, the accident might have been prevented. These feelings can sometimes lead to a wrongful death lawsuit.

The parents of a 3-year-old California boy who choked to death on a pushpin have filed such a suit against his Montessori preschool. It alleges negligence on the part of the company that owns the school. After the boy died in August, the parents held a news conference at which they said the school wasn't at fault for the accident. But after a state investigation found care and supervision problems that may have contributed to the boy's death, his parents decided to pull their daughter from the school and file a lawsuit, according the couple's attorney.

The boy was at school one day in August when a teacher heard him making gasping sounds and saw him holding his throat. Other teachers rushed in to help and called 911, but he died a short time later at a hospital. According to an autopsy report, a pushpin was found in one of the main passageways into his lungs. His death was ruled accidental asphyxiation due to airway obstruction.

State investigators said that just before he choked, the boy had been given permission to use the bathroom unsupervised. There he had access to pushpins used to hold up artwork. The school was cited by the state for violating the boy's right to a safe, comfortable environment by having "small, sharp, pointed objects" in places accessible to children, and fined $150, the maximum penalty allowed under the law. It was also cited for violating rules that bar children from being left without supervision of a teacher, other than a few circumstances. The school unsuccessfully appealed both citations.

In addition to the wrongful-death suit, the boy's parents are pursuing legislation that would keep pushpins out of preschools in the state. Although nothing they do can bring their son back, they're doing what they can to ensure that such an accident never happens again.

Source: North Country Times, "Parents sue preschool after toddler's choking death," Morgan Cook, Jan. 5, 2012

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