In this Blog category you will find articles about Child Injury Accidents and how to avoid them. Personal Injury suits and insurance claims may require the help of an attorney. A good lawyer can protect your rights under the law.
Oregon’s Department of Human Services has just settled for a hefty $7 million to resolve a case of abuse and neglect against two preschool-aged children in foster care. State-appointed foster parents in Yamhill County nearly starved the siblings to death before turning the kids over to their aunt after announcing they could no longer care for them. A string of neglect from foster parents, caseworkers, doctors, and other government workers left the children helpless in a dangerous home. Although they have won one of the largest settlements issued by the state, they will face a lifetime of consequences tied to the abuse they endured.
Extreme Starvation Scars Young Lives
The lawsuit brought forth against the state for the extreme negligence with which they treated the young brother-sister duo alleged they were so extremely starved by Mr. and Mrs. Yates that they weighed the same at ages 4 and 5 that they did when they were taken in by them at 1 and 2. The starvation was so dire, the lawsuit alleges, the children looked like they had survived famine, and had protruding bellies, visible ribs, and delayed brain development. The boy could barely support himself to walk, while the girl had regressed to needing diapers to go to the bathroom after she arrived potty trained. Doctors at Doernbecher Children’s Hospital, where the children stayed for 8 days, said that both of them could have died had the starvation continued for much longer.
The lawsuit states that DHS caseworkers, their supervisors, and managers, repeatedly ignored critical signs of abuse that occurred over the two and a half years the children were under the Yates’s care. They also ignored repeated complaints the couple had against them regarding other children in their care before entrusting them with caring for these siblings. Despite continued in-person contact, caseworkers took no action to address the abuse or have the children removed from the home.
One caseworker even wrote that although the girl was below average height for a five-year-old, her appearance “raised no concerns.” She also noted that the boy met the average height and weight for his age, even though he was so severely malnourished that his height and weight did not register on the charts for his age group. This sounds appalling considering
As of May 26, 2017, all child passengers under age two must use a child seat with a rear-facing harness, unless the child turned one year of age prior to May 26, 2017. Children under age two must be securely fastened in a car seat with harness or in a booster seat until they reach age eight or 4’9” in height and the adult belt fits them properly.
How Important Are Child Passenger Safety Restraints?
Motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death for children ages one through twelve years old. In 2015, 20 percent of the 981 children aged eight and under that were injured in Oregon traffic crashes were using adult belts or no restraint at all. Nationwide in 2015, a total of 663 passenger-vehicle occupants aged twelve years or younger died as a result of a crash, and nearly 132,000 were injured. Among the children who died, 35% were known to be unrestrained. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) says “to keep child passengers as safe as possible, drivers should use age- and size-appropriate restraints for all child passengers until adult seat belts fit properly.”
Choosing the Right Child Car Seat for Your Vehicle
Not all child car seats fit in all vehicles. Make sure the car seat you choose is the right fit for your vehicle and can be installed and used correctly every time. Test the car seat you plan to buy to make sure it fits well with your vehicle. The label on the seat tells the type of vehicle best for the seat and where on the vehicle to install it. Be sure to register your new child car seat, so the manufacturer can inform you if there is a recall. You should only purchase a new child car seat, never a used one or one that has been involved in an auto accident; and if you are involved in a crash, replace the child seat.
What Type of Car Seat Is Right for Your Child?
It is important that you use a car seat that fits your child’s current size and age, which will change as your child grows. All children up to age twelve or thirteen should ride in the back seat. There are four basic types of child car seats:
- Rear-Facing Car Seat
- Forward-Facing Car Seat
- Booster Seat
- Seat Belt
Rear-Facing Car Seat: the best seat for a young child, it has a harness and, in a crash, cradles and moves with your child to reduce the stress to the child’s neck and spinal cord. You should keep your child rear-facing as long as possible. Your child should remain in a rear-facing car seat until he or she reaches the top height or weight limit allowed by your child car seat’s manufacturer. There are three types of rear facing child car seats:
- Infant Car Seat – designed for newborns and small babies, it is a small, portable seat that can only be used rear-facing, so when your child outgrows the seat after about eight or nine months you should purchase a convertible or all-in-one car seat and use it rear-facing.
- Convertible Seat – this seat can change from a rear-facing seat to a forward-facing seat with a harness and tether as a child grows. Because it can be used with children of various sizes, children can stay in the rear-facing position longer.
- All-In-One Seat – this seat can also change from a re-facing seat to a forward-facing seat with a harness and tether, but also to a booster seat as the child grows. It can be used by children of various sizes, so it allows for children to stay in the rear-facing position longer.
Forward-Facing Car Seat: has a harness and tether that limits your child’s forward movement during a crash. Once your child outgrows the rear-facing car seat, after about three or four years of age, your child is ready to travel in a forward-facing car seat with a harness and tether. There are three types of forward-facing car seats:
- Convertible Seat: as a child grows, this seat can change from a rear-facing seat to a forward-facing seat with a harness and tether.
- Combination Seat: this seat transitions from a forward-facing seat with a harness and tether into a booster seat as your child grows.
- All-in-One Seat: the seat can change from a rear-facing seat to a forward-facing seat with a harness and tether and to a booster seat as a child grows.
Booster Seat: once your child outgrows a forward-facing car seat with a harness, it is time to travel in a booster seat, but still in the back seat. Keep your child in the booster seat until he or she is big enough to fit in a seat belt properly. There are four types of booster seats:
- Booster Seat with High Back: this seat is designed to boost the child’s height so that the seat belt fits properly and supports head and neck. It is ideal for vehicles that don’t have head rests or high seat backs.
- Backless Booster Seat: it is designed to boost the child’s height so the seat belt fits properly. Because it does not provide head and neck support, it is a good choice for vehicles with head rests.
- Combination Seat: this seat transitions from a forward-facing seat with a harness to a booster seat as the child grows.
- All-in-One Seat: this seat can change from a rear-facing seat to a forward-facing seat with a harness and tether and to a booster seat as the child grows.
For a seat belt to fit properly, the lap belt must lie snugly across the upper thighs, not the stomach. The shoulder belt should lie snugly across the shoulder and chest and not cross the neck or face. Your child should still ride in the back, where it is safer.
After the regrettable death of a 15-year old girl from Albany in the foster care system, the Oregon Department of Human services decided to review a random sample of 101 child welfare case decisions for insight into what could be improved. The disturbing conclusion found that many children were deemed safe by social workers despite being kept in unstable or threatening environments. Oregon’s social workers consistently failed to protect children by failing to recognize clear signs of abuse or neglect, or failing to thoroughly investigate reports.
The reports spanned 11 counties in Oregon, including Clackamas and Washington counties. They looked at kids in urban and rural parts of the state. Issues overlapped in several cases where social workers did not properly conduct their duties. Senate Human Services Chair Sara Gelser of Corvallis was astounded at the results. She went so far as to state the agency is “in a state of chaos and disrepair.” On a chilling note, those who work in child abuse assessment centers were not surprised in the least to hear about the results. They witness the effects these situations have on children on a daily basis.
What Went Wrong?
On one February day in 2016, the Oregon child protective services office received a startling report. Someone called in about a mother having hallucinations and threatening to go buy a gun. Two months later, a social worker checked in on her kids.
So much could have happened in the two months between the time the call was received and the time the children were interviewed by the social worker. The mother could have obtained a firearm and presented a real threat to her children. After analyzing 101 reports, the system clearly needs an overhaul. Oregon’s child welfare system routinely fails to protect young children. Workers miss or completely ignore threats to their safety. They fail to dig deeper into the reports they are tasked with investigating.
Nearly half of the reports analyzed revealed that social workers incorrectly determine child safety. In 27% of cases, social workers failed to search for defined safety threats. A safety threat is any family behavior, conditions, or circumstances that could result in harm to a child. Additionally, in 20% of cases social workers misidentified the risks.
The Coos Bay Children’s Academy nearly escaped investigation and punitive fines for poisoning fifty people had it not been for investigative reporting by the state’s largest newspaper. Due to horrendous mismanagement, state authorities did not discover a serious incident involving the use of strong pesticides in the childcare center that put employees and several children in harm’s way.
Since a careless spraying incident took place in April, at least fifty people have come forward with symptoms of illness due to exposure to a potent chemical insecticide in the childcare facility. Forty-three children and seven adults have all complained of trouble breathing and eye irritation, and it has been confirmed that sixteen of these children required medical attention for their symptoms. If all the accounts of illness are verified, they stand to become the state’s most extensive pesticide incident to take place in a school or daycare facility.
Childcare Facility Negligence Goes Undetected
Thanks to top reporting by The Oregonian/ OregonLive, state officials learned about the spraying of potent chemicals in the 9,000-square foot facility, located about three hours northwest of Medford. Oregon’s Department of Agriculture, Occupational Safety and Health Administration, Health Authority and Pesticide Analytical and Response Center all launched investigations after reading about the incident in the newspaper.
In their effort to tackle a flea problem, owner Elizabeth Ewing and her husband, Gerald Ewing, purchased and applied a strong insecticide that was not approved for use inside of schools or childcare facilities to three-fourths of the square footage of the building. They sprayed the product directly on the carpet where young children played daily.
Not long after, parents witnessed their children suffering from a variety of symptoms. Some children had tonsils “the size of marbles,” eye discharge, sore throats, and some coughed until they vomited. Concerned employees had reported the issues and were upset at the state’s slow response. They warned parents against the wishes of Elizabeth “Betty” Ewing, who wanted to keep the incident under wraps.
In her defense, Mrs. Ewing claimed that the Coos Bay Grange Co-Op sold her the wrong item. Barry Robino, the CEO of the Grange Co-Op chain, disputed this claim. He later made a statement implying that consumers are responsible for following manufacturer instructions when using the
On the surface, Iris Valley Learning Center appears to be a legitimate child care facility for young children. A quick Google search of Keizer day care centers reveals Google map results that place Iris Valley on top, with an average 4.5 star review out of 5 possible stars. The facility, located at 530 Dietz Ave, is one of the state’s largest facilities. It would come as a surprise to anyone who declines to research further that the facility was recently shut down by the state of Oregon after receiving over a hundred complaints in nine years.
From 2007 to 2016, Iris Valley was flagged for 102 violations by the Oregon Office of Child Care. Yet the state allowed the facility to operate for several years before finally taking action earlier this year. During that time, several young children were mistreated by care providers. Eight children even suffered bone fractures, the greatest number of fractures of any provider during that time period. Inspectors with the Office of Child Care also uncovered sanitation issues with dirty toys, carpets, kitchens, and too few teachers on staff.
Despite the citations, the facility continued to operate for several years. Iris Valley was fined a mere $325 over its 102 violations. Such a light slap on the wrist hints at several instabilities and issues within the state child care facility itself. Problems have accumulated for years within the state agency that oversees childcare facilities and little action has been taken.
Oregon Office of Child Care Audit
An internal state audit from 2016 revealed that the state’s oversight system enables problematic facilities to thrive. Questionable decision-making by regulators and inadequate rules let gravely harmful facilities continue operations. The audit, conducted by Oregon’s Early Learning Division, which oversees the Office of Child Care and is in turn run by the Department of Education, was completed in 2016.
The audit raised many issues and proposed several suggestions to help the child care office improve its performance, yet Oregon Office of Child Care’s director, Dawn Woods, was not interested in executing the majority of the proposed changes.
The Oregon Office of Child Care oversees 4,200 day care centers, 1,200 of which are large commercial operations like Iris Valley. Its services extend to nearly 106,000 children, or about
With the implementation of new disciplinary policies in schools teachers across the country are reporting feeling less safe in their own classrooms. In Portland schools, new disciplinary policies that aim to reduce the rate of suspensions and expulsions by eliminating zero-tolerance policies. Called “Restorative Justice,” new policies bar teachers from removing disruptive students from their classrooms as a form of disciplinary action.
Since the policy was implemented, over a third of all teachers surveyed felt less safe in their schools, according to the Portland Association of Teachers union. Teachers throughout the Portland Public Schools system are reporting increased incidents in disruptions and even classroom violence as students are learning they will not face consequences for their actions.
What is Restorative Justice?
Restorative justice is a student-centered approach that attempts to shift disciplinary measures from punitive to preventive in order to eliminate what is often referred to as the school-to-prison pipeline. The strategies embraced by this new system encourages students who display behavioral problems to work out issues amongst themselves and with the guidance of teachers and counselors. According to Edutopia,
“Restorative justice empowers students to resolve conflicts on their own and in small groups, and it’s a growing practice at schools around the country. Essentially, the idea is to bring students together in peer-mediated small groups to talk, ask questions, and air their grievances. “
By enabling students to resolve issues with the help of teachers, administrators, and other school personnel, these measures seek to reduce suspensions and expulsions which are considered “exclusionary” and therefore harmful. As a result, teachers can only discipline kids who have committed the worst offenses. In some school districts, unruly students cannot be removed from the classroom without the consent of the district supervisor. Teachers have reported having very little ability to control students who exhibit
While the policies have led to a nearly 50% reduction in overall exclusions for Portland students, this does not reflect that the number of disruptive or unruly incidents has declined. Without the necessary resources to achieve success, many schools are struggling with a surge in disciplinary issues; some teachers are even reporting that they have received threats of
Determining who might be responsible for an injury that occurred in a child’s school playground is often difficult. Even if the school or a school employee didn’t directly cause the injury, the school district might be legally responsible, and obtaining just compensation can be challenging.
Playground injuries are usually due to either poor maintenance or design of playground equipment or lack of adequate supervision. If another child injured your child on a school playground, the other student or parents may not be responsible. If a teacher failed to provide adequate supervision, the school district would be at fault. Likewise, if your child was injured in a school bus accident caused by the driver of another car, the school district might be considered negligent.
School Districts Share Sovereign Immunity with Governments
School districts, like the federal government and all branches and agencies at the state, county, and municipal level of government, enjoy what is called “sovereign immunity,” which means that they can’t be sued except under specific circumstances. To make a case to receive compensation for your child’s injuries, you must bring a civil suit in court against the school district. You may need legal assistance with this. If your child attends a private school, the grounds for filing suit might involve breach of contract. Otherwise, private schools are generally subject to the same laws as public schools if they receive any form of federal funding.
Initiating a Claim Against a School District
Before a lawsuit can be filed against a school district, most states require that you file a formal written claim with the school district’s clerk or other specified official of the school district no more than 60 to 90 days after the injury. The claim must describe the nature of the incident and injuries to the student, so that the school district can investigate the incident. In most states, failing to file a claim within the required time period will prevent you from later filing any type of lawsuit in court against the school district. Once you have filed the claim, you must wait until either the school district has denied the claim or a certain amount of time (typically three to six months) has passed without any action by the school district.
After you have filed with a government administrative agency to “exhaust the remedies” that are available to you, the administrative agency may
Following incidents of broken welds causing children to suffered finger amputations, the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) on December 7, 2016 issued a recall of the Lightning Slide stainless steel playground slide manufactured by Playworld Systems, Inc,.
About 1,300 Lightning Slides, manufactured in the United States by Playworld Systems, Inc. of Lewisburg, PA and Horizon Industries, of Columbia, PA, have been sold by independent distributors over the last sixteen years with stainless steel welds attaching the bedway to the sidewalls that can crack and separate, allowing a child’s fingers to get caught in the space.
Playworld Recalls All Lightning Slides Sold in Past Sixteen Years
All of the 1,300 slides, sold to schools, parks and government entities across the country between November 2000 and October 2016 for between $1,500 and $4,000, have been recalled due to the defect. Playworld and CPSC warned organizations that purchased the affected slides to immediately stop allowing their use, to prevent exposing children to risk of amputation and laceration injuries.
Because there is no manufacturer information on the defective slides, the CPSC warned parents and caregivers to be extremely cautious when allowing children to use metal slides at public or school playgrounds, and said the stainless steel slides may have single or double bedways and could be attached to a playground system or stand alone.
Playworld Systems is handling the recall, offering a free replacement slide and free installation. “A temporary barrier will be shipped to consumers prior to shipment of a replacement slide to prevent children from using the slide,” CPSC’s notice said.
CPSC Fast Track Recall Process Encourages Playworld Voluntary Recall
CPSC tells customers to immediately stop using the recalled slides and contact Playworld at 800-233-8404 from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. ET Monday through Friday, email email@example.com or online at https://playworld.com/ and click on “Slide Safety Recall Information” for replacement slide information.
Playworld is also contacting consumers who purchased the affected slides directly. Playworld’s voluntary recall was encouraged by the CPSC’s “Fast Track Recall” process, meant to speed up recall announcements to protect consumer safety.
Despite mounting evidence that padded crib bumpers, designed to keep a baby from hitting her head on crib slats, are a suffocation hazard and may be linked to Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, in September 2016, Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) staff released an analysis of child deaths associated with crib bumpers that was scientifically questionable, and inappropriately came to the conclusion that it should not take any action on these products.
American Association of Pediatrics Issues Policy Statement on Crib Bumpers
Multiple safe sleep experts, including Rachel Moon, MD, FAAP , lead author of American Academy of Pediatrics’ (AAP) October 24, 2016 policy statement, “SIDS and Other Sleep-Related Infant Deaths,” reviewed the CPSC’s evidence and found the CPSC’s analysis and conclusion flawed. “Because there is no evidence that bumper pads or similar products that attach to crib slats or sides prevent injury in young infants, and because there is a potential for suffocation, entrapment and strangulation, these products are not recommended,” the AAP’s statement concluded.
American Journal of Pediatrics Article Reaffirms Crib Bumper Danger
In November 2016 the American Journal of Pediatrics (AJP) published an article written by Bradley T. Thatch, M.D., George W. Rutherford, Jr., M.S., and Kathleen Harris, of the Washington Department of Pediatrics, St. Louis, Missouri titled “Deaths and Injuries Attributed to Infant Crib Bumper Pads.” Analyzing the CPSC’s database for deaths related to crib bumpers for the years 1985 to 2005, the authors found that, between those years, 27 children from 1 month to 2 years old died from suffocating or strangling related to crib bumpers. The authors also searched other Consumer Product Safety Commission databases for crib-related injuries that potentially might have been prevented by bumpers, and examined 22 retail crib bumpers and described features that could be hazardous. “These findings suggest that crib and bassinet bumpers are dangerous. Their use prevents only minor injuries. Because bumpers can cause death, we conclude that they should not be used,” the article stated.
CPSC Delays Banning Crib Bumpers
Although the Consumer Product Safety Commission acknowledges the danger that crib bumpers pose, it has stopped short of banning the products, and instead places the responsibility on the parent or caregiver rather than the manufacturer. “We strongly warn parents and caregivers not to use padded crib bumpers. . . We strongly believe that the risk of death from padded crib bumpers
On May 5, 2016, the Oregon Supreme Court put the nail in the coffin of a personal injury case that has been brewing since 2011, when the parents of a Klamath Falls boy were awarded a mere $3 million in damages for multiple life-threatening surgeries their son endured at the hands of Oregon Health & Science University physicians. The case: Horton v. OHSU. The outcome: Oregon Supreme Court upholds $3 million cap on damages against the state.
The Story behind Horton
In Horton v. OHSU, plaintiffs Steve and Lori Horton (now Lori Spiesschaert) sued OHSU and the physicians responsible for their son’s surgery for medical malpractice. The surgery, which took place in 2009, nearly took his life at just 8 months old. Speisschaert felt a lump on her infant son which led to the discovery of a malignant tumor on his liver. The boy was taken to OHSU to have the tumor removed. OHSU and the physicians both admitted to liability for what took place.
The two surgeons providing care accidentally snipped key blood vessels, leading to liver failure. It took up to 45 minutes for them to realize this. The boy was taken to OHSU two more times for surgeries that caused further harm. Two days after the final surgery, OHSU arranged for the family to fly in an air ambulance to a children’s hospital at Stanford University in California for life-saving treatment. The surgeons at the California hospital were successful in transplanting a piece of the mother’s liver to save his life. Over the course of three months, the child would undergo 4 more surgeries fighting for his life. Two years later, OHSU paid the $3 million that was the maximum allowed under the Oregon Tort Claims Act ORS 30.260, which caps judgments against public entities like OHSU and state employees.
Despite the $3 million, the family came up short on their Stanford medical bills, which amounted to $5 million. None of this was covered by insurance by the way; as as soon as the insurance companies discovered the medical bills were due to negligence they started demanding the family pay them back. The $3 million were divided between Stanford, paying back the insurance companies, lost wages, and several other expenses.
After a few months, the family sued OHSU and the surgeons responsible a second time. OHSU had never disputed that