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Day Care Death Leads to $10 Million Award Against Gwinnett County Facility

Following a four-day trial, a jury in Gwinnett County awarded nearly $10 million to the family of a toddler who drowned while at a home-based day care. This is the latest of a number of successful lawsuits in recent years against Georgia day care centers, which have recently been been scrutinized by the Atlanta Journal Constitution amid claims that the state has been lax in regulating the industry and in enforcing penalties.

Abiola Bankolemoh’s parents, Kemi Green and Gbolohan Bankolemoh, thought that they had investigated their two young children’s day care sufficiently and believed that it was safe. Though it was run out of a home, they were shown a CPR license and were assured that the owner was licensed, as any paid child care provider must be if caring for three or more children, and that the center was periodically inspected by the state. However, not only was Tanya Moon not licensed to provide child care services, the state has no record that she ever applied for a license. Moreover, the house could not have been approved by the state in its current state because of unobstructed access to an above-ground swimming pool in the back yard.

In March 2009, on a day when Moon was caring for four children, 23-month-old Abiola got out the home’s back door while unattended. He wandered into the backyard and went to the family’s above-ground pool, where he was later found dead. Abiola’s three-year-old brother was also in the home that day. Abiola’s parents sued Moon, along with her husband and father-in-law, who owned the home. Criminal charges were initially filed against both Moon and her husband, though the charges against him were later dropped. Moon still faces criminal charges stemming from the death.

The verdict for Green and Bankolemoh included $50,000 for their pain and suffering in addition to $9.8 million for Abiola’s death. Attorneys for the parents, Jeff Harris and Alan Cleveland, told the press that they expected to collect the entire amount from the three defendants’ insurance providers.

Day care centers are regulated by the state to ensure that the provide safe environments for the children in their care. Sadly, serious violations of state safety regulations occur frequently. Both home-based and commercial day care centers are guilty of neglecting safety rules and procedures, and as a result a significant number of children are seriously injured or die in Georgia day cares each year. Our Atlanta trial lawyers have successfully represented numerous victims of negligence throughout Georgia, recently including a few parents whose children were harmed by day care center negligence. We hope that by filing suit, we can punish those responsible for our clients’ injuries and help them and their families get the compensation they need and deserve.