Left for Hours in Sweltering Van, Toddler’s Wrongful Death Was No Tragic Mistake

Left for Hours in Sweltering Van, Toddler’s Wrongful Death Was No Tragic Mistake

Wrongful death attorneys report that each year, on average 40 or more children die when left unattended in hot, sealed automobiles. In most of these cases, it is the parents who have forgotten the child—a mistake that will torment them for the rest of their lives.

But in Palm Beach County, the tragic case of two-year-old Haile Brockington was different. This was a wrongful death caused when a daycare provider with a history of forgetting children in vans and failing to keep the required logs failed to provide safe transport to a child under its care.

This is what a complaint brought by Miami wrongful death attorneys Grossman Roth on behalf of Haile’s parents, Nelder Lester and Mandus Brockington, alleges. Filed August 13 in Palm Beach County Court, the lawsuit seeks damages and answers from Katie’s Kids, the Delray Beach daycare center where Haile was supposed to have been cared for and protected.

What is not in dispute is the tragedy. Left for more than five hours in a van parked outside the Katie’s Kids facility, Haile was subjected to extreme temperatures on August 5.

The high temperature that day at 2 p.m., when Haile was still strapped into her car seat inside the Ford Econoline van, was a sweltering 91 degrees. But inside the automobile, it was even higher—135 degrees or more, according to Jan Null, a meteorologist at San Francisco State University who tracks child deaths in cars.

Given that heatstroke can occur when the body’s core temperature reaches 104 degrees, and that a child’s body warms three to five times faster than an adult’s, it wouldn’t have taken long for Haile to succumb to the heat. Indeed, investigators believe she died hours before being found.

The Grossman Roth complaint makes several allegations that, if proven, would transform Katie’s death from a tragic accident to an almost unconscionable wrongful death. A log that was to keep a record of the children transported to and from the daycare center—required by law—was not kept appropriately, the suit claims.

The complaint also alleges that prior to the August 5 incident, “the driver [identified only as Amanda] had a history of either forging or signing Ms. Lester’s name on various logs and/or attendance records.” Furthermore, the complaint contends, there were “prior incidents when children both on the bus as well as at the school . . . had been forgotten.”

In their wrongful death lawsuit against Katie’s Kids, Haile’s parents are being represented by Grossman Roth Miami wrongful death attorney Andrew Yaffa, who notes that the log—intended to include each child’s name, along with the date and time of departure and arrival—was supposed to be signed not only by the driver but by a second employee as well, who would verify the entries. That, the Grossman Roth complaint alleges, was not done in this case.

That failure, the wrongful death attorney says, is yet another factor that demonstrates how the daycare center failed to provide Haile the reasonable care it owed her—and to prevent the senseless, needless death she suffered just yards from safety.


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