WOLFEBORO — A Brookfield couple has filed a lawsuit against the Wolfeboro Area Children’s Center, alleging that their 13-month-old son suffered second-degree burns over more than 15% of his body when he was unsupervised and reached for a bowl on a kitchen counter that contained scalding water used to sterilize a pacifier.
Patrick and Deanna Hanley claim the children’s center owed a duty of care to their son, Jack, to exercise reasonable care in monitoring, supervising and protecting him from foreseeable harm.
As a result of the center’s negligence and carelessness, the lawsuit alleges, the boy incurred severe burns, permanent scarring, pain, mental and emotional anguish, inconvenience, medical bills and related expenses.
In a Nov. 21 response to the suit, attorney William Joseph Flanagan of Boston, who represents the center that has been in existence for 45 years, denies all allegations of liability and calls upon the plaintiffs to prove their allegations.
According to the complaint, on Dec. 28, 2018, about 3:15 p.m., Deanna Hanley received a phone call from the center reporting that Jack had been marginally burned by some spilled water, that his skin was a little pink and that it was not severe enough to warrant hospital treatment.
Deanna Hanley immediately left work to drive to the center at 108 South Main St., calling back and asking Executive Director Teri Ann Cox if the child needed emergency services.
Attorney James Cowles of Walker & Varney P.C. of Wolfeboro, who represents the plaintiffs, writes in the complaint that Cox replied, “no,” and “take your time” and that Jack looked like “he has a sunburn” and that a later “visit to Jack’s pediatrician would suffice.”
Darcy Crawford, an employee at the center, blotted cold water on Jack’s burns, but no one called 911, the suit alleges. When the child’s mother arrived about 4 p.m. she found him screaming and crying in pain, covered in large swollen blisters and lesions caused from severe burns on his head, face, chest, torso and left arm, according to the suit.
She insisted they call an ambulance, believing her son was unable to be transported to the hospital any other way, and needed immediate medical care, the suit says. Cox, the suit claims, responded that Deanna Hanley should be the one to call 911.
The boy was taken by ambulance to nearby Huggins Hospital and was subsequently transferred to the Shriners Hospital for Children in Boston, which specializes in pediatric burn treatment. His injuries include “hypertrophic scaring and epidermal fibrosis,” and his follow-up care required painful and frequent drainage, debridement and dressing treatments, according to the complaint.
The responding emergency medical technician was “so shocked” by the center’s response to the boy’s injuries that the ambulance company he works for filed a complaint with the state Division for Children, Youth and Families, and the complaint was then transferred for investigation to the Wolfeboro Police Department and the state Department of Health and Human Services, the suit asserts.
DHHS issued a corrective action plan for the center which included ensuring line of sight supervision of children at all times, installation of a protective gate in front of the kitchen to limit accessibility by youngsters and establishing a new protocol for disinfecting pacifiers by leaving boiling water inside the microwave until fully attended to by an adult. The plan also called for continued monitoring of staff by the DHHS program coordinator.
The case is scheduled for a jury trial in September 2020 if the parties are unable to negotiate a settlement.