Two day care workers recently pleaded guilty to criminal charges after forcing two of their toddler-aged students to engage in a fistfight.  Could they be held civilly liable for their actions?

In March, Estefania Myers and Lisa Parker, employees of Hands of Our Future day care center in Dover, Delaware, encouraged two three-year-olds in their care to fight one another.  A third co-worker, Tiana Harris (who has yet to plead guilty), videotaped the youngsters’ brawl.  In August, police obtained a copy of the video, which “shows one child screaming, crying and holding his face while being punched and shoved into a table” according to the Associated Press.  At one point, Parker allegedly grabbed one of the children and forced him to continue fighting, as her two co-workers encouraged the violent scuffle.  Last week, Myers and Parker pleaded guilty to second-degree-assault and second-degree-conspiracy.

After hearing about this heinous behavior, I couldn’t help but think about the causes of action that the families of the children might bring against Myers, Parker, Harris, and Hands of Our Future in a civil lawsuit.  Here are several that came to mind:

    •    Negligence against Myers, Parker, and Harris.  They breached a duty of care that they owed to the children, which caused damages (beyond physical injuries, the children likely suffered from extreme emotional distress as a result of this episode).
    •    Negligent Hiring and Supervision against Hands of Our Future.  The day care entrusted these reckless individuals with the incredibly important task of caring for children.  Of course, the parents would have to prove that the daycare knew or had reason to know that these employees would engage in this type of conduct.

    •    Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress against Myers, Parker, and Harris.  The conduct of Myers and Parker was indisputably intentional and outrageous, and it likely caused severe emotional distress.

    •    False Imprisonment against Parker.  When Parker grabbed one of the children and forced him to continue fighting, she used force which deprived the child of his liberty, causing him to remain where he did not desire to stay.

    •    Assault against Parker.  When she forced one of the children to continue she likely raised in his mind an apprehension of imminent bodily harm.

    •    Battery against Parker.  When Parker grabbed one of the children and forced him to continue fighting, she intentionally touched one of the children without permission in an offensive manner.

    •    Civil Conspiracy against Myers, Parker, and Harris.  The three of them had an understanding to carry out tortious acts which injured the children.

It’s probably safe to say that Hands of Our Future and its employees haven’t heard the last of this ordeal.

If you believe that you may have a civil case against someone who has wronged you, contact Kramer and Connolly.  We’re here to help.