Okla. May Require Day Care Centers to Have Liability Insurance

By Tim Talley

Measures that would require day care centers in Oklahoma to carry liability insurance and contribute to a fund to compensate parents and children for day-care injuries was approved by a state House subcommittee this week.

Members of the House Social Services Subcommittee voted unanimously for the legislation after hearing the story of a 3-year-old boy who suffered brain damage after being left in a stifling vehicle last August while in the custody of day-care workers in Oklahoma City.

“I am outraged that the Department of Human Services doesn’t already require these facilities to carry liability insurance before they can be licensed in this state,” said the author of the bills, Rep. Mike Shelton, D-Midwest City.

“We require drivers to carry liability insurance to drive on our roads. We require restaurants and retailers to carry liability insurance to operate in our state,” Shelton said. “But we don’t require the day care centers that are responsible for watching our most precious and helpless citizens to carry liability insurance.”

Accompanying Shelton were Demarion Pittman and his mother, Edna Pittman. Shelton said that on Aug. 2, Demarion was left in a hot van for several hours after returning from an outing to a bowling alley while in the care of a day care center.

Edna Pittman said day care workers apparently forgot about the boy when he fell asleep in the vehicle. The boy’s temperature was 117 degrees when he was finally pulled from it, she said.

He was in a coma for two months and suffered extensive brain damage, Pittman said.

“He is unable to walk. He is unable to talk,” she said.

His medical expenses have topped more than $1 million in just six months.

“It’s affected our family. Our finances have really been impacted,” Pittman said.

But the day care facility, which is no longer in business, did not carry liability insurance and DHS does not require them to carry insurance in order to obtain a license to operate, Shelton said.

One bill would require child care facilities to carry a minimum $200,000 of liability coverage for each incident of negligence in which a child is injured while in the care of the facility. It would also require day care centers that do not have insurance to inform parents they have no liability coverage.

Another bill would create a Child Care Facilities Licensing Indemnity Fund to compensate parents and children for injuries caused by negligence. Revenue for the fund would be generated through assessments on licensed child care facilities.

“Obviously, there is little that can be done for my family at this point,” Pittman said. “But we are not the first and we certainly won’t be the last family to end up on the short end of a day care provider’s negligence.”

Shelton said requirements for liability insurance vary from state to state. Some states require child care facilities to carry liability coverage while others do not. Texas requires day care facilities to carry a minimum of $300,000 in liability coverage, he said.

The measures, House bills 2863 and 2864, now to the House Human Services Committee.
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