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Potential Legal Liability of Third Parties in Recent Burn Cases

A case is making its way through the Iowa civil courts this month that involves the potential legal liability of a day-care center where a toddler suffered severe burns.

The parents and grandmother of the severely burned toddler have sued the owners of an Ankeny, IA child-care center, accusing the couple of “willful and wanton disregard for the rights or safety” of a boy whose diaper was changed within reach of a crock pot filled with very hot water.

Polk County court papers filed earlier this week accuse Bryan and Sue Jansen, owners of a company doing business as Ankeny Christian Child Care, of negligence for leaving the container within reach of where Seth Brown was having his diaper changed on Aug. 20, 2009.

The lawsuit says that Seth, while in the care of the Jansens’ employees, “pulled a Crock Pot with scalding hot water over and on top of himself, causing severe burn injuries over 25 percent of his body.” Court papers also say that Ankeny Christian Child Care violated several state rules and procedures in 2009, including steps that should have been taken to limit the crock pot’s temperature and also to keep the cord out of reach of the children staying there.

The lawsuit, filed on behalf of Seth, his grandmother, and his parents Amanda and Aleksander Brown, seeks money for past and future medical and hospital expenses, past and future pain and suffering, loss of future earning capability and past and future permanent injury, disability and disfigurement.

Owner Bryan Jansen said Friday that his insurance company had just received a copy of the lawsuit, so he had no comment at this point.

A website for Ankeny Christian Child Care says the daycare center, which shares an address with Ankeny Christian Church, has been in business since 1997 and owned by the Jansens’ company since 1999. The business has been actively involved in the community for many years, according to the website. Additionally, it says that “most of our staff are active in their churches, whether they attend in Ankeny or in another area church.”

In order to prevent such an incident from happening rather than having to respond to it with medical treatment and a lawsuit, parents should take a detailed tour of any child-care facility where they are considering placing their child. Hazards to look for include unguarded electrical sockets in addition to possible sources of burn injuries such as hot-water faucets and electrical appliances that are not well protected from the wandering hands of small children.

In another incident involving a burn injury at a business, top professional tennis player Rafael Nadal received serious burns to some of his fingers while out to dinner at a Japanese steakhouse on August 19. The restaurant Nadal went to is one where skilled chefs cook dinner on a steel grill in front of seated patrons. There were a number of plates placed in front of Nadal, but one of them had been recently moved from the surface of the hot grill surface. Nadal did not know this, and when he reached out to grab the dish he burned his fingers immediately.

When Rafal told his companions he burned his fingers, they thought he was joking–until blisters started forming a few minutes later, which is a classic sign of second-degree burns. It turns out that Nadal had scalded the index and middle fingers on his right hand. He was forced to play tennis the next day with bandages on his hand, and he lost his match.

As anyone who has gone to this type of restaurant can attest, some of the surfaces being used by chefs are located within reach of patrons, and can get extremely hot and also make the plates and utensils nearby very hot as well. Because of this, patrons should pay close attention to the cooking activity and also to any children sitting at the table to keep them safe.

It is not known at this time if Nadal will begin a civil case against the restaurant regarding legal liability for his burn injuries.