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Premises liability question arises in toddler's church day care death

In general, day-care centers in North Carolina run by religious organizations may have protections that other day-care providers do not based upon the separation of church and state. This means that faith-based day care providers normally do not have to comply with safety regulations that are required in order to keep children safe.

But when a child is seriously injured or even suffers a wrongful death at a church day care center, who should be held responsible? If the day care providers are negligent in their care of the child, then they should certainly carry some responsibility.

At the same, if the premises are unsafe, or contain dangers lurking on site that could pose a threat to the children, could the owner of the premises be held responsible under the ory of premises liability? Another possibility may be challenging the separation of church and state, especially when the property is being used as a day-care facility.

Separation of church and state is necessary in order to prevent the government from regulating religious expression. However, one could question whether this makes sense when children's lives are at stake, not matters of religion.

This is what the wrongful death lawsuit filed by the parents of a now deceased toddler are claiming in their lawsuits against the operator of a faith-based day care facility, along with the government agency that was responsible for overseeing the day care provider and the safety of its property.

The little boy was left in the care of a church day care. However, the child care providers negligently failed to prevent him from falling into an unguarded pool of water that was used for baptisms. He was discovered floating face down in the pool and did not survive. The family was able to settle the lawsuit with the religious organization for an undisclosed amount.

The parents are also seeking to hold the government responsible for allowing the church to run a day care center on the premises, despite the dangerous condition of the open water accessible to the children on the premises.

Source: USA Today, "Parents of infant file claim in baptismal drowning," Kristine Guerra, Aug. 21, 2012

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