LAPORTE | A lawsuit has been filed blaming a Michigan City day care center and its owner for the June 9 death of a 5-year-old boy.
The lawsuit, seeking unspecified damages, was filed on behalf of the boy's mother, Anita LeFlore, against Tricia's Playhouse and Day Care and its owner, Tricia Calvin of LaPorte.
Several claims of negligence, including failure to monitor the boy's activities, are contained in the civil allegations filed Tuesday in LaPorte Circuit Court.
Specifically, the two staff members were inside while the victim, Amareon Williams, and other children were outside on a playset, said Mark Novak, a Chicago attorney representing the boy's mother.
Another claim in the lawsuit alleges the children were allowed to play outside despite a jump rope being draped over the top of the playset in the day care center's fenced-in backyard.
Novak said staff members would have known the jump rope was there if the play area had been inspected by the attendants prior to the children's arrival.
According to authorities, Amareon was seen by other children draping the rope around his neck. He then came partially down a slide and stopped before reaching the bottom. The other end of the rope was fastened to the top of the playset.
Emergency responders found the boy having difficulty breathing and transported him to the hospital where he died from asphyxiation.
The lawsuit alleges Calvin allowed her business to remain open despite receiving multiple citations for alleged violations on April 21 that resulted in the facility being placed on probation. The citations were for violations such as failing to maintain records of criminal history checks on staff members and not following procedures for preventing, detecting and reporting sexual abuse and neglect, according to the lawsuit.
The state has closed the center for 90 days and could extend the closure.
LaPorte County Prosecutor Bob Szilagyi said no decision has been made on whether to pursue criminal charges. He said there are several felony offenses along with at least a misdemeanor that could apply to the case, but the investigation is still ongoing.
Szilagyi said it might be difficult to find a charge that matches the circumstances involving the death given the level of proof that would have to be attained under the law.
"We're going to look at it very carefully. That's all we can do at this point," said Szilagyi.