Marler Clark filed a lawsuit Tuesday on behalf of Patricia and Asa Wasden, the parents of Ian Wasden, a two-year-old boy who suffered from Hemolytic Uremic Syndrome (HUS) after contracting E. coli O157:H7 last June at Kid’s Korner daycare in Joplin. The lawsuit, which was filed in Jasper County Circuit Court, seeks damages related to Ian’s illness and subsequent hospitalization.
An E. coli outbreak was linked to Kid’s Korner after several children who attended the daycare facility fell ill with bacterial infections in May. Health officials instructed Kid’s Korner operators to notify the families of all children who attended the daycare in an effort to prevent more illnesses but, according to the complaint, the Wasdens never received word from the daycare. It was not June 1, the date that Ian Wasden fell ill with symptoms related to his E. coli infection, that Patricia and Asa Wasden learned about the outbreak at Kid’s Korner.
“After the first child attending Kid’s Korner tested positive for E. coli, the daycare operators should have notified all parents and taken extra precautions to ensure that no other children became ill,” said William Marler, managing partner of Marler Clark. “Instead, they continued to operate the daycare as if nothing was wrong, which probably led to dozens of illnesses that could have been prevented.”
Through interviews with families, officials from the Joplin Health Department and the Missouri Department of Health learned that Kid’s Korner failed to notify 32% of families whose children had attended the daycare and were therefore exposed to E. coli O157:H7. Overall, 26 children attending Kid’s Korner experienced diarrhea during the month of May, and four submitted stool samples that cultured positive for E. coli O157:H7.
“When you look at the facts, particularly the Health Department report, it is obvious that Kid’s Korner showed a blatant disregard for the safety of Ian Wasden and all other children who attended their daycare,” Marler concluded. During their investigation, officials visited the daycare on several occasions, and noted numerous “non-compliances” that were considered “likely to be linked to disease transmission.”
Ian Wasden was hospitalized for nearly three weeks, undergoing a full week of kidney dialysis, seven blood transfusions, three surgeries, and a severe case of pancreatitis. He was released from Children’s Mercy Hospital on June 20, 2004, but continues to suffer from painful abdominal cramping. His kidneys have not fully recovered from the effects of E. coli and HUS. The complaint asks that Ian and his parents be compensated for past and future medical expenses, pain and suffering, emotional distress, and lost wages.
Numerous studies have been conducted on outbreaks of pathogenic bacteria linked to daycare centers. In 1983, outbreaks of Shigella at two Seattle, Washington daycare centers resulted in the illnesses of 22 and eleven children, staff members, and family members of ill children, respectively. A 1984 outbreak of E. coli led to three cases of Hemolytic Uremic Syndrome, and diarrheal illness in 36 children, aged 4 months to 9 years. A 1991 outbreak of E. coli O157:H7 at a daycare in Israel sickened four infants less than one year of age. In 1992, an outbreak at a daycare center in northern Germany sickened 39 children and two adults. The outbreak lasted over a 30-day interval, and three children developed Hemolytic Uremic syndrome.