Judge to Schedule Trial in Delaware Day Care Death Lawsuit

A Delaware couple who filed a wrongful death lawsuit after their infant son died at a home day care center has lost a bid to have a judge rule in their favor without a trial.

Carlita and Charles Laws argued that they were entitled to summary judgment because day care owner Valorie Handy’s conviction for criminally negligent homicide precluded her from arguing that she is not civilly liable for negligence.

The judge noted in a ruling last week that criminal negligence involves a person’s mental state. But a person claiming civil negligence must prove he or she was owed a duty by a person and was injured because the person breached that duty.

The judge noted that the couple did not argue that Handy’s criminal conviction shows that she owed a duty to them. She said she would hold a pretrial conference and schedule a trial after the current coronavirus state of emergency ends.

State troopers were called to the Handy’s Little Disciples day care in Millsboro in January 2015 after a worker found the 10-month-old boy unresponsive. He was pronounced dead at a hospital.

Handy was charged with murder by abuse or neglect. She was convicted in 2016 of criminally negligent homicide and sentenced to 2 1/2 years in prison.

Prosecutors say Handy gave the boy diphenhydramine, the active ingredient in Benadryl.

The medical examiner classified the boy’s death as homicide from diphenhydramine