In what could easily be classified as a parent’s worst nightmare, a West Virginia toddler recently died from drowning in a Green Tree hotel bathtub in Pittsburg, Pennsylvania. Now the question is whether the drowning was the result of negligence, or a deliberate act on the part of the toddler’s mother.
Steven Flanagan, two years old, died at the Children’s Hospital in Pittsburgh, after being found face down in the hotel bathtub by another hotel guest and a security guard. The guest acted out of concern after hearing the boy’s mother, Sharon Flanagan, running down the hallway, screaming: “My baby! My baby!” Ms. Flanagan claimed that she could not lift her son from the tub, and that another force appeared to be pulling him downward toward the bottom. Ms. Flanagan was the only one caring for the boy at the time, and they had been at the hotel for just two hours when the tragic incident occurred.
However, police found her claims to be inconsistent and lacking plausibility. Ms. Flanagan was charged with attempted homicide and child endangerment, among other crimes. Although she completed a psychiatric evaluation that enabled her to post a $250,000 bond, the Allegheny County judge agreed to revoke it in light of concerns that she could flee, given that Ms. Flanagan did not have any known ties to Pennsylvania. Ms. Flanagan’s lawyer claims that his client maintains her innocence.
Even if Ms. Flanagan is found innocent of a deliberate attempt at homicide, negligent or reckless behavior that endangered her son is still a serious charge. Unfortunately, too many of these types of incidents occur all across the country. Parents only need to be distracted for a minute or two for a very young child to get in a situation that could prove fatal. Much of the time, the parents are loving and well meaning, and genuinely horrified by what has occurred.
If children are endangered by their parents’ behavior, can they — or their representatives — file a lawsuit in court and seek compensation? The question is a tricky one. By and large, lawsuits by children against parents are frowned upon, as many courts see it as opening a door to destabilizing society, with children suing their parents for every perceived wrong. Last year, a suit by two twenty-something children against their mother met with widespread derision, as the children sought compensation for “wrongs” such as being told to be home by midnight. However, some states do permit lawsuits against parents in extreme cases, such as severe neglect or wrongful death. Our State is not one of them, so you would be unable to hire a West Virginia wrongful death attorney to seek relief against one of your parents. On the other hand, one parent can sue another for wrongs committed against their children. It is unknown whether these barriers will ever loosen over time.
If you or your loved one were injured by someone else’s actions, you should seek help from an experienced attorney who will work to get you compensation for your losses. Contact us at the Wolfe Law Firm today.