A second family has come forward to sue Fresno Unified over an allegation that a school nurse cleaned a disabled student’s feeding tube with bleach, causing physical injuries and emotional suffering.
Both lawsuits involve Addicott Elementary, the campus where severely disabled students can attend class. Both allege that a nurse used bleach as the cleaning fluid instead of water. Both complaints say school staff mixed up cleaning supplies with water. And both allege that school officials did not quickly help the affected students and withheld information about the incidents, causing delays in medical care.
In both cases, Fresno Unified has declined to comment, saying it does not respond to pending litigation, though the district did release this statement Tuesday evening: “Both lawsuits stem from an incident that occurred on the same day in 2016. Fresno Unified cannot comment further on any pending litigation.”
The newest lawsuit, filed May 10, alleges negligence, negligent supervision and intentional infliction of emotional distress. It does not specify damages being sought. As a civil suit, it shows only the plaintiff’s allegations.
The mother, Brittany Hoagland, says her son has cerebral palsy, chronic respiratory distress, gastroesophageal reflux disease and other disabilities. He can walk or stand only with a mobile walking device, and has to be fed twice a day with pureed food or liquids administered through a feeding tube.
The boy, referred to in the suit as A.P., began attending Addicott Elementary in 2008 as a special-needs preschool student. He was to be fed twice during the school day through what is referred to in the suit as a G-tube. Cleaning of the tube was to be done with water.
Until Sept. 19 of last year, Hoagland said, the Addicott staff had handled the tube’s cleaning without issue. But on that day, a nurse identified only as “Jack” cleaned the tube with bleach instead of water, the suit says.
Because of his gastroesophageal reflux disease, it is nearly impossible for the boy to vomit, and if his body does get to that point, it is very painful. Yet A.P is mostly nonverbal due to his disabilities, so he could not communicate pain or anything wrong, the suit says.
Once the bleach was put down the tube, the suit alleges that no attempt was made by school staff “to contact any medical authority, contact poison control, call 911, seek an ambulance, transport A.P. to the hospital, or ascertain any kind of medical care or treatment whatsoever.”
Two hours after the incident, Hoagland got a message from the school nurse saying her son needed medical attention, but that Principal Katrina Plesche “did not want to call an ambulance because of the expense,” the suit says.
Hoagland called the school and was told that Plesche, a school nurse and another employee had taken A.P. to the hospital.
Hoagland’s suit contends the school would have covered up the incident until another student “began vomiting, something A.P. was physically unable to do.”
Subsequent investigation by Hoagland and her attorney led them to conclude that the school improperly trained its staff on the storage of cleaning and medical supplies so they would not inadvertently be switched.
As a result of the incident, the suit says the boy sustained ulcerations, gastric irritation, abdominal pain, diarrhea and will suffer future physical and emotional injuries, including “possible permanent impairment to his esophagus and stomach.”
Hoagland wanted to return A.P. to the campus, but learned that the same nurse was still employed there, the suit says. She also found out no investigation was being done, and that no changes were made in wake of the incident. So Hoagland now believes her son would not be safe at Addicott.
In arguing for damages, the suit alleges the boy will suffer economic damages into the future from medical bills and loss of opportunity, and both he and his mother suffer from mental anguish and depression.
Girl allegedly hurt
The fifth-grader suffered permanent damage to her trachea, esophagus, stomach and lungs, says Garcia’s suit.
Her complaint did not indicate who administered the bleach, but it said school officials did not call 911 or medical experts for help.
Garcia’s daughter vomited and turned purple, and she suffered aspiration pneumonia, which can be caused by inhaling vomit, the suit alleges.
Unspecified damages are being sought by Garcia for negligence and intentional infliction of emotional distress.