The mother of a Fresno Unified special-needs student who was tube-fed bleach at school last year is suing the district for negligence and “intentional infliction of emotional distress.”
According to court documents filed in Fresno County Superior Court last week, a 10-year-old girl at Addicott Elementary – a school for students with severe disabilities – was administered bleach via her feeding tube in September and subsequently suffered permanent damage to her trachea, esophagus, stomach and lungs.
The fifth-grader “was aware though unable to communicate that she had been administered a poison through her gastrostomy tube, rather than nutrients or water,” according to the complaint for damages filed by Beverly Hills-based attorney Bruce Fagel, who is representing Cindy Garcia, the girl’s mother.
The complaint does not identify who administered the bleach, but accuses the district of hiring incompetent staff who improperly stored feeding and cleaning supplies, “allowing for the negligent switching” of the two.
Oppressive, malicious, despicable and fraudulent.
How the plaintiff’s complaint describes Addicott Elementary staff
Fresno Unified did not respond to a request for comment Tuesday.
Garcia, of Fresno, claims that school officials did not take appropriate action to help her ill daughter and deliberately withheld information about the incident, causing medical care to be delayed.
Upon ingesting the bleach solution, the girl vomited and turned purple, but no attempt was made by school officials to call 911, poison control or any medical authority, according to the complaint. The girl suffered aspiration pneumonia, which can be caused by inhaling vomit, as well as ulcers and inflammation of the stomach.
Garcia claims that school officials called to tell her that her daughter was ill, but did not immediately mention the bleach incident. Garcia says that when she went to Addicott Elementary to check on her daughter, she smelled a strong odor of bleach on her.
Garcia was not notified “of the actual peril or danger her minor and incapacitated daughter was in,” and school officials’ omission of information constitutes “extreme and outrageous” conduct, according to the complaint.
It was only after Garcia announced she was taking her daughter from the school to a hospital that Addicot Principal Katrina Pleshe told her of the bleach incident, the complaint says.
“The conduct of the defendants was outrageous and was conduct so extreme, oppressive, malicious, despicable and fraudulent, and carried on by the defendants with a willful and conscious disregard for the rights and safety of others, that it went beyond all possible bounds of decency and such conduct is intolerable in a civilized community,” the complaint states.
The complaint does not identify a dollar amount that Garcia is seeking for damages. Garcia is suing the district not only for past and future medical expenses, but also for distress caused to both her and her daughter.