Mom Says Cover-Up Was Worse Than the Mistake

FRESNO, Cal. (CN) – Parents know that accidents can happen at school. But a mother claims in court that someone at her disabled daughter’s elementary school put bleach in her feeding tube and refused to call 911 to cover it up.

The family’s attorney said it was most likely an accident, but that does not excuse what happened.

“It’s still the definition of negligence. If you run a red light and hit someone, it was an accident, but it was also negligence,” attorney Bruce Fagel said in an interview.

S.G., then 9, was a special-needs fifth-grader at Irwin O. Addicott Elementary School in September2016. In her Superior Court lawsuit against Fresno Unified School District, her mother says that someone “unknowingly to plaintiffs administered bleach through her gastrostomy tube” during school hours

A gastrostomy tube is a feeding tube inserted into the stomach through a small incision in the abdomen. S.G. also uses a wheelchair.

Gastrostomy tubes are often flushed out with sterile water after the nutritional formula has been administered. Here, someone used a solution that contained bleach without realizing that feeding tubes cannot be cleaned the same way as dishes or silverware, attorney Fagel said.

The little girl knew she had been given poison instead of water, but she is non-verbal and could not tell anyone, according to the complaint.

Despite her obvious medical emergency, “no attempt was made by defendants to contact any medical authority, contact poison control, call 911, seek an ambulance, transport plaintiff to the hospital, or ascertain any kind of medical advice or treatment,” the complaint states.

Nor did the school tell her mother what had happened. An employee named Jack left her a voicemail stating that her daughter was throwing up white chunks and was “looking kind of purple,” but never mentioned that she had been given bleach, according to the complaint.

The mom went to school immediately and smelled bleach on her daughter, who was being attended by the school nurse, Jack, and a teacher’s aide. No one volunteered information when she asked what happened, so she told them she was taking her daughter to the hospital.

Jack followed her to the parking lot and told her that someone may have given her daughter a bleach solution through her gastrostomy tube, but did not say who did it, when it happened, or how much of the solution she was given, according to the complaint.

S.G. suffered a slew of injuries, including attendant aspiration pneumonia, severe gastritis, ulcers, and permanent damage to her esophagus, trachea, stomach, and lungs, her mom says in the complaint.

The mother says it would not have happened if school employees had not stored feeding supplies next to cleaning supplies.

Fagel said that though the bleach poisoning bleach was probably unintentional, covering it up and not telling her mother what happened was not.

The school district said it does not comment on pending litigation.

The mother and daughter seek medical expenses and damages for negligence and intentional infliction of emotional distress.

Fagel’s law office is in Beverly Hills.

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