A baby boy was so traumatized by the abuse he suffered at a now-closed daycare that his mother is unable to leave him with a third party, a new lawsuit against Tender Hearts Preschool alleges.
Patricia Garcia brought the suit on behalf of her infant son, naming the preschool; its owner Deborah Martinez and childcare worker Carolina Jaramillo.
The suit alleges negligence; battery; negligent administration of a childcare facility; negligent infliction of emotional distress, and extreme and outrageous conduct.
The complaint was filed in April, at which time, the courts were closed to public access because of COVID-19 restrictions. A return of service was filed June 22. A response has not yet been filed.
Garcia’s is the second suit to be filed against Martinez and Jaramillo, after Jaramillo’s arrest last year on child abuse allegations.
Now free on bond, Jaramillo has been charged with reckless child abuse resulting in the serious bodily injury of an 8-month-old girl, whose arms were broken.
The child’s mother filed a civil suit, which is now stayed, pending the outcome of a separate petition to settle a minor’s personal injury claim in a companion probate case.
Prosecutors in March also filed criminal charges against Martinez: one count of child abuse resulting in serious bodily injury and four misdemeanor child abuse counts.
Her attorney was unavailable for comment Thursday.
The charges allege that through criminal negligence, Martinez allowed a child to be placed in a dangerous situation. Each charge relates to a different child, according to information from the District Attorney's Office.
Martinez has a July 20 court date.
According to Garcia’s lawsuit, Tender Hearts had been entrusted with her son’s care since he was about five months old. She began noticing, however, the baby becoming more withdrawn and that he would “begin to shake and cry” when he was delivered to Jaramillo’s care.
Garcia also became suspicious after being told her son “fell,” which left him with a scar on his face.
At other times, when she picked up the baby from the daycare, she was given written reports that explained marks on his body as falling injuries, per the complaint.
The suit also details Garcia’s concerns that her son was not being fed properly.
On April 4, 2019, when her son was a little more than a year old, Garcia wrote a letter to Martinez, raising her concerns and furnishing a two-week notice that he would not be returning to Tender Hearts.
Martinez allegedly then prohibited Garcia from coming inside the daycare when she picked up her child.
“In addition, (baby) continued to exhibit bruising and when taken to Tender Hearts, he would scream and cry. His behavior became hostile and aggressive,” the complaint states.
In May of 2019, police arrested Jaramillo on abuse allegations concerning a baby girl. The affidavit in that case says video footage shows Jaramillo pulling, grabbing and slapping the little girl. The document also says X-rays showed injuries in various stages of healing.
Jaramillo was fired because of what was on the surveillance footage. The daycare abruptly closed last September.
About two weeks later, on Sept. 25, Garcia received a letter from the Montrose County Sheriff’s Office victim services coordinator, at that point becoming aware that her son had been “the subject of violent abuse,” attorney Peter Ricciardelli wrote in the lawsuit.
The complaint references investigators’ reports and video footage. According to those reports as recited in the lawsuit, Jaramillo was seen dropping, shoving and shaking Garcia’s baby boy, who experienced “obvious pain.”
These alleged actions caused an injury to the child, the specific nature of which was redacted from the civil complaint.
“As a direct result of the abuse suffered by her son at Tender Hearts, Patricia Garcia cannot be separated from her son and (redacted). Because of this (redacted), she cannot work, as she cannot place her son into the hands of a third-party caregiver,” Ricciardelli wrote.
Jaramillo is liable as the direct caregiver, the suit contends, while Martinez is liable because she employed Jaramillo, despite knowing about the younger woman’s “psychological and behavioral impairments,” and still assigning her to care for infants, alone, and without supervision.
Per the complaint, Martinez knew or should have known about the “dangerous situation” in her nursery, because Garcia had raised concerns; because employees could hear screaming and crying from the nursery during the workday, and because the nursery’s video feed provided real-time imagery to Martinez in her office.
“Carolina Jaramillo’s abuse of (Garcia’s son) could’ve been stopped, had Tender Hearts and Deborah Martinez properly monitored Jaramillo’s care of infants through the video, or paid attention to the cries and screams coming from the nursery during the day,” Ricciardelli wrote in the complaint.
The complaint also states that Tender Hearts wasn’t complying with state regulations and these deficiencies contributed to the damages Garcia and her son suffered.
“These defendants’ negligence caused (baby) to be put in fear for his own safety and such fear has been shown by physical consequences and long continued emotional disturbance,” the filing goes on to say.
The acts and omissions by the named defendants were “so outrageous in character, and so extreme in degree, that a reasonable member of the community would regard this conduct as atrocious, going beyond all possible bounds of decency and utterly intolerable in a civilized society,” Ricciardelli wrote.
Garcia wants compensatory damages for injuries and losses, as well as an award for the costs of litigation.