Vancouver Coastal Health says it did nothing to contribute to the death of a 16-month-old boy at an unlicensed daycare, calling what happened a “tragic incident” in its response to a civil lawsuit launched by the boy’s parents.
The health authority filed its response to the statement of claim in B.C. Supreme Court in early December.
Macallan (Mac) Saini, was found dead in the Olive Branch Daycare in east Vancouver on Jan. 18, 2017.
The lawsuit filed by the toddler’s mother, Shelley Sheppard, alleges he choked on an electrical cord and died because he was left alone.
Documents filed with the court also allege the daycare was “overcrowded” and that the health authority and Ministry of Children and Family Development did not warn parents or close the facility, despite “multiple complaints” of overcrowding or operating without a licence.
None of the allegations has been proven in court.
The ministry, daycare operator Yasmine Saad and the landlords of the home where the daycare operated are also named as defendants in the lawsuit, but none has submitted a response with the court to the statement of claim.
In its response, Vancouver Coastal Health says it had no knowledge that Saad was running an unlicensed daycare and no complaint had been received about it from any parents.
The health authority’s response “denies that it owed any … duty of care to the plaintiff and her deceased son, Mac Saini,” and it also seeks dismissal of the claims against it, with costs.
Sheppard’s suit says complaints against Saad were investigated in 2010, 2011, 2012, 2015, and in 2016, and the lawsuit asserts the health authority identified her as a “moderate risk to health and safety.” It says Saad was never fined and no steps were taken to prevent the daycare from continuing operations.
But the health authority says four complaints of too many children in care, all involving different addresses, were investigated against Saad over seven years and each was “dealt with by the licensing officers in exercise of their discretionary powers.”
The response makes no mention of the original lawsuit’s claim that Vancouver Coastal Health allegedly identified Saad as a “moderate” health and safety risk.
It also disputes Sheppard’s allegation that the health authority violated baby Mac’s charter right to life and security of the person, saying there is no legal standing for a charter argument.
When the lawsuit was filed, the Ministry of Children and Family Development said it could not comment because the matter was before the courts but added that its legal counsel would review the lawsuit and “respond accordingly to the court.”
“The death of a child is a tragedy no parent should ever face, and our heartfelt condolences go out to the parents,” the ministry said in an emailed statement.
The statement of claim accuses the landlords of allowing Saad to operate a daycare without a licence, failing to supervise operations and failing to ensure the premises were safe and suitable for an infant.
One of the property owners said at the time she was unaware her tenant was operating a daycare on the premises when she rented it to her and declined further comment. A second landlord and Saad could not be reached for comment.
As a result of the death, Sheppard claims she has experienced ongoing trauma and health problems, suffering permanent disability, loss of earnings and loss of enjoyment of life.
The health authority asks for proof of Sheppard’s claims in its response to the court, saying it “denies the plaintiff suffered or will suffer in the future, the injuries, loss, damage, or expense as alleged, or at all.”