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Family of 4-Month-Old Baby Who Died in Hot Daycare Van Faces Delay in $21M Lawsuit Award; Insurance Company Says It’s Not Liable

A Florida family whose infant died after being left for hours in an unattended daycare van should receive tens of millions of dollars from a Jacksonville preschool for the baby’s wrongful death, but they are not sure when that will happen, according to reports.

The insurance company representing the childcare provider said they are not responsible for the judgment because the policy was canceled weeks before the baby’s premature demise.

Baby Dies in Hot Van at Jacksonville Daycare
Brooklyn Blount, 4 months old, died after being left in a hot van outside a daycare on May 22, 2019, in Jacksonville, Florida. (Photo: YouTube/First Coast News/Facebook/Craig Hazel)

Brooklyn’s mother, Lancia Isaac, won the wrongful death lawsuit against the daycare and was awarded $21 million in damages, which was expected to come from the daycare’s insurance company.

However, Markel Insurance Company filed a federal lawsuit that claims the company is not liable for the May 2019 death of Brooklyn Blount, a 4-month-old baby who died while in the care of its former policyholders. The company argues, according to KENS 5, that Ewing’s Love & Hope Preschool & Academy canceled the policy “prior to May 22, 2019 [the date of the child’s death] and, thus, there is no coverage.”

The policy was terminated by Markel Insurance on Monday, May 6, 2019, a little over two weeks before the tragedy, because the daycare lapsed in payment.

Darryl Ewing, the owner, and his daycare knew this was coming. On Wednesday, Nov. 30, 2022, attorneys for the party filed a complaint against the insurance company in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida, claiming its refusal to pay the damages is a breach of contract and included a letter from the insurance company’s lawyers declining coverage.

Almost four years ago, Baby Brooklyn was accidentally left in the center’s hot van by Ewing for close to five hours without ventilation or air conditioning. The temperatures on that day soared, reaching 91 degrees from 12 p.m. to 2 p.m. when the baby was strapped in her car seat in the vehicle.

According to the arrest report, Ewing had picked up the little girl, her two siblings, and a few other children but forgot to take the baby out of the car seat when he arrived at his business around 8:30 a.m.

The baby was discovered unresponsive in the vehicle only after Isaac called later in the day to schedule the pick-up of the children, according to News 4 Jax.

Baby Brooklyn was rushed to Wolfson Children’s Hospital. However, doctors were unable to revive her.

Authorities arrested Ewing and charged him with child neglect. Those charges were later upgraded to aggravated manslaughter of a child. The lawsuit was filed after the criminal case was resolved.

The Florida Department of Children and Families also stepped in and ordered the immediate suspension of the facility’s license.

On Tuesday, Apr. 21, 2021, Ewing took a plea deal regarding Baby Brooklyn’s death. His lawyers negotiated terms that included a sentence of three years of house arrest followed by 18 years of probation. He also has restrictions regarding any engagement with children and was ordered to complete 500 community service hours, First Coast News reports.

In addition to this, every year up until 2028, on the anniversary of the child’s death, the former caretaker has to spend the weekend in Duval County. He will spend Friday night behind bars and be released on Sunday afternoon.

Brooklyn’s bereaved mom said at the time of the plea deal, dealing with her child’s death “has been a struggle.”

Adding, “there are days where things are great. There are days where I miss my child like crazy. There are days I say why me.”

Isaac also notes that one simple act could have changed the trajectory of her life.

“He never took the time to turn around,” the bereaved mother said. “If he had turned around, it would have made a big difference.”

At the time of his conviction, the prosecution said his action was a “terrible mistake.”

“Mr. Ewing just simply forgot,” assistant state attorney Chris Huband said to the judge. “It was a terrible mistake, albeit a culpably negligent one, but Mr. Ewing has stated a great amount of remorse.”

The insurance company, who maintains another mistake was not paying the policy on time, says there is another issue at hand that should absolve them of having to pay the millions. But, according to the complaint, the extraordinary penalty was beyond the school’s policy.  

Lawyers for the insurance company wrote in the claim, “Even if coverage exists (which it does not), the plaintiffs’ damages in this action are limited by the Policy’s limits of liability, which include the Commercial General Liability Coverage Part’s $1 million per occurrence limit of liability and the Professional Liability Coverage part’s $1 million limit of liability for Each Wrongful Act.”

The mother’s legal team, the Pajcic & Pajcic law firm, has not commented on the new lawsuit that jeopardizes the payout but stated, “the wheels of justice can turn slowly sometimes.” 

Neither party has commented publicly on the new federal lawsuit.

The story is developing. Updates will be added as soon as they become available.

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