Recent Jury Verdict in Forsyth County Highlights the Dangers of Abusive Head Trauma, AKA “Shaken Baby Syndrome”

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Shaken Baby Syndrome is an extremely serious threat to the health and safety of thousands of infants and small children in the United States. A local couple in Winston-Salem, NC took their case to court, Case #13-CVS-5022, Forsyth County represented by Daggett Shuler Law, a local Winston-Salem law firm, and was awarded over $243,000 by a jury of their peers.

Shaken Baby Syndrome is the leading cause of physical child abuse deaths in the United States.

We all share a responsibility to promote safety awareness in our schools, churches and childcare facilities," said David Daggett of Daggett Shuler Law.

Abusive Head Trauma, also known as Shaken Baby Syndrome (SBS), is an extremely serious threat to the health and safety of thousands of infants and small children in the United States. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) has concluded that Abusive Head Trauma, often caused by violently shaking a baby, is the leading cause of physical child abuse deaths in the United States and recently touched the life of a Winston-Salem family.

Long periods of crying are a normal part of a child's development, especially in infants that are less than 12 months old. Unfortunately, babies less than a year old are also at greatest risk of suffering a severe or even fatal injury due to Shaken Baby Syndrome.

Over 61% of new parents seek childcare for their children, whether in the home or at a daycare center. The process of finding the best and safest childcare provider for your loved ones is not easy, and hundreds of thousands of families each year are faced with this issue.

Sadly, a local couple in Winston-Salem, NC experienced the trauma of an abusive childcare provider firsthand, which left their infant son seriously injured from Shaken Baby Syndrome. The details of Case #13-CVS-5022, Forsyth County, show how working parents depended on a reputable daycare service to provide in-home child care.

According to court documents, Scott and Dr. Mary Clingan hired a full-time babysitter to look after their five-month-old son Bowman. The babysitting service through which Mr. and Dr. Clingan found their caretaker assured the parents that all of the childcare professionals they hired were subjected to thorough criminal and personal background checks.

According to court documents, after just a few weeks in the care of their full-time babysitter, Ms. Lisa Hunt, the Clingans returned home one day to find baby Bowman lethargic and projectile vomiting. Ms. Hunt could not give an explanation to Bowman's parents as to why the child had suddenly become so sick. After bruises began to appear on Bowman's chest a short time later, the Clingans took their child to the hospital where doctors found a large area of internal bleeding between Bowman's skull and brain.

According to court documents, this bleeding, known as subdural hematoma, was consistent with Non-Accidental-Trauma. Ms. Hunt had become “frustrated” with Bowman after the child began inconsolably crying, and had shaken the child to try and force him to be quiet. Violently shaking a child leads to injuries collectively known as Shaken Baby Syndrome, injuries that are severe and can even be fatal in young children.

Luckily, little Bowman Clingan made a full recovery from the abuse inflicted by his caregiver. According to court documents, in an effort to help others prevent this situation from happening to them, the Clingans brought suit against the child care provider and won.

On Friday, October 30th, the Clingan family, represented by Daggett Shuler Law Partner and Senior Litigation Attorney Mike Clark, was awarded over $243,000 by a jury of their peers for personal injury, medical bills and punitive damages caused by the caretaker that violently shook their infant son, causing serious head trauma to the child. Daggett Shuler Law is proud to have helped this local family achieve the justice they deserve for their tragic and terrible ordeal.

“Daggett Shuler Law is dedicated to upholding justice and protecting the most vulnerable in our communities. We all share a responsibility to promote safety awareness in our schools, churches and childcare facilities”, said David Daggett of Daggett Shuler Law.

The CDC has determined that long periods of inconsolable or excessive crying are the leading trigger for Shaken Baby Syndrome. Dealing with a young baby's seemingly inconsolable periods of crying can lead to feelings of stress, anxiety and frustration for parents and caretakers. When this frustration and aggravation turns to anger and violence, the results can be catastrophic.

Here are some disturbing statistics that demonstrate the real danger of Shaken Baby Syndrome:

  • At least one out of every four babies that suffer from Shaken Baby Syndrome dies as a result of their injuries.
  • One CDC study focusing on SBS cases in North Carolina found that as many as three to four children every day experience severe or even fatal head injuries from child abuse in the U.S.
  • Babies that are less than a year old are at greatest risk of suffering a severe or even fatal injury due to Abusive Head Trauma.

There are many signs and symptoms that may indicate that a child was a victim of Shaken Baby Syndrome, including:

  • Unresponsiveness or lack of consciousness
  • Irregular breathing
  • Excessive sleeping or changes in sleeping patterns
  • Vomiting
  • Convulsions or seizures
  • Inability to nurse or eat

If you see any of these signs, seek immediate medical attention for your child. Injuries to children caused by abuse and physical trauma are preventable tragedies. It is up to all of us to be vigilant, and to try and protect the most vulnerable in our communities. This is a story of one childcare provider that got her due, and parents that had their day in court. Unfortunately, not all Shaken Baby Syndrome cases have this outcome.

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Kathryn Vernon
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