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Nanny service company Care.com has been sued by the parents of a 3-month-old child who died under a babysitter's watch.
Nathan and Reggan Koopmeiners of Kenosha, Wisconsin, have filed wrongful death suits against Care.com and Sarah Gumm, 35, who is set to stand trial for their baby Rylan's death, reports the Chicago Tribune. The suit alleges that Gumm had prior criminal run-ins that Care.com failed to disclose to the parents, despite the couple paying an additional fee for a "premier background check" on a potential nanny.
Are Care.com and Gumm really liable for the Rylan Koopmeiner's death?
Criminal Trial Pending
Gumm, an Illinois resident, was charged in 2012 with first-degree murder under Illinois law for allegedly slamming Rylan's head on a table after becoming irritated while changing the baby's diaper. The Tribune reports that Rylan's autopsy showed that the baby suffered a fractured skull, and authorities state that Gumm had both drank wine and neglected Rylan while on nanny duty.
In Illinois, the maximum sentence for first-degree murder is life in prison, so Gumm won't have to worry about the death penalty. However, the Koopmeiners have filed wrongful death suits in both Illinois and Wisconsin state courts, which will likely be affected by the outcome of Gumm's criminal case.
According to the Tribune, Gumm's attorney believes she should only be charged with recklessness, citing low blood sugar and alcohol addiction. In any case, if Gumm is found to be responsible for Rylan's death because of intentional acts or recklessness, then her convictions can be used as evidence in the two wrongful death cases. The higher standard used in criminal courts will make liability for Gumm an open and shut case with most convictions.
Since Gumm is likely penniless (not many rich people work nanny jobs), any real recovery is going to come from Care.com. An employer like Care.com can be found negligent if it hired and/or retained an employee known to have a dangerous criminal history. The Koopmeiners allege that Care.com failed to disclose at least two of Gumm's legal run-ins that Care.com was aware of. The Tribune reports Gumm also had a DUI conviction in 2010 under a different name.
The amount of scrutiny legally required of Care.com in its screening process may rely on the higher standard of care owed to children like Rylan. The company may likely settle before this matter goes to a jury.