INDIANAPOLIS — A Marion County judge has awarded a $2 million default judgment against an Indianapolis day care and its former director following a 2017 wrongful death lawsuit.
Latrice Davis, the mother of 4-month-old Kyle Davis-Ferguson, filed suit in April 2017 against Live Laugh Love and Learn Childcare Ministry and employees Ashley James, Latoya Dixon, and Mischa Bennett as well as the Indiana Family and Social Services Administration (FSSA).
Kyle was found not breathing in February 2017 inside the unlicensed child care home on Elmonte Court. He later died at a hospital from positional asphyxia, which is a form of suffocation.
Kyle was in an unsafe sleep environment on the bottom bunk of a bunk bed, according to state records.
In her lawsuit, Latrice Davis accused Live Laugh Love and Learn and its employees of failing to properly supervise and protect baby Kyle while in their care.
More than four years later, on Nov. 10, a Marion County judge issued a $2 million default judgment against Live Laugh Love and Learn Childcare Ministry and its former director Ashley James.
A default judgment is typically issued when one party does not respond adequately respond to a court action.
Court records show Ashley James did not show up for a Nov. 8 hearing on the lawsuit, nor did a representative from the childcare ministry.
The court dismissed Dixon from the lawsuit in 2020, and the Family and Social Services Administration was also dismissed in September 2021.
FSSA is the state agency that licenses and inspects childcare providers.
The court ruled the state is immune from liability in this case.
“The circumstances are heartbreaking in this case,” said David Kletz, spokesperson for the Indiana Attorney General’s Office. “Ultimately, the Court agreed with the State and followed the rule of law. The Court entered judgment in favor of the State defendant because it is immune from liability under the Indiana Tort Claims Act.”
The lawsuit accused FSSA of knowing workers at Live Laugh Love and Learn were swiping cards for children registered for CCDF vouchers at one location, but were caring for them at another location.
Latrice Davis was told to swipe her card for CCDF vouchers at a Michigan Road location, and that her children would then be transported to a home on Elmonte Court, according to the suit.
Mischa Bennett, a convicted felon, was watching Kyle and about nine other children at her home on Elmonte Court, according to documents filed by the Indiana Attorney General’s Office.
The mother’s lawsuit accused the day care of knowing Bennett was disqualified from working in child care due to criminal convictions prior to Kyle’s death, but allowed Bennett to work there anyway.
The wrongful death suit alleged the day care and its workers failed to warn Davis of the unqualified staff, and failed to exercise reasonable care in the inspection, operation and maintenance of the day care.
WRTV Investigates is working on getting a response to the judgment from Ashley James.
No attorney is listed for James.
FSSA says every child care location where James was the owner is now closed, including Live Laugh Love and Learn.
In 2017, the Indiana Attorney General’s office filed court documents to stop the unlicensed child care on Elmonte Court from operating following Kyle’s death.
The Marion County Prosecutor’s Office declined to file criminal charges in Kyle’s death, stating the office did not have enough evidence.
“Baby Kyle is a vulnerable, helpless child who should receive the most excellent and responsible care possible,” read the statement from Davis’s attorney, Reginald Bishop in 2017. “The decision by the prosecutor falls extremely short of obtaining justice for Baby Kyle. His family will continue to fight to hold those accountable for his death to the maximum penalties possible under Indiana law.”
The civil case against Bennett is still pending, court records show.
In Indiana, you need a license to operate a childcare home if you care for six or more children who are not related to you.