Originally created 08/06/02

Ruling favors mother



Jackie Boatwright won another battle Monday in her crusade against uninsured day care centers.

Superior Court Judge Albert M. Pickett ruled that Maria Anderson's day care was responsible for the near-drowning of 14-month-old Juan Boatwright and should pay his mother for the resulting medical expenses.

The judge is expected to decide the amount of the civil judgment in about a month, but Ms. Boatwright does not expect to collect much. The day care, which was operated out of Ms. Anderson's home, was not insured, and defense attorney David Webber said Monday that Ms. Anderson likely will file for bankruptcy after the judgment is entered.

For Ms. Boatwright, the lawsuit is a moral fight.

"What he went through is horrible," she told the judge. "There is no amount of money that you can give today for what has happened to my son and for what he has endured."

Juan fell head-first into an unattended mop bucket in the day care Sept. 9. The accident left him semicomatose, and he requires a ventilator and other expensive health care.

At the hearing, Judge Pickett commended Ms. Boatwright for her crusade to change state law on day cares and insurance. She meets regularly with legislators and has conducted a summer walking campaign.

The next walk will begin at 7 a.m. Saturday at the Food Lion on Tobacco Road.

"I hope the legislators will be responsive and we will soon have standards for day cares ... and protection for consumers," Judge Pickett said.

Judge Pickett ruled Monday that the defense attorney, Mr. Webber, did not answer the original complaint by the deadline, leaving the day care in default. He denied Mr. Webber's plea for a trial.

Ms. Anderson did not appear in court.

Attorney Richard Ingram, who is representing Ms. Boatwright, said she has incurred nearly $500,000 in medical bills and needs nearly $200,000 a year for Juan's future care. The state is paying for some of the care.

Despite his condition, Ms. Boatwright said, Juan, now 2, moves his arms and legs and "cries real tears." He also reacts to pain, moving his arm back when given a shot.

"I believe in my heart he is going to get up," she told the judge. "He's making a lot of progress. It's just going to take some time. I have a right to hold on to that hope."

Last week, her crusade gained support from Jim Martin, the commissioner of the Georgia Department of Human Resources, which is responsible for licensing day care centers. Mr. Martin voiced support for changes in a meeting in Atlanta with Ms. Boatwright.

"His support was overwhelming, " Ms. Boatwright said. "He let me know upon walking in that he thinks that the day care centers should have liability insurance, just as I do."

Reach Greg Rickabaugh at (706) 828-3851 or greg.rickabaugh@augustachronicle.com.