"Demarion's Law" heads to House Floor for consideration

Oklahoma City_Press Release from the office of State Rep. Mike Shelton:

Parents could soon rest a little easier knowing their child care facility has been more closely vetted by the state after a bill that would require child care operators to carry liability insurance and inform parents if they are unable to obtain a policy passed today out of the House Human Services Committee.

House Bill 2863 would create "Demarion's Law" and require all child care facilities in order to maintain or obtain a license to carry a minimum of $200,000 of liability coverage for each incident of negligence that leads to any injury to a child that occurs while the child is on the premises of or in the care of the child care facility.

"I think that most parents would be absolutely shocked and outraged if they knew that the Department of Human Services does not currently require the people we have entrusted with our children to carry any type of liability insurance to cover injuries caused by negligence," said Shelton, D-Oklahoma City. "What avenues for recompense beyond liability insurance does a parent have when their child has been harmed or even killed because of the negligence of a day care operator?

"We don't require citizens to carry liability insurance to drive on our roads because it makes them safer drivers; we require it because it protects other drivers from harm caused by negligence. So why don't we require the day care centers that are responsible for watching our most precious and helpless citizens to carry liability insurance to protect parents?"

Shelton introduced the measure following a rash of tragic incidents at day care centers across the state and after learning of the heartbreaking story of three-year-old Demarion Pittman of Oklahoma City.

In August 2007, after returning from an outing while in the care of a day care center, he was left in a hot van for several hours and suffered extensive brain damage.

Pittman's parents soon learned that not only did the day care facility not carry liability insurance, but also that the Department of Human Services does not require such facilities to carry insurance in order to obtain a license to operate.

Demarion's medical expenses have already topped more than $1 million dollars in six months.

The measure would also require day care facilities that are unable to obtain an insurance policy to inform parents that they have no liability coverage. If a facility's policy expires, it would be required to notify both the Department of Human Services and the parents or caregivers of children in its care.

State requirements for liability insurance vary, said Shelton. Some states mandate that child care facilities carry liability coverage, while others do not. A January 13 article in the Oklahoman noted that Texas requires its day care facilities to carry a minimum of $300,000 in liability coverage.

Shelton said the issue could have been easily fixed through the passage and promulgation of a rule by DHS, but the agency's refusal to address the issue requires Legislative action.

The measure now heads to the House floor for a vote by the full body.