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‘We have a child who’s choking’: Family wins $8M verdict against Jacksonville day care

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Braxton Kinser’s family won an $8 million verdict against a Jacksonville day care following a choking incident at the school involving his son.

Today, his son looks like a happy and healthy four-year-old boy, but his father told Action News Jax’s Ben Becker all is not what it seems.

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“It’s been an emotional rollercoaster,” Braxton Kinser said.

In December 2020, Kinser and his wife filed a lawsuit against the Primrose School of Glen Kernan, accusing the day care franchise of negligence. His son was just one at the time.

CASE EVIDENCE

According to the lawsuit, an apple slice fed to him during snack time became lodged in his throat. A teacher tried the Heimlich Maneuver while another day care worker frantically called 911.

911 Operator: “Fire Rescue. What’s the address of your emergency?”

Primrose School: “Yes. 4610 Hodges. We have a child who’s choking.”

911 Operator: “Is he awake?”

Primrose School: “No.”

911 Operator: “Is he breathing?”

Primrose School: “No.”

The 911 operator walked the day care worker through CPR in a race against time.

911 Operator: “1, 2, 3, 4, 1, 2, 3, 4, 1, 2, 3, 4.”

Finally, six minutes into the call, the toddler’s airway became partially cleared.

911 Operator: “Is that him crying?”

Primrose School: “He’s crying, yes.”

911 Operator: “He’s crying. OK. So, that means he’s breathing.”

But, Kinser said the damage was done. The toddler went into cardiac arrest. He was rushed to the hospital to have emergency surgery. Doctors removed a 1 ½ inch apple slice.

The boy had to be intubated for seven days. In the lawsuit, Kinser claimed the staff wasn’t properly trained to prepare the apple slices.

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“We didn’t know when he woke up how much of our son was going to be there,” a tearful Kinser told Becker.

Kinser said his son suffered brain damage, but because of his age, the extent is still unknown.

After the family and school couldn’t reach a settlement, the case went to trial. The jury delivered an $8 million verdict in favor of the family.

CHOKING INCIDENTS STATEWIDE

In an Action News Jax investigation, Becker discovered local and state day cares have a troubling record of keeping children safe.

According to the Florida Department of Children and Families (DCF), since 2022, 48 children across the state have been, “provided food that was not age appropriate and/or posed a choking hazard.”

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But are the numbers being underreported?

State records show Primrose School of Glen Kernan has not received a DCF violation in the past three years.

A few days after the choking incident happened, DCF inspectors concluded it was in compliance with meals and snacks including the size of apple slices. It was based on a picture the day care gave the investigator showing slices are a half-inch long.

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But at the trial, the DCF investigator testified if she had seen the one-and-a-half-inch apple slice doctors took out of the toddler’s throat, she would have determined the school was in non-compliance.

As for Kinser, he said he just wants to watch his little boy grow up.

“I’m more thankful for every second,” Kinser said. “I just don’t want to live with anger or regrets and just try to live, you know, as positive as we can in life because there’s so many bad things that happen. I would like to consider myself blessed that my son is still here.”

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QUESTIONS TO ASK YOUR DAY CARE

So how can you protect your child at a day care? Ask these five questions.

1. Who covers for vacationing staff?

2. What is the regular job of the substitute when they are not covering for the absent employee?

3. Have there ever been any incidents regarding the children in your care requiring medical attention?

4. How did you respond?

5. Whether proven or not, have there ever been any legal claims made against your facility or company?

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Statement from Ken and Susan Muller, Franchise Owners, Primrose School of Glen Kernan:

“In October 2020, a child aspirated at our school while eating during snack time. Our staff responded immediately and effectively. Most importantly, all records document the child fully recovered and is healthy. Furthermore, both the Department of Children and Families and Child Protective Services cleared the staff and school of any wrongdoing following thorough investigations.

“There is no greater priority than the health and safety of children entrusted to our care. To that end, every teacher and staff member at our school is thoroughly trained on safety policies and procedures to maintain high operational excellence.

“We are proud to have served the Jacksonville community for seventeen years. Although we are disappointed in the outcome of this trial, we remain committed to providing the best and most trusted early education and care to the children we serve.”

The day care plans to appeal and has filed a motion for a new trial.

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