Lawsuit Settled In Child’s Death

The Huntsville Times

Nearly three years ago, Nhuchi Nguyen Khon left her 10-month-old daughter, at Kids Stuff Learning Center in Huntsville. Two hours later, Nguyen returned and learned that her baby was dead.

Nguyen and her husband, Hong Kim Nguyen, sued the daycare canter at 220 Exchange Place, and its owner, Jeanne Lee, under the state’s wrongful death law for unspecified punitive damanges.

Lee is the day-care owner who recently was forced to close a Kid’s Stuff center in Madison after a seven-year struggle with the Department of Human Resources.

Out-of-court pact

Lee and the Nguyens reached an out of court settlement days before the suit was to be considered by a jury on Feb.3. The terms of the settlement are confidential, said Allen Brinkley, the Nguyens lawyer.

“My clients are satisfied with the settlement, “ he said.

Lee has declined to discuss matters about her day care operations, and has referred all questions to her two lawyers. Neither lawyer returned phone calls seeking comment for this story.

The suit alleged that Kim died as a result of Kids’ Stuff around 7:15am. Kim was laughing, giggling and lying on her back, according to the suit.

When Nguyen returned around 9 a.m. to check on Kim, the baby was dead, the suit says. The child was allegedly lying under an overhead heating vent, face down with her left ear and nose partially blocked by the mattress.

Not Told Of Probe

The Nguyens were not told that the Alabama Department of Human resources had been investigating problems at Lee’s day care in Madison for several years, the lawsuit said. DHR licenses day-care services statewide.

Officials with DHR declined to comment on the case.
DHR fought a seven-year battle with Lee over her center on All-Triana Highway in Madison. In 1990, DHR revoked the license after citing the facility with 92 alleged violations of the agency’s minimum operating standars.

State and federal courts upheld DHR’s revocation order, but she continued to operate the Madison day care until Jan 30. Circuit Judge Jeri Blankenship granted DHR a temporary restaining order closing the center at DHR’s request.

Blankenship ordered Lee to close the day care permanently earlier this month after a hearing on allegations made by DHR.

Lengthy battles

Battles between DHR and Lee extend at least as far back as 1980, when Lee applied for a license for a center she operates in Decatur. Lee had pleaded guilty in 1972 to a charge of assault with intent to murder in Morgan circuit Court for shooting her husband a year earlier.

According to court records, Lee was placed on probation for five years.

Sharon Ficquette, a special attorney general who represents DHR, said a hearing officer decided in 1980 that Lee should receive a license to operate the Decatur center. After 1980, DHR licensed two more centers for Lee -on in Madison and one in Huntsville.