A Vermont daycare owner is facing litigation in civil court after a mother reported the defendant had drugged an infant child while under the daycare’s supervision.
The mother, Melanie McAtee, filed a lawsuit against Stacey Vaillancourt in April. According to Attorney Tristan Larson, the lawsuit is meant to compensate the family through unspecified damages as well as raise awareness of the dangers of giving children drugs without a prescription from a medical professional.
The civil complaint includes a hair follicle toxicology test of a sample taken from McAtee’s son, Martin, which indicated positive for diphenhydramine, an antihistamine found in Benadryl. Diphenhydramine is not recommended for children under the age of 6 years old; McAtee’s son was under a year old while attending the in-home, Rutland daycare center.
McAtee’s son experienced drowsiness, dizziness, impaired coordination, and headaches, according to the lawsuit. Additionally, the symptoms put the child at an “increased risk of developing adverse health outcomes later in life.”
“Parents and caregivers need to remember that even when you can buy a drug without a doctor’s prescription, you should still read the medication labels,” McAtee said in a press release published on May 4. “Harper’s unfortunate case has taught us that babies do not come with instructions, but medications do.”
Court documents filed by Larson and McAtee also state Martin suffered psychological trauma as a result of the incident, arguing that Vaillancourt breached her contract as a child care provider.
“Martin is OK,” Larson said in an interview with the Rutland Herald on May 3. “Time will tell about what kind of lasting effects there are. The evidence (about long-term effects of the drugs on children) is really murky for a variety of reasons. It’s really hard to do testing on negative side effects of drugs on kids for obvious reasons.”
Martin attended Vaillancourt’s daycare center alongside Harper Rose Briar.
Six-month-old Briar was transported to a nearby hospital on Jan. 24, 2019, after she was found not breathing. Almost three months later, an autopsy report stated Briar’s death was caused by diphenhydramine intoxication. Vaillancourt is currently facing criminal charges in Briar’s death.
Court documents indicate McAtee’s son was present in the room when Briar was found.
“The level of diphenhydramine in Harper Briar’s blood at the time of death represents more than one therapeutic dose,” according to the autopsy report. “The blood concentration at time of death may represent one large administration or multiple small administrations.”
Vaillancourt entered a not guilty plea in response to the two felony charges filed against her, including manslaughter and cruelty to a child with death resulting.
“Misusing medication can have severe consequences,” McAtee told the Rutland Herald. “In the case of Harper Rose, it caused death. As a pharmacist and a mom, people need to know they should check the label. Just because a medication can be bought over-the-counter, it may not be safe for your children.”
Larson & Gallivan Law is located at The Service Building, 128 Merchants Row, Suite 405, Rutland, VT 05701. Contact their offices online or by phone at (802) 327-8458 to schedule a free consultation.