A Bedford mother's civil lawsuit over allegations a State College KinderCare Learning Center employee allegedly exerted severe and life-threatening force on her child's back at nap time is in the hands of the jury.
The lawsuit, which was filed in 2014, focused on the conduct of KinderCare and employee Chris Miley's adherence to their own policies and procedures. The two sides rested the case Friday, delivering closing arguments in the five-day trial.
Edward Greenberg, one of two defense attorneys for Miley and KinderCare, said there were two keys moments when the entire trial came into focus.
He said the first was when Julian Allatt and Andrew Rehmeyer, attorneys for the child, showed the jury a slideshow of photographs of the child's back. The mother was holding the child by his arms in an effort to keep him still. A Ferguson Township police officer agreed there were marks on his skin from where the mother was holding him.
"I think everyone knew what had been attempted," Greenberg said. "A disgusting attempt to distort the truth for financial gain."
The second standout moment, Greenberg said, was when Miley was asked how she felt about the accusations after being a child care professional for the past 28 years. Greenberg said Miley's emotions flowed and demonstrated that she was deeply hurt by the allegations.
Greenberg continued his closing argument by saying the jury would have to reconcile two differing diagrams between the mother and a nurse from Mount Nittany Medical Center.
The diagrams were to depict the location and angle of the print on the child's back. Greenberg said the mother and the nurse drew the footprint in entirely different locations and at different angles.
Greenberg also cited the child's testimony and questioned whether it was coached.
He continued to say the child was coached to provide rehearsed answers when he was questioned. Greenberg said the child made a mistake when he said, "This is all my mom told me — this is all she told me, is I got stepped on the back."
He pushed further on the mother's credibility and motive.
"No one can more easily influence a child than a mother," Greenberg said.
His final question to the jury asked if the mother would be willing to bring such allegations. Greenberg cited three previous convictions/guilty pleas of retail theft.
The plaintiffs pushed back.
Allatt also saw two basic questions at the center of the trial: whether KinderCare failed to supervise employees, and whether that failure to supervise caused the child harm.
Allatt's closing argument said KinderCare has no fear of the allegations and believes they can get away with it.
"Your verdict is the only thing that will make them listen. Your verdict has the power to make them take responsibility. Your verdict could hurt them like (the child) was hurt," Allatt said.
Allatt also fought back at the defense's monetary motive.
"KinderCare wants you to believe (the child) is a puppet and parroting answers from his mother who is out for money," Allatt said.
The first witness called was an employee of First National Bank. The employee testified that any money awarded would go into a trust that could only be used for the child, not the mother.
"The keystone to the defense's argument is that (the mother) wants money," Allatt said. "The keystone doesn't fit. The money does not go to (the mother)."
Allatt stressed that it is important for KinderCare to abide by their policies, not just say that they have them.
He also said the punitive damages would send a different message to KinderCare. That message, he said, would say that the community doesn't tolerate the alleged conduct.
"You have the rare opportunity to send a message, draw a line and change the conduct of a $300 million corporation," Allatt said.