TORONTO – The death of a two-year-old girl at an overcrowded home daycare north of Toronto was preventable and due to the owners’ negligence, her devastated family is alleging as they launch a multi-million-dollar lawsuit.
Eva Ravikovich was an “absolutely healthy” and happy little girl when the daycare operator picked her up on July 8, the girl’s mother said Thursday.
“Every child to every parent is a special one, but this girl was just amazing,” said Ekaterina Evtropova, 26, in a news conference announcing the lawsuit.
“The things that she was doing for a two year old, to me, was just miraculous. What can I say? To me she was everything.”
Hours later, her husband got a call about a situation at the daycare. He arrived to find that their only child was dead, Evtropova said.
The $3.5-million lawsuit, against the owners and operators of the unlicensed daycare and the Ministry of Education, does not reveal what the family alleges happened inside the daycare, but alludes to an “incident.”
The daycare was an unsafe environment and the operators failed to both monitor children for potential health issues and respond properly to an emergency situation, the family alleges.
“As a result of the negligence of the defendants, Eva suffered serious injuries and died,” the family writes in its statement of claim.
Now, Eva’s parents are grieving the loss of their happy, constantly smiling daughter, seen playing with a toothbrush and giggling in a video they released.
“It’s like now I have a feeling that I have nothing to live for,” Evtropova said.
“The meaning of my life — I would say there is no meaning now and I’m not trying to find it because nothing would ever replace her and nobody would ever replace her, but as I say I have no other choice, just to live.”
Eva’s father, Vycheslav Ravikovich, has suffered from nervous shock, the lawsuit alleges. He was present at the news conference but did not comment. The lawyer’s office said he primarily speaks Russian.
Evtropova is a nurse and is studying at Ryerson University. Ravikovich, 29, is a carpenter and is studying at George Brown College, their lawyer said.
The coroner’s office has advised the family that their daughter’s death was preventable, said family lawyer Patrick Brown.
However, a spokeswoman for the office of the chief coroner said “that didn’t happen.”
“All I can tell you is that the investigation is current” and no conclusions have been reached, said Laura Blondeau.
Unlicensed daycare providers in Ontario can legally care for no more than five children under the age of 10 — in addition to their own children.
When Eva died there were at least 27 children in the facility — possibly more, Brown said.
In addition to overcrowding, the family alleges that the daycare providers failed to ensure food and drink was properly stored in order to prevent contamination, failed to properly supervise the children, and showed a “callous disregard and complete lack of care for Eva and her parents.”
“The defendants were or should have been conscious of the probable consequences of their actions and were indifferent, or worse to the danger of injury such actions would cause to other persons, including Eva,” the family alleges in the lawsuit.
Four people listed as residing at a house in Vaughan are named in the suit, as are two people at the home next door. The lawsuit alleges all six — Olena Panfilova, Oleksandr Rabadanov, Ruslan Rabadanov, Katerina Rabadanov, Inna Koganova and Valery Koganov — were owners and operators of the daycare.
No one answered the phone at a number listed for the second home. No statement of defence has been filed.
The family is asking for $2 million in punitive damages, $1 million in general damages and $500,000 in special damages.
A statement of claim was issued against the daycare, while a notice of an impending statement of claim was issued against the ministry, as 60 days’ notice must be given before suing the government.
The ministry failed to properly inspect, investigate and regulate the daycare and ought to have known it was being operated illegally, the family alleges.
Ministry of Education officials have admitted that they failed to follow up on two of three previous complaints lodged against the Vaughan daycare. Two ministry employees were suspended.
The ministry reviewed daycare complaints in the wake of Eva’s death and found that nine complaints about unlicensed daycares went unanswered last year.
They were among 280 complaints the ministry received, which are supposed to be followed up with a visit to the daycare within five business days. Ministry staff investigated all the unaddressed complaints last month and confirmed that all the daycares complied with provincial laws.
The ministry failed to ensure complaints against unlicensed home child care facilities were made available to the public, the family alleges in its lawsuit.
A ministry spokesman said it wouldn’t be appropriate to comment at this time, except to say their hearts go out to the family.
If parents want to know about complaints against an unlicensed daycare operator, they can call a regional Ministry of Education office and staff will provide information on facilities found to be caring for more than five kids under the age of 10.
“Over the longer term, the ministry will also put in place a searchable online function that will enable parents to access this information directly,” spokesman Gary Wheeler wrote in a statement.
The ministry is also investigating the Vaughan daycare to determine whether there are grounds to lay charges under the Day Nurseries Act, which carries stiff penalties.
Ombudsman Andre Marin has launched an investigation into whether the government is doing enough to protect children in unlicensed daycares.