The Arkansas Department of Human Services (DHS) has settled with the Nelson family for $375,000, according to their attorney Sean Keith.
Keith says as part of the settlement, DHS has agreed to review the regulations that deal with inspection of soccer goals.
DHS released the following information about the settlement this afternoon:
The Arkansas Department of Human Services (DHS) has reached a compromise and settlement agreement with the family of Jonathan Nelson. This settlement has been reached in an attempt to bring closure to this family and this matter.
As part of this settlement agreement and compromise, no later than June 1, 2013, the Department of Human Services Division of Child Care and Early Childhood Education will:
- Review the Rules for child care facilities regarding clear identification of DHS certified playground areas;
- Review the Rules for child care facility playground and playground equipment safety;
- Implement a practice of photographing identified playground areas;
- Establish criteria for the placement of physical barriers between identified playground areas and potentially unsafe areas or equipment that children may access from identified areas;
- Identify additional areas where existing rules may be amended to enhance safety;
- Publish for public comment under the Arkansas Administrative Procedure Act proposed amendments, additions, or both, to the rules for Child Care Facilities.
- Train/retrain staff in safety inspections; and
- Prepare and schedule safety training and technical assistance for Arkansas child care providers.
DHS extends our condolences to the Nelson family for the tragic loss of their son, Jonathan. DHS is committed to all children in the State of Arkansas having a safe and healthy place to play and grow. It is our department's hope that this settlement and compromise will further enhance child safety.
Update (March 6):
LITTLE ROCK, AR - The Joint Budget Committee of the Arkansas Legislature has voted not to pay a million-dollar award for a Bentonville family in the 2011 death of 9-year-old Jonathan Nelson.
At the capitol this morning a claims subcommittee recommendation failed to get enough votes. The vote was 23 to 7 in support of awarding the claim, but it needed 29 to pass.
The claim was opposed by the Department of Finance and Administration, which said the award was "a wrong use of taxpayer money."
The claim was referred back to the Joint Claims Committee, where it has essentially been heard twice already, with the majority voicing DHS negligence played a role in the Nelson's death.
Original Story (February 25):
The Legislative Joint Claims Committee has awarded the Nelson family $1 million after Monday's hearing.
The family of an Arkansas fourth grader killed during an accident at school had asked for the legislative committee to hold the Department of Human Services (DHS) responsible.
Jonathan Nelson, 9, died after an non-anchored, homemade soccer goal fell on him during recess in 2011. The goal did not meet consumer product safety guidelines.
The Nelson family believes during safety inspections, DHS should have required the goal be removed, but never did.
On Monday, the Nelsons testified in a hearing just like they did back in December, but a decision was delayed. Lawmakers are the judge and jury in this case, because a state agency can't be sued in court.
The main question being asked is whether DHS failed to adequately conduct safety inspections that would have saved Jonathan's life.
DHS claims Jonathan wasn't a student in the DHS after school program, was killed on a playground not certified by DHS, and wasn't on the DHS program clock when the accident occurred.
The Nelsons' attorney says the first and third points are irrelevant, and the second point is plain untrue because they can't define the playground it certified as safe.
For Nathan Nelson, this marks the fourth time he's had to testify to a committee of strangers about the day he lost his son.
The family is asking for $3 million in damages, but Nelson told lawmakers there's a bigger cost at stake.
"His skull was crushed by the weight of the goal; his neck broken. And there's nothing I can do about that. So I'm doing the best I can to make sure it doesn't happen to somebody else's child, and to stand up for my son who isn't here to stand up for himself," Nelson said.
The Nelsons may have concluded their wrongful death suit against the state, but they plan to continue fighting for Jonathan's Law to be strengthened.
Jonathan's Law was the state law passed after the boy's death, which requires soccer goals to be anchored according to consumer safety guidelines.
- Committee Urges Family of 4th Grader Killed by Soccer Goal to Settle
- Father of Killed 4th Grader: Law Lacks Power to Protect Kids
- Claim Denied for Family of Bentonville Boy Killed by Soccer Goal
- Federal Investigation Launched After 9-Year-Old Boy's Death
- Consumer Group Looking into Bentonville Boy's Death