Attorney describes possible consequences of day camp after child - CBS46 News

Attorney describes possible consequences of day camp after child drowns

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ATLANTA (CBS46) -

After the tragic death of a child at a metro Atlanta day camp, his parents are left distraught. Camp Cricket was shut down after the state served its staff a cease and desist order. Not only was it unlicensed, but it didn't have a license exemption. Under Georgia law, operators must have one or the other.

(MORE: Camp where 5-year-old drowned operated without license, being shut down)

When CBS46 questioned the Cochran Mill Nature Center Tuesday, the operator of the camp, a spokesperson wouldn't comment because of ongoing litigation.

We know the child's family is getting ready to sue, but we wanted to dig deeper and learn more about their options, and the realistic civil and criminal consequences of the child's drowning.

We called a lawyer who has extensive experience as a former police officer, a police chief and a judge. Obviously, money can't replace their son, but we wanted to know if the grieving family could win a civil case, and if anybody might face criminal charges.

"Well, first of all, you have to prove criminal intent because that's in any criminal case, but the fact that they did not see the child before they left doesn't necessarily rise to an intentional act," says criminal defense attorney Jackie Patterson. "That's why it's called negligence, and that's why it falls under the civil category."

Patterson, who isn't connected to the case, added that the chance of criminal charges being brought in the case are slim to none, but not impossible. He says prosecutors could stretch the law, charging somebody with reckless conduct.

"For example, by not paying attention to the child, and the child wanders away and drowns, that's reckless conduct," says Patterson.

When asked why it wouldn't fit, Patterson said, "It could, but the cases are so tragic, police rarely ever bring criminal charges that relates to a business. If this was a situation where someone was babysitting, same type scenario, but it involves a business or day camp, they look at it a little differently."

Patterson says with the family planning to sue, civil liability appears to be so clear, adding that a jury would consider several factors.

"They calculate all of that, what the child's future might have held, whether he would have been a doctor or lawyer, nobody knows, so they speculate those kind of damages to determine what kind of monetary settlement or verdict, if it had to go to trial," says Patterson.

We've been double-checking with the family attorney and he told us he hasn't filed a civil case just yet. In the meantime, Patterson believes there's a 99 percent chance this case will be settled out of court, and liability insurance will pay possible damages.

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