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Vermont family sues after baby dosed with drugs at day care

Updated: May. 7, 2021 at 4:46 PM EDT
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RUTLAND, Vt. (WCAX) - A Rutland family is suing a day care owner found guilty in the 2019 drugging death of a baby girl after discovering their son was also drugged.

The McAtee family hopes suing Stacey Vaillancourt will bring awareness to the dangers of these drugs and save other families from having to deal with a situation like this one.

“Harper’s family came up with the slogan ‘babies don’t come with instructions but medications do,’ and it really just stuck with me,” mom Melanie McAtee said.

In 2019, 6-month-old Harper Rose Briar died while at Stacey Vaillancourt’s day care in Rutland.

An autopsy revealed Vaillancourt had given Briar diphenhydramine, the primary ingredient in drugs like Benadryl.

“It was very upsetting for both me and my husband,” McAtee said.

The McAtee family says their son, Martin, who was 8 months old at the time, was also given the drug but experienced only normal reactions such as drowsiness.

Martin was tested shortly after Briar’s death. They found high doses of diphenhydramine in his system.

Now, the McAtee family is suing Vaillancourt.

“One of the real reasons to bring the case to, I think Melanie would certainly agree with me, is to bring some awareness to the problem of over-the-counter medications for children that are dangerous,” said Tristan Larson, the McAtee’s lawyer.

Melanie McAtee is a pharmacist in the Rutland area and is concerned about the long-term effects on her son’s health. But she wants these efforts to bring awareness, potentially saving other babies’ lives.

“I do want people to know that this happened locally and that a child died of medication misuse, and my child was medicated without my consent, and it is completely preventable,” McAtee said.

The family is looking for a trial by jury.

At this time, Vaillancourt is not in prison. In 2020, she was released on a $25,000 unsecured appearance bond and ordered not to have contact with children younger than 5 except her own grandchild.

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