Couple wins $2M lawsuit after ‘04 death of their child
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A Honolulu judge awarded a Tucson, Ariz., couple $2 million for the death of their 1-year-old child, who was left unattended in a hot car by a baby sitter.
Timothy and Deona Ryan, who were in Honolulu yesterday for the verdict, said they are thankful for the judge's decision but do not expect to ever see the money from the defendant, baby sitter Shawna Akin.
Aslyn Ryan died in February 2004 after Akin left her in the back seat of a car for nearly an hour while she ran errands.
The Ryans hope the court victory will raise community awareness of the danger of leaving children unattended in vehicles. The couple has since started a nonprofit organization called Hot Spot to prevent such deaths.
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The parents of a 1-year-old girl who died after her baby sitter left her in a car won a $2 million award in a Honolulu court yesterday.
Circuit Judge Glenn Kim awarded $2,067,802 to Timothy and Deona Ryan, parents of Aslyn Ryan, who died at Kapiolani Medical Center on Feb. 7, 2004.
In what they said was a search for meaning in the girl's death, the Tucson, Ariz., couple became activists to prevent the death of children left unattended in vehicles, calling it a "profound issue."
"We opted to use our daughter as our spokesperson for this," said Timothy Ryan, who now works for the U.S. Geological Survey in Arizona. "We'd just like to prevent another family from suffering the loss that we have suffered that is totally 100 percent preventable."
Added his wife, Deona, who is in her 40s, "It's tragic. It's horrible that anyone would have to endure this, and we don't want anyone to have to suffer the pain that we had. It's a more profound issue than we think."
The couple started the nonprofit group Hot Spot in 2005 to protect children from vehicular hyperthermia and heatstroke. Ryan said about 355 children have died from vehicular hyperthermia since 1998. The number is likely underreported since there is no nationwide source for such deaths, she said.
Aslyn Ryan died a week after her first birthday.
At the time, Timothy Ryan was an Air Force tech sergeant at Hickam Air Force Base. The couple found their baby sitter, Shawna Akin, from a Hickam Family Child Care Center's list of approved baby sitters.
According to the family, Akin, who was in her mid-30s at the time, left Aslyn Ryan in the back seat of her car for 50 minutes while running errands. She called 911 after noticing that the girl was "hot and limp and had gasping respirations."
Ryan was taken to Kapiolani, where she was reported to have brain swelling and died two days later.
Two days before her death, Ryan was "happy, vibrant and healthy and was not demonstrating any signs of any illness," according to court documents. The Medical Examiner's Office reported she died of "hyperthermia due to probable environmental exposure."
Akin eventually admitted leaving Ryan in the car, the parents' attorney said. Akin has since left Hawaii for Wyoming. There was no criminal charge against her.
The Ryans said there are 12 states that have laws making such action illegal, but Hawaii is not one, which they hope to change.
While the couple believe they will not receive any of the money from Akin, who would not have the ability to pay, they hope the court victory will help deter other children's deaths.
They will meet with Gov. Linda Lingle's office tomorrow to lobby for their education program and a possible law designed to protect children.
"We don't have a future with that child anymore," Deona Ryan said. "What we have to do is to work now to create a future for other people's children and make sure this doesn't happen to them."