Waylon’s mom launches $9M lawsuit


The mother of the Petrolia toddler who nearly drowned after falling into a pool at day care says he has “suffered permanent impairment and significant disability” when doors in the Petrolia home were left open to air out a basement after a flood.

Gillian Burnett has filed a $9 million lawsuit on behalf of her son, Waylon Saunders, and her family in the wake of the incident.

Waylon was 20 months old when he returned to daycare  as his mom went back to work. Burnett placed the toddler and his sister in care with Paula Maness Slaght at a home on Juniper Crescent. 

On Jan. 24, Waylon went out of a door in the back of the home and ended up in the pool for about five minutes. Firefighters and health care providers at Petrolia’s Charlotte Eleanor Englehart Hospital worked for three hours to revive him. When this heart began to beat again, he was transferred to hospital in London where he was placed in a coma in the hopes he would recover.

Waylon was given just a 10 per cent chance to live.

After two weeks, he was up and walking and released.

 The lawsuit filed in court last week, says the affects of the near drowning will be long lasting. “There are many unknowns about his immediate and long-term health as a result of the brain trauma he suffered,” writes lawyer Matthew Dale in the suit naming Slaght, the owners of the home, Dani, Brooklyn, Robert and Maria Maola, and the Sarnia-Lambton Childrens’ Aid Society.

“He has suffered deterioration of behaviour, cognition and communicative skills. He has been left with paralysis on his left side, potential blindness in his left eye, communications changes, and issues with his fine motor skills,” the suit alleges adding the toddler has “suffered permanent impairment and significant disability.”

The lawsuit adds the boy’s care is expected to cost $1 million. 

The legal action sheds some light on what may have happened that day. “It appears Ms Slaght left the doors of the home open to the backyard swimming pool to air out the defendant premises following a basement flood,” it contends. 

Slaght has also been charged with criminal negligence causing bodily harm in the incident. The allegations in the lawsuit and criminal charges have not been proven in court yet.

Burnett’s suit, which was filed on behalf of Waylon, his father, siblings and grandparents, says Slagt failed to provide “adequate supervision, allowing for apparent hazards to exist, failing to prevent or attempt to prevent injury to Waylon. 

It also accuses the 50 year-old of “being an incompetent childcare service provider, lacking in reasonable skill, judgement, education, training or experience and who ought not to have attempted to operate a child care service and supervise children…and creating a perpetuating a situation of danger from which Waylon was unable to extricate himself.”

The civil suit also says Maolas  – the owners of the home – “failed to maintain the premises in a reasonably safe condition” and failed  “to take any active measures to address the cause of the unsafe condition, failing to take reasonable care to prevent injury to Waylon when they knew or ought to have known of the unsafe condition caused by the unsecured swimming pool.” 

The lawsuit also accuses them of “failing to inspect the premises” since they are “responsible for its physical maintenance and ensure the safety of people there.”

And there was a troubling accusation leveled against the Sarnia-Lambton Children’s Aid Society. The lawsuit alleges the  CAS failed “to conduct any or any adequate investigation of Ms Slaght and her suitability to provide care for children” and failing to inspect the premises, to ensure there was in an environment free of neglect and danger, failing to investigate or otherwise act in response to previous complaints or reports of child neglect.”

Burnett’s lawsuit calls that a “gross dereliction of duty.”

CAS Executive Director Dawn Flegel tells The Independent the organization has not yet received the lawsuit but will file a statement of defense when it does. 

Flegel could not speak to the allegations of failing to investigate previous complaints from the same day care provider.