Parents awarded $9.8 million in child's drowning

LAWRENCEVILLE -- A Gwinnett State Court jury awarded nearly $10 million to parents duped into thinking they were sending their son to a licensed daycare at a Buford home where the boy later drowned, an attorney said Monday.

Jurors awarded the parents, plaintiffs Kemi Green and Gbolahan Bankolemoh, $9.8 million plus $50,000 for pain and suffering after a four-day trial that concluded Thursday, said Green's attorney, Alan Cleveland.

The couple filed a wrongful death suit against Shawn Moon and his wife, Tanya, after enrolling their 23-month-old son, Abiola Bankolehoh, in a daycare the Moons were running in Buford. The boy wandered into the home's back yard, climbed into an above-ground pool and drowned in March 2009.

A third defendant, Terry Moon, Shawn's father, was included in the suit because he owned the home. Cleveland said he expects to recover a majority of the money from insurance companies.

"We believe eventually that we are going to collect the entire amount," the attorney said.

Cleveland said his client worked as pediatric nurse and vetted the Moon's business before enrolling both Abiola and his older brother, age 3. She was referred to the Moons after calling a number she saw advertising at-home daycare, he said.

Cleveland said Tonya Moon showed his client a CPR license and claimed the state had not only issued her a license but would return to conduct periodic checks. The home business violated daycare licensing laws and Gwinnett County's pool ordinance, he said.

"There was a direct path from the house to the pool," Cleveland said. "We don't know how (the boy) got outside, but he did."

A state employee testified at trial that Tonya Moon had never applied for a daycare license, which contradicted Moon's testimony that she'd applied but wasn't yet approved, Cleveland said. Georgia law states that caring for more than two children for pay requires a license.

"For people that prefer home-based daycare, they need to do their homework," Cleveland said. "I think the jury's verdict sends a clear message."

A criminal trial for Tanya is pending on charges of contributing to the delinquency of a minor. She and her husband were arrested together and jailed for a week, but his charges were later dropped when investigators verified he'd been elsewhere the day of the drowning.

Police said Tonya was watching three other children the day Abiola died.