Day Care Fire Victims' Mom Sues Tata, Texas

Jessica Tata Faces 13 Criminal Charges

Published On: Feb 17 2012 02:39:39 PM CST   Updated On: Mar 23 2011 05:41:15 AM CDT
HOUSTON -

A mother who lost her son in a day care fire has filed a lawsuit against the owner and the state of Texas.

Shomari Dickerson, 3, was killed in the fire at Jackie's Child Care on Crestpark near Waypark on Feb. 24. His 2-year-old sister, Makayla, was severely burned.

Their mother, Tiffany Dickerson, filed a lawsuit Wednesday against the day care owners, Jessica Tata and her parents.

Tata has been charged with 13 state felonies, including manslaughter, abandoning children and reckless injury to a child.

Dickerson is also suing the state of Texas.

"I can certainly see where the plaintiff's lawyer is going in suing the state for, in their estimation, being negligent in licensing Jessica Tata in the first place," KPRC Local 2 legal analyst Brian Wice said. "That's a theory that, I think, could get some traction further on down the road."

Dickerson is asking for actual damages to cover funeral and medical expenses and punitive damages for the loss of a son and for causing psychological damages to the family. A dollar amount was not listed in the lawsuit.

"Her daughter is going to require significant therapy, and who knows what her future is going to hold," said Michael Gallagher, Dickerson's attorney. "She's going to have to deal with disfigurement issues and just the psychological trauma of having to go through the treatment. She deserves to be compensated for that."

Elizabeth Kojah, 20 months, Kendyll Stradford, 20 months, and Elias Castillo were also killed in the fire. Two other children, in addition to Makayla, were injured.

Arson investigators said the fire started in the kitchen after someone left a pot of oil sitting on a hot burner.

Houston Fire Department officials said Tata was grocery shopping at a Target store nearby when the fire stated. Detectives said security video showed her arriving at the store at 1:09 p.m. and driving away from the store at 1:24 p.m. The children had been left home alone, investigators said

Witnesses said Tata returned as smoke began billowing out of the home day care. The first call to 911 was made by someone other than Tata at 1:29 p.m., investigators said.

Tata also faces a federal charge of unlawful flight to avoid prosecution. Investigators said she spent weeks on the run in Nigeria. She was arrested there Saturday.