Tragic Incident Leads to Death of Young Girl
A horrible window blind cords death in 2016 in which a 3-year-old girl became tangled in cords and died due to strangulation has resulted in a recent award by a jury in Utah of $25 million to the young child’s family. The lawsuit — brought against manufacturers based in Utah and in California — and its recent conclusion highlight the dangers of window blind cords death for infants and toddlers. This danger is more common and serious than many people are aware.
How Significant Are the Dangers of Window Blind Cords?
Window blinds and the cords that are used to raise, lower, open, and close the louvers are a common window treatment in nearly all modern American homes. Unfortunately, when these cords are located within reach of infants and toddlers, they can present a lethal danger. In fact, the U.S. Consumer Products Safety Commission ranks window blind cords as one of the top five hazards hidden in most homes.
A study by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) in 2017 found that more than 600 young children are seen annually in emergency rooms in the United States for injuries resulting from window blind cords, and that at least 271 deaths had occurred since 1990. Nearly all of the deaths were associated with entanglements.
Entanglement in these cords can result in strangulation for young children, with unconsciousness occurring within seconds and death within minutes. The CPSC recommends never placing a playpen or crib near the cords and using cordless blinds or cord safety devices whenever possible. Attention should also be given to sofas, chairs, and other furniture on which older toddlers may climb when these may give them access to cords.
The 2016 Death of Elsie Mahe
The recent jury award stemmed from the 2016 death of Elsie Mahe, a three-old-girl residing with her family in Salt Lake City. Elsie had become entangled in the cords from a set of miniblinds in the family home and was unresponsive when she was found. The hospital to which she was taken used neurological tests to confirm brain death. This is a typical cause of death in strangulation cases where the brain has been deprived of oxygen for a long enough time to cause irreversible damage.
Elsie’s products liability and wrongful death case received extra public attention because her father — Reno Mahe — is a former NFL running back and was a coach at Brigham Young University. He and Elsie’s mother have also worked since their child’s death to bring greater awareness and attention to the danger of window blind cord death in young children.
The Recent Window Blind Cords Death Trial and Jury Award
A lawsuit was filed by Elsie’s parents against manufacturers based in Utah and California. The family reported they had been offered an inadequate amount to resolve their claims prior to trial in an apparent effort to “make them go away,” and they elected to see their daughter’s case all the way through trial to a jury verdict.
During the course of the trial, defense attorneys attempted to point the finger at the parents being negligent in their child’s death, however, the parents and their attorneys highlighted the fact that the recently acquired blinds had significant design defects and a warning label that was decades out of date. The jury agreed with Elsie’s family, finding that the miniblinds were defective in both design and in user instruction and warning labeling, as well as in a lack of any “post-sale warning” that might have remedied the seriously out-of-date printed warnings. Century Blinds of California was not only found negligent, with a $1 million award for the child’s wrongful death but its actions were found to be so egregious that a further $24 million in punitive damages against the company were awarded by the jury.
Protecting Against Window Blind Cords Death
As noted in the pediatrics study and Consumer Products Safety Commission information described above, the best safety precaution is not to have window coverings with cords, and if cords are present, to make sure that cribs, playpens, sofas, and other furniture that might give young children access aren’t placed anywhere near blind cords.
The Window Covering Safety Council – an industry group promoting safety — noted that new safety standards were adopted by most manufacturers in December 2018 that will help reduce these dangers. What is important to note, however, is that:
- There is no official government mandate regulating window blind cords;
- These new standards are voluntary on the part of manufacturers;
- The new standards are targeting an 80% compliance rate; and
- The new standards do nothing to improve the safety of blinds manufactured prior to 2018.
View this video from the United Kingdom’s Public Health Agency highlighting the dangers of window blind cords to young children and some of the available safety devices:
Personal Injury Lawyers in Sacramento
My name is Ed Smith, and I am a Sacramento Personal Injury Lawyer. If you or a family member has been injured by a dangerous or defective product, such as these tragic window blind cords injuries to young children, please call me at 916.921.6400 or 800.404.5400 to receive free, friendly advice. You can also reach us through our online contact form.
Image by PublicDomainArchive from Pixabay.
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