On November 19, 2009, an infant under four months allegedly died from suffocation in a baby sling. The Illinois family hired a Chicago personal injury lawyer who filed suit against the manufacturer, Eddie Bauer, and others. According to the suit, the baby sling was defective because it failed to provide a safety mechanism to prevent infant suffocation and failed to adequately warn about these dangers. The suit alleges the baby sling forced the baby's chin to her chest causing "positional asphyxia" or oxygen deprivation from breathing difficulty.
The lawsuit filed by the Illinois family is a type of product liability, wrongful death case. A product liability lawsuit is a type of personal injury case. In a product liability lawsuits, there are several theories from which a party may recover, including strict liability, negligence, and breach of warranty of merchantability. However, the primary argument for any product liability case is that the product is unreasonably dangerous. On occasion, the Consumer Product Safety Commission (or CPSC) investigates reports that a product has caused serious injury or death.
A baby sling is a popular product that allows parents or caregivers to literally wear their infants as they go about their busy lives. In March 2010, the CPSC issued a warning regarding the dangers of baby slings. The warning was issued after at least three babies died in baby slings in 2009 alone.
According to the CPSC, the greatest concern is babies under four months age. Over the last two decades, the CPSC has received fourteen reports of babies dying in baby slings. In twelve of the deaths, the babies were under four months old. In a consumer alert, CPSC said newborns are at particular risk because they have weaker neck muscles making it more difficult for them to move and better position themselves if they begin suffocating. Because the sling keeps the infant in a curled up position, the baby's chin is bent down toward their chest. Consequently, the baby is unable to cry for help and slowly suffocates.
The CPSC has not issued a recall on all baby slings. However, parents with young babies, particularly those under four months, should strongly consider alternatives to baby slings. As one woman from Oregon said, "I was told [a baby sling] was the greatest way to bond, especially being a breastfeeding mother." After her baby died after being in a baby sling, she said "now I wish I would have never bought it...I would have never picked it off the shelf."
Chicago Tribune Website, Lawsuit: Infant Died Because Of Defective Baby Sling, November 11, 2011.
ABC News Website, Government Issues Safety Warnings On Baby Slings After Suffocation, March 12, 2010.