The family of Matilda Blanche Gentzel , an infant who died in November of 2009, has filed a lawsuit claiming that the girl died as a result of a defective infant carrier sling which cut off her ability to breath.
The lawsuit was filed Thursday in Cook County Circuit Court. According to the lawsuit, Gentzel died Nov. 19, 2009 after having suffered medical distress four days earlier when the Eddie Bauer Sling & Hip Carrier worn by her father, George G. Gentzel II, forced the infant’s chin to her chest, causing “positional asphyxia.” The lawsuit further claims that the orientation of the baby in the carrier was what kept her father from being able to see that the child was in distress.
The lawsuit was filed against three companies: Eddie Bauer (the maker of the sling), Goldbug, Inc. and the Target Corp. (where George G. Gentzel II supposedly bought the sling before the baby was born). All of the lawsuits are seeking unspecified damages.
The lawsuit claims that the sling lacked “a safety mechanism to prevent … suffocation of the infant.” Although the lawsuit does not specify Matilda’s age, it claims that the sling was unsafe for children less than 4 months old.
The Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) issued a warning about slings, particularly for smaller infants in March of 2010. This was after at least three deaths in infant slings in 2009 and at least 11 others since 1990 (acording to literature). Of the 14 known deaths, 12 involved babies less than four months old, according to the CPSC.
The CPSC statement said, “In the first few months of life, babies cannot control their heads because of weak neck muscles…The sling’s fabric can press against an infant’s nose and mouth, blocking the baby’s breathing and rapidly suffocating a baby within a minute or two. Additionally, where a sling keeps the infant in a curled position bending the chin toward the chest, the airways can be restricted, limiting the oxygen supply. The baby will not be able to cry for help and can slowly suffocate.”
The lawsuit claims negligence on the part of the companies for failing to provide adequate warnings regarding the danger involved in using slings for infants less than four months old and about the chance that the slings ould possibly keep an infant from being able to breathe properly. The lawsuit also claims that there were inadequate instructions on how to use the sling.
No response was given by representatives of the companies when they were asked for comment.