Lawsuit: Infant died because of defective baby sling

Tribune reporter

An infant who died in 2009 was killed by a defective infant carrier sling that cut off her breathing, the girl's family claims in lawsuit filed Thursday.

Matilda Blanche Gentzel died Nov. 19, 2009, four days after she suffered medical distress when the Eddie Bauer Sling & Hip Carrier her father, George G. Gentzel II, was wearing forced her chin to her chest, causing “positional asphyxia,” according to the lawsuit, filed Thursday in Cook County Circuit Court.

The way the baby was positioned in the carrier kept her father from seeing that she was in distress, the lawsuit claims.

The lawsuit seeks unspecified damages from Eddie Bauer, the maker of the sling, Goldbug, Inc., of Aurora, Colo., and the Target Corp. of Minneapolis, Minn. George G. Gentzel II bought the sling at a Target store, sometime before Matilda was born, according to the lawsuit.

The sling, which her father purchased before Matilda was born, lacked “a safety mechanism to prevent … suffocation of the infant,” according to the lawsuit. Matilda’s age is not specified in the lawsuit, but the suit claims the sling was unsafe for children under 4 months of age.

The lawsuit says the Gentzel family, including Matilda's mother, father and sister, lives in Illinois, but does not specify exactly where.

Following at least three deaths in infant slings in 2009, and a review of literature finding at least 11 others  since 1990, the Consumer Product Safety Commission in March 2010 issued a warning regarding slings, especially for smaller infants. Twelve of the 14 deaths involved babies younger than four months, ccording to the CPSC.

“In the first few months of life, babies cannot control their heads because of weak neck muscles,” according to the statement. “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 that the companies were negligent in failing to provide adequate warnings about the danger of using slings for infants younger than four months old and about the possibility of the slings possibly keeping an infant from breathing properly. The lawsuit also claims instruction on how to use the sling were inadequate.

Representatives of the companies did not respond to inquiries for comment.

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