Less than two years ago, a tragic event brought to light a hidden danger in daycare centers. It involved a practice that some parents and daycare providers had believed posed no danger at all – the use of weighted blankets to calm infants. If you or someone you know has a young child in daycare, this is something you should know.
A wrongful death case in Missouri
On August 21, 2014, in Webster Grove, Missouri, a 7-month-old infant was found dead at his daycare center. He was found in the crib under a weighted blanket. The daycare provider had used a white noise machine, along with the weighted blanket, during the infant’s nap time. The infant rolled onto his stomach at some point and, with the added weight of the blanket (4 pounds 8 ounces), which led to his death. Unfortunately, the day care workers failed to check on him after he had fallen asleep and, therefore, did not re-position him.
What are weighted blankets used for?
It is believed by some that weighted blankets are good for calming adults and others with special needs who are anxious or distressed. These blankets contain items such as flax seed, beans, poly pellets or other items sewn into the fabric. In fact, some health care providers have recommended these types of blankets for adults who have medical conditions such as restless leg syndrome, narcolepsy, night terrors or sleep apnea. Some medical providers encourage the use of these blankets with children, as well, but typically only for children with special needs, and under supervision.
Weighted blankets come with warnings
In most cases, weighted blankets are prescribed for children with special needs, but there are DIY instructions that anyone can find on the internet. The problem is, the medical types come with warnings that a DIY blanket obviously would not. For example, one particular warning states as follows: “Weighted blankets should be used under the direction and advice of a healthcare professional or licensed therapist and should be used while under adult supervision.”
The danger posed by weighted blankets
When it comes to use with infants, a weighted blanket can be too heavy which can cause the infant to suffocate or increase their risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome. A medical provider who prescribes a weighted blanket for children will take into consideration the age, height, and weight of the individual so that the weighted blanket being used is appropriate to the size of the individual using it. The weight distribution of the weighted blanket is also a concern for medical providers. As seen in the case of this infant, if a weighted blanket is too heavy, an infant can suffocate or can be at a heightened risk to die of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome.
The responsibility of daycare providers
It is certainly reasonable for parents to expect their day care providers to provide reasonable supervision of their children, including when the children are asleep. A day care center must keep infant cribs free of objects that could create a choking or suffocation hazard. More importantly, day care centers should consult with parents prior to using devices such as a weighted blanket when that item has not actually been prescribed by a medical professional or provided by the parent themselves.
Bringing a wrongful death claim in Missouri
In legal terms, “wrongful death” means the death of one person caused by the negligence or misconduct of another. Every state has its own statute that specifically defines the term and also governs wrongful death lawsuits. Missouri’s Wrongful Death Statute defines wrongful death as follows:
The death of a person result[ing] from any act, conduct, occurrence, transaction, or circumstance which, if death had not ensued, would have entitled such person to recover damages in respect thereof. Typically, when the claim involves the death of a minor child the parents will have standing to file the wrongful death suit in court.
Wrongful Death Damages in a Missouri
The purpose of a wrongful death claim is to seek compensation in the form of monetary damages, which are available for various different losses. Some of the more common types of damages may include, especially in the death of a minor:
- medical bills related to the deceased person’s final injury or illness
- pain and suffering experienced by the deceased just prior to death,
- funeral and burial expenses
Basically, the parents of the deceased child are allowed to seek damages on the child’s behalf.
If you have questions regarding wrongful death or any other personal injury concerns, contact us online or call the Cottrell Law Office at (888) 433-4861.
He is licensed to practice law in the United States District Court for the District of Kansas, eastern Arkansas, western Arkansas, and western Missouri. He was Deputy Prosecuting Attorney in Crawford County, Kansas from 1987-1989.
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