As parents, we do everything in our power to ensure the safety of our children. This is no easy feat when there are curious and active toddlers running around the house! Virtually any object is a potential hazard, even seemingly harmless things like the pull cords attached to the window blinds. Sadly, a disturbing number of incidents, some fatal, take place each year in Ohio and across the country due to hazardous window blind cords, a staggering 50 million of which have been recalled at one point.
Just how widespread is this concern, and when can it become a legal issue? Let’s examine the facts, starting with a recent study that uncovered troubling results followed by real cases and, finally, tips to protect your children.
How dangerous are window blind cords?
In 2018, published in the journal Pediatrics, a 26-year study conducted by the Center for Injury Research and Policy at Nationwide Children’s Hospital produced some astonishing findings. As many as 17,000 children were treated in emergency rooms due to strangulation from window blind cords over 2.5 decades, and of those reported injuries, 271 cases were fatal. The Center’s director, Dr. Gary Smith, called this “unacceptable.”
“We have known about this problem since the 1940s… . It is time to eliminate the hazard. Safe, affordable cordless blinds and shades are widely available. A mandatory federal safety standard should be adopted prohibiting the sale of products with accessible cords.”
If these tragic deaths and injuries are avoidable (by simple proposed changes such as cordless blinds), then the fact that they are still occurring means that someone may be considered liable. In many cases, the companies that design and manufacture the faulty window blind cords can be held legally accountable. Let’s look at two cases that culminated in lawsuits.
The Case of Sahrye Hardy
In 2015, Natoshia Jones and her 3-year-old daughter, Sahrye Hardy, visited an Oregon apartment building furnished with window blinds that included a dangerously dangling cord. The girl became tangled in the cord, leading her to die of strangulation. Jones promptly sued the apartment complex, owned by Cascade Rental Management Company, for $4 million.
According to the lawsuit, Sahrye’s death was completely preventable and would not have occurred had cordless blinds been installed in the apartment. Jones’ attorney added:
“These are silent deaths. The cord basically cuts off the ability to speak, cry, or make any specific noise.”
Even the most diligent parent, then, would be helpless in such a scenario in which the child is unable to express a need for help. Because of this silent hazard, Newell Window Furnishings was also named in the lawsuit for negligence. The outcome of the lawsuit has not been made public, but cash settlements are common in these cases.
The Case of Daniel Sutton
Another 3-year-old, Daniel Sutton of Colorado, died of strangulation from a window blind cord near his bed. Daniel’s 2010 death serves as a warning to parents of children under the age of 5 who are most at risk for such accidents. The child’s parents filed a lawsuit for an unspecified amount of money against the maker of the blinds, Hunter Douglas, Inc. The lawsuit alleged that the company showed “reckless disregard” in making the “defective and unreasonably dangerous” blinds.
While the outcome of this case has also remained private, there is no doubt that such cases are influencing new product requirements, recommendations, and recalls. Specifically, the Consumer Product Safety Commission has issued standards that address the very real “strangulation hazards associated with the continuous cord loops, inner cords, and cord joiners of window covering products.”
Dangerous products remain on the market, however, and therefore it is wise for parents to establish safety guidelines and best practices within the home.
Window Blind Cord Safety Tips
While there are unfortunately never any guarantees about the safety of our precious little ones, there are proactive ways to make accidents less likely.
- Know the product you are purchasing and pay close attention to any warning labels. If the product is already in your home, verify that it has not been recalled due to potential hazards.
- Make window blind cords inaccessible to your children by clipping them shorter or folding them on top of the blinds, out of reach of curious little hands. Better yet, use curtains, shades, or cordless blinds.
- Place your children’s furniture and toys far away from all windows so that the temptation to play with blind cords is out of sight and hopefully out of mind.
An expert tip from Doug Mann
If you have experienced the tragedy of an accidental fatality or injury of a child and you think defective window blind cords were to blame, then we may be able to help you. Contact the experienced product liability attorneys at Ohio Tiger if you are seeking justice for your loved one.