A St. Louis law firm won a $25 million verdict on behalf of a Utah family whose 3-year-old entangled herself on the tilt cord of a custom window and died.
Sunny and Reno Mahe sued Century Blinds, alleging it had ignored safety product revisions in 2002 and 2007 that would have included a cord cleat as a safety feature for 14 cents that would have saved the life of Elsie Mahe from the windows, which were bought in 2008. Instead, Elsie was put into an emergency coma and died days later.
After a two-week trial in Utah’s 3rd District Courthouse in Salt Lake City, a jury found in favor of the Mahes on six counts of strict liability design defect, warning and negligence.
The jury also called Century Blinds’ conduct “willful and malicious, or manifested a knowing and reckless indifference toward, and a disregard of the rights of plaintiffs.”
The Mahes settled for a confidential amount for punitive damages.
The defendant had blamed the parents for the child’s death. The Mahes’ lead attorney, Jim Corrigan, of O’Leary Shelton Corrigan Peterson Dalton & Quillin in St. Louis, said this is a common defense.
“This is why the impact is so important,” Corrigan said. “Because we can help these manufacturers realize that cords should never be the standard, they should only be an option. And parents should be notified of the risk of putting cords in their home.”
After hearing the trial testimonies of first responders who had arrived at the scene when the Mahes called 9-1-1 to try to save their child — one called it “the worst day of my life,” while others broke down on the stand — the family has started a foundation to help first responders pay for counseling costs.
Jeffrey Williams, of Riley Safer Holmes & Cancila in San Francisco, California, was the defendant’s lead attorney. Williams did not respond to calls asking for comment.
$25 million verdict (Out of state)
Wrongful Death, Products Liability
Breakdown: $1,000,000 conscious pain and suffering prior to loss of consciousness for a period of 15 to 30 seconds; $24,000,000 pain and suffering of parents
Venue: 3rd District Court, Utah
Case Number/Date: 180901362/Sept. 21, 2021
First Pretrial Demand: $5,000,000
Last Pretrial Demand: $2,500,000
First Pretrial Offer: $1,050,000
Last Pretrial Offer: $1,200,000
Plaintiffs’ Expert: Ben Railsback, Denver, Colorado (engineering)
Defendant’s Expert: Joseph Sala, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania (human factors)
Caption: Sunny and Reno Mahe v. Century Blinds Inc.
Plaintiffs’ Attorneys: James T. Corrigan and James D. O’Leary Jr., O’Leary Shelton Corrigan Peterson Dalton & Quillin, St. Louis; Alan Mortensen and Lance Milne, DKOW, Salt Lake City, Utah
Defendant’s Attorneys: Jeffrey Williams, Riley Safer Holmes & Cancila, San Francisco, California; Robert Janicki, Strong Hanni, Salt Lake City, Utah