Mahe family awarded $25M in damages after lawsuit over 3-year-old daughter’s death

Elsie Mahe. Photo: Facebook

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah, Sept. 23, 2021 (Gephardt Daily) — The family of Elsie Mahe, the 3-year-old daughter of Reno and Sunny Mahe, who died after becoming entangled in a window blind cord in November 2016, has been awarded $25 million in damages.

The accident took place in the family’s residence on Nov. 22, 2016. It was several days before doctors determined Elsie would not recover and she passed away after being removed from life support on Nov. 27.

Elsie’s father, Reno Mahe, a former Brigham Young University football star and ex-coach, and her mother, Sunny, a former BYU varsity volleyball player, filed a lawsuit in the 3rd District Court of Salt Lake City against several companies following the incident.

California-based Century Blinds was found guilty by a jury; the verdict awarded $1 million to the estate of the child, as well as $24 million in punitive damages to the family.

Elsie’s tragic death made worldwide headlines, and drew attention to the strong religious faith of the family as Sunny Mahe posted about their journey to healing. The couple have nine children; five boys and four girls. They welcomed a new baby boy, Lucky, two years minus one day after Elsie’s accident.

On Thursday morning, Sunny Mahe posted on Facebook: “When Elsie had her accident, I had no idea that children were dying on corded blinds. I had no idea that it was an accident that happens once or twice a month. The blinds that were sold to me had a warning label from 1985 (outdated at time of sale by three generations of industry standard updates) and I never even knew it was there, hidden underneath the bottom rail resting against the sill. I was never offered a child safe wand instead of cords, nor was I given cord cleats to wrap the cords up out of reach. I didn’t know what a cord cleat was. I didn’t know to ask for them — you don’t know what you don’t know.”

She adds in the post that she is among one of millions of mothers that did not know that window blinds need to be child-proofed.

“I never wanted to know this much about window blinds. I thought they would just get installed and I would not think about them again. Maybe you already knew that corded window blinds were listed by the Consumer Product Safety Commission as a ‘top 5 hidden hazard’ in the home? Maybe you are one of the lucky ones that already knew about cutting the cords short, or installing cord cleats, or never placing furniture in front of your window blinds? Or perhaps you are among the millions of mothers like me that just did not know that you would need to child proof them.

“I know all of that now. But I had to pay for this information with the life of my child.”

She goes on to say that the trial was the first of its kind.

“The precedent that it sets has already impacted movement within the industry,” the post says. “We had been offered over a million dollars pre-trial to just go away. A million dollars would not have moved the needle to impact change for anyone else but me. If at any point I had believed this was only about me and my family, I would not have bothered. I would not have chosen to relive in gruesome detail each aspect of Elsie’s horrific accident, knowing the entire defense was to blame me.”

Sunny says she has now removed all corded blinds from inside her home.

She writes in the post: “My child is already dead. I already lost before the trial started, so there would be no ‘winning’ for me; no astronomical amount of money could ever compensate for the loss of Elsie and it feels repulsive that anyone would believe that it could.

“The jury returned from deliberation with a number that far exceeded any amount suggested during the trial. The decision to award punitive damages is something that a jury decides to pursue when they find a person’s or corporation’s conduct to be reprehensible. It is intended to punish past conduct and discourage future infraction. That is the message that was received by the industry loud and clear by the verdict the jury pronounced. This win was for some future mother that I hope will never even know that this used to be a thing that could happen. We have done our part to protect other families from having to endure the loss that we have.”

Sunny Mahe also shared the information for two organizations that assist other families in times of need.

  • Miracles From Elsie helps families through medical crisis, provides grief counseling for families that have lost a child, and promotes organ donation awareness.
  • Mental Health For Heroes is another foundation seed-funded through Miracles From Elsie. It pays for any out of pocket expense for police, firefighters, EMTs, and their spouses and children to get mental health care.

She adds in her post: “We are also working to assemble educational information to disperse to new mothers at the hospital regarding hidden safety hazards in their home.

“We love it here. We love Utah and we love Utahns. We are committed to making a positive difference in our community. Thank you for the grace and support you have extended to our family through the years. We hope to pay it forward.”



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