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Utah County couple sues state after daughter's accidental death

Published July 18, 2012 12:31 pm

Courts • 7-month-old infant died from asphyxia while in the care of foster parents.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2012, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

A Utah County couple is suing Utah's Division of Child and Family Services after they say the agency failed to ensure the safety of their infant daughter, who died while in the care of foster parents.

In October 2010, the 7-month-old girl suffocated when she became wedged between a daybed frame and a mattress, according to court documents.

According to police reports, the foster mother — who had been caring for the girl since birth — had placed the infant on a toddler daybed for a nap. She told police the daybed was not where the child normally slept, but another foster child who shared a room with the girl was already asleep in their room.

Police say the woman then went outside to work in the yard. About 30-40 minutes later, she went back inside to check on the infant. She found that the child had moved off the edge of the bed and had become lodged in the metal rails of the daybed.

The state Medical Examiner's Office ruled that the girl's death was accidental and the cause of death was asphyxia due to wedging. No criminal charges were filed.

The parents, Estella M. Chandler and Michael L. Jensen, are seeking over $300,000 in damages, according to court documents. They say that state failed to ensure the safety of their daughter, Lailla,by "failure to teach, failure to educate and failure to supervise those selected to care for the child, and failed to select careful and prudent custodial persons with whom the child was placed."

DCFS officials declined to comment because they had not yet seen the lawsuit. The foster parents are also listed as defendants in the lawsuit.

Attorneys Neil Skousen and Jared Anderson said in a statement that the dead child's parents are pursuing the court "to ensure Utah DCFS is held accountable and that the agency makes the necessary changes to protect the lives of current and future Utah children in its care and custody."

jmiller@sltrib.com

Twitter: @jm_miller