A federal jury in Columbus this week awarded damages of $787 million to the family of a 23-month-old boy who died when he became wedged in a bunk-bed ladder five years ago.
The award against the Vietnamese manufacturer, Moash Enterprise Co. Ltd., may be the largest wrongful death verdict in the state, according to the attorney handling the case. The award was well above the $522 million in damages the family requested, but the family likely will never collect on the award.
“There’s a lot of horrible tragedies in this case,” said Dan Mordarski, the family’s attorney. “There were just a lot of bad things that shouldn’t have happened. The jury recognized that and how we got to where we got to.”
Toddler becomes trapped in bunk-bed ladder while playing
On May 22, 2018, while playing with his brothers, 23-month-old Jasyiah Boone became trapped in the ladder in the opening between the top rung of the ladder and the bottom of the upper bed frame.
His 4-year-old brother saw what happened and tried to free Jasyiah.
Jasyiah’s mother was told what happened, immediately went to the room and frantically tried to free him. The boy was wedged into the ladder so tightly that she had to break the ladder to free him, Mordarski said.
The Franklin County Coroner’s Office performed an autopsy and determined the cause of death was “positional asphyxia due to chest compression between bunk bed and the bunk bed ladder,” according to the lawsuit.
Jasyiah’s family sued Wayfair, which sold the bunk bed and the ladder to the boy’s mother, along with Angel Line and Longwood Forest Products, the companies that imported the product from Vietnam. Those companies subsequently settled the claims for undisclosed amounts.
Moash, a wood home furniture manufacturer based in Thu Dau Mot City in Vietnam’s Binh Duong province, was later added as a defendant after it was identified as the manufacturer of the bunk bed. Moash never responded to the allegations against it or appeared in court.
The jury made the award Tuesday at the conclusion of a two-day trial before Judge Michael Watson.
The family, who have asked not to be identified, bought the Fremont Twin over Twin Bunk Bed in December 2017, according to court documents. The bed contains a narrow opening between the top rung of the ladder and the bottom of the upper bed frame where a small child could become trapped, Mordarksi said.
Jury award exceeds family’s request
The family asked for the jury to award $522 million in damages in reference to the May 22 date of Jasyiah’s death, but came back with the larger award, Mordarski said.
“Five-22 will always be the worst day of her life. We want to make 5-22 mean something different,” he said.
The family doesn’t expect to collect on the verdict because the manufacturer is located in Vietnam, he said.
“Part of this verdict is to make it a tool or catalyst to make change,” he said.
Bed violated consumer safety standards, attorney says
The bed that was sold to the family violated numerous U.S. consumer safety standards, Mordarski said.
Congress in 2009 created a law that places the burden on importers and sellers to ensure children’s products for sale in the U.S. meet safety standards, he said. Yet, almost 15 years later, foreign manufacturers still can sell these products in America.
Wayfair never secured the required certificate from Moash to show that the bed complied with child safety standards, Mordarski said.
In addition, Jasyiah’s death should have been reported to the Consumer Products Safety Commission immediately, but it was delayed by more than six months, he said.
“If another child died during that timeframe, that would have been horrible,’’ Mordarski said.
The bed was recalled on Dec. 22, 2021, but Wayfair, Longwood and Moash continued to sell essentially the same recalled bed and ladder design on its website under a different name, Mordarski said.
The family’s goal is to see regulatory changes to prevent this kind of thing from happening again, he said.
“They’re still struggling,” he said. “Mom admits that there’s a part of her that’s gone.”