A California mother is suing Etsy after an amber teething necklace purchased on the site killed her son. Danielle Morin’s 18-month-old son died in October 2016 while taking a nap at daycare.
In October 2016, Deacon Morin took a nap while at daycare. During the nap, the necklace strangled Deacon. Workers at the daycare noticed Deacon unresponsive but failed to act promptly to save his life.
Only days after the incident happened, Danielle Morin removed her toddler from life support. Police in California arrested Sagan Marriott and Deborah Jimenez for child cruelty with possible death and injury and involuntary manslaughter.
During the investigation, ABC7 reported that police learned that the daycare center was only licensed for four infants but had six enrolled. Additionally, police determined that the women failed to call 911 when they found Deacon unresponsive. Instead, they called the daycare center’s owner and waited for her to arrive.
Both women pleaded guilty in September 2018. Spokeswoman Kimberly Fuller of the San Bernardino County District Attorney’s Office gave ABC News the details of their sentences.
The court sentenced Jimenez to five days in county jail, three years probation, and ordered her to attend a 52-week child abuse program. Marriott received a sentence of 240 days in county jail, three years probation, and ordered to complete a year-long child abuse treatment program.
After the criminal phase ended, Danielle Morin decided to file a wrongful death lawsuit against Etsy. According to Morin, she received the amber teething necklace as a gift at her baby shower. Her friend purchased the necklace through a Lithuanian company on Etsy.
The vendor advertised the necklace on Etsy as having a break-away clasp to prevent strangulation. However, the necklace Deacon received had a screw-like clasp.
With the lawsuit, Morin hopes to hold Etsy accountable for the products they sell on their platform. According to Etsy’s terms of service, the website is not responsible for the products sold on the site.
Etsy provides a venue for buyers to discover and purchase from sellers around the world. It is important to note that Etsy is not a part of that transaction. By shopping on Etsy, you understand that:
- You are not buying directly from Etsy, but from one of the many talented sellers on Etsy;
- Etsy does not pre-screen sellers and therefore does not guarantee or endorse any items sold on Etsy or any content posted by sellers (such as photographs or language used in listings or shop policies).
The user agreement also says,
“Etsy cannot and does not make any warranties about their quality, safety or even their legality. Any legal claim related to an item you purchase must be brought directly against the sellers of the item. You release Etsy from any claims related to items sold through our Services.”
Through this agreement, Etsy denies customers the right to hold the website liable for any purchases made. Etsy’s defense in the lawsuit is that Morin cannot sue due to their terms of service.
However, Morin received the necklace as a gift and never agreed to the terms of service. Etsy requested the court dismiss the case due to their terms of service. However, the judge denied their request based upon Morin receiving the necklace as a gift.
Morin’s lawyer John Carpenter says Etsy’s user terms are unethical because Etsy is a partner in the sale of the transaction. For every item sold on Etsy, the website takes a commission. Therefore, Etsy is not just a platform hosting the products but a partner in the sale.
Following Deacon’s death, Morin purchased necklaces with breakaway clasps. She gave them to parents of children she noticed that were wearing necklaces with screwed clasps.
“I’ve probably had a handful now that I’ve switched out,” she said.
Both the Food and Drug Administration and the American Academy of Pediatrics urge parents not to use necklaces on infants and toddlers.
Deacon’s death prompted the FDA to issue a warning to parents about the dangers of the necklaces in December 2018.
The FDA is alerting parents, caregivers, and health care providers that necklaces, bracelets, and other jewelry marketed for relieving teething pain should not be used with infants or to provide sensory stimulation to persons with special needs, such as autism or attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder. Such use could lead to strangulation, choking, serious injuries, or death. The safety and effectiveness of teething jewelry to treat teething pain and/or provide sensory stimulation have not been established.
The FDA recommended that parents discontinue the use of the necklaces. Additionally, the agency urged doctors to educate parents on the dangers of using the necklaces.Additionally, the FDA warned parents about the claims made by vendors.
In addition to choking and strangulation concerns, amber teething necklaces contain a substance called succinic acid, which allegedly may be released into an infant’s blood stream in unknown quantities.
Manufacturers of these products often claim succinic acid acts as an anti-inflammatory and relieves teething and joint pain. The FDA has not evaluated these claims for safety or effectiveness and recommends parents not use these products.
The homeopathic community has pushed amber necklaces as an option to relieve pain. The theory used to sell the product is that amber released succinic acid which is a healing property. However, for the amber to release succinic acid, the amber must reach a temperature of 200 degrees Fahrenheit.
The necklaces are trendy in the alternative health and natural parenting world. Despite the anecdotes by parents of claiming the necklaces work, there is no scientific evidence supporting they work.
Deacon’s death highlights the dangers associated with these necklaces. Despite his death, Etsy continues to sell teething necklaces with screw clasps. The website has a responsibility not to sell products that can harm or kill children.
Hopefully, Danielle Morin’s lawsuit is successful. A win by Morin could enforce changes and regulations in the e-commerce world. By Etsy stating they are not responsible is predatory and deceptive. Necklaces made by the international vendors would never make it to the United States without sites like Etsy.
Despite the warning by the FDA and Deacon’s death, Etsy continues to sell the necklaces on their site. Another vendor from Lithuania is selling necklaces with screw clasps. The vendor, the Amber Guru, markets the product as the “perfect gift.”
A search of “amber teething necklaces” brings up dozens of vendors selling the products. If Etsy knows the products are harmful, they should be held responsible for selling them. Hopefully, Danielle Morin wins in court.
*Katie Joy is a columnist and hosts Without A Crystal Ball on Patheos Non-Religious Channel. She writes articles on parenting, disability advocacy, debunking pseudoscience, atheism, and crimes against women and children.
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