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Couple whose infant died while in foster care files wrongful death lawsuit

SALT LAKE CITY — Their 7-month-old died accidentally while in foster care nearly two years ago, now they are suing the state, demanding $300,000 in damages.

The suit filed last week against the Utah Division of Child and Family Services was filed by Estella Chandler and Michael Jensen, who never had custody of baby Lailla. She was born March 22, 2010, and taken into state custody on April 1.

On Oct. 21, 2010, Lailla was placed in a daybed for a nap by Suzanne ReKow, the Spanish Fork foster parent who had been caring for the infant since birth. According to the police report, she then went outside to do some yard work. When she came back 30-40 minutes later to check on Lailla, she found the infant wedged between the rail and the mattress. She was rushed to the hospital, but died the following day.

"The loving parents of Lailla have suffered and are still suffering from the tragic loss of their baby girl in the fall of 2010," attorney Neil Skouson said.

The Utah State Medical Examiner’s Office ruled the death an accident and cause of death was asphyxia due to wedging.

No criminal charges were filed, but Skouson said the parents want to send a message. "Recognizing that Lailla cannot be brought back to life, (they) are pursuing this court action to ensure Utah DCFS is held accountable," he said.

The government failed to protect Lailla and failed to prevent her death, Skouson said. “The state is liable for its actions in the loss of a precious life,” he said.

Peter Samore