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Family Of Doctor Strangled Using Massager Sues Maker

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Dr. Michelle Ferrari-Gegerson

FT. LAUDERDALE (CBS4) – The widower of a South Florida doctor who BSO investigators say was accidentally strangled by an electronic neck massager is suing the machine’s providers.

An investigation found that 37-year-old Michelle Ferrari-Gegerson’s leather necklace became ensnarled in a ShoulderFlex Deep Kneading Shiatsu massager on Christmas Eve. BSO revealed it’s findings this week, but before they were made public, the  lawsuit was filed Tuesday in Miami-Dade on behalf of the victim’s family.

One claim in the suit says the device’s providers failed to install a mechanism that would’ve forced the machine to stop automatically when resistance is placed on the rotating knobs.

The Food and Drug Administration is recommending that people who own the personal massager linked to the death  stop using the machines immediately and dispose of them.

According to a safety notice published on the FDA Website, the ShoulderFlex Massager distributed by Oregon based King International consists of a massage unit that sits beneath the neck, a handheld controller, a memory foam pillow and a machine-washable sleeve.

The device also contains a rotating bar with removable massage “fingers”.

The Consumer Product Safety Commission reports that the death and a near-strangulation associated with the ShoulderFlex Massager occurred when a necklace or piece of clothing became caught in the ‘massage fingers’ and rotating bar.

The FDA said King International has distributed 11,934 massagers since Oct. 18, 2003.

According to the Broward Sheriff’s Office report on the death of 37-year old Dr.Ferrari-Gegerson, they received a frantic call from her husband Kenneth Gegerson just after 9 p.m. on December 24th, 2010,  The report said when Coral Springs Fire Rescue personal arrived they found Ferrari-Gegerson “unresponsive and subsequently pronounced her deceased at approximately 9:11 p.m.”

“According to Deputy (Brian) Behan that upon entering the residence he observed the Shoulder Flex Deep Kneading Shiatsu massage machine still operating in the “on” position,” the report stated. “Additionally, Deputy Behan indicated that Kenneth Gegerson state the Michelle Gegerson was getting ready for work and wrapping presents and that she routinely used the machine to massage her neck. Kenneth Gegerson also stated that he had tried to revive her and that the necklace had been entangled in the machine.”

“The cause of death was mechanical asphyxiation,” said BSO spokesman Jim Leljedal. “Everything points to this being an accidental death. It appears that this woman laid down after wrapping some Christmas gifts to massage her neck with this machine. She was wearing a leather choker, contrary to the warning and the machine grabbed this choker and very quickly compressed the carotid artery and caused her to pass out.”

The FDA said they are aware of two other reports of incidents involving clothing and hair becoming caught in the device.

If it’s safety report, the FDA strongly recommend that people who have the machines should dispose of the “components separately so that the massager cannot be reassembled and used.”

No recall has been issued for the massager, but The FDA says it is currently evaluating King International’s plan to recall the ShoulderFlex Massager.

CBS4 placed a call to King International for comment but the call was not returned

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