Baby Product Recalls
The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) Chairman Hal Stratton told the House Commerce Subcommittee on Consumer Protection in October that the commission continues to enforce standards, announce recalls and prevent deaths and injuries from occurring. The Consumers Union, the organization that publishes Consumer Reports, had announced its investigators had no problem buying dozens of products violating American safety standards at U.S. stores, attributing it in part to relaxed enforcement by the CPSC. Stratton argued the number of baby recalls is up in the most recent fiscal year, increasing from 2003 to 2004 from 279 to 356.
As a result of baby recalls, despite the increase in the number of toys and children products on the market, Stratton says deaths and injuries has not risen in recent years. Using crib safety as an example of CPSC protection, after developing mandatory and voluntary standards for covering side height, slat spacing, mattress fit, hazardous cut-outs, and corner posts, the commission says infant crib deaths have significantly declined.
Still, every year baby recalls involve potentially deadly defects and consumers are often surprised at learning the number of recalls that are announced for consumer products every year. Though the CPSC is in charge of protecting consumer safety for over 15,000 different types of consumer products, babies especially have an increased vulnerability to injuries, both fatal and nonfatal. When the American Academy of Pediatrics recommended banning the manufacture and sale of mobile infant walkers, baby recalls were never issued. More than half of all babies between five and 15 months use walkers, despite more than 14,000 babies being sent to the hospital emergency room in 1997.
Initially, the CPSC only addressed injuries to babies’ hands from pinching and did nothing to address the issues of falls, with the majority of severe injuries have occurred when the walker goes down the stairs. About a quarter of all reported injuries with walkers involved head injuries, including fractures, yet baby recalls for walkers were never made. Instead, walkers must meet a standard, adopted in July 1997 of having one of two features. The CPSC announced an 84 percent reduction in injuries of children in baby walkers has occurred between 2001 to 2003, but there were still many years babies continued to suffer serious injuries because of them.
Even though baby recalls may have increased and the CPSC argues crib-related injuries and baby walker injuries have declined, there are still a high number of products that have designs that will not prevent all injuries. A federal court ruled on November 1, 2004 unanimously that companies failing to abide by government reporting rules could be held liable for civil penalties. The case ruling was unprecedented since no court has ever addressed CPSC’s reporting requirements, Stratton said. The federal court backed product reporting rules will hopefully allow quicker and more efficient baby recalls to be announced when necessary so that potential injury and death risks are reduced.
The ruling by the U.S. Court of Appeal for the Ninth Circuit in San Diego held a company commits a separate offense for every potentially dangerous unit it fails to report. Even though the ruling was a positive step in protecting the safety of American consumers, parents should still exercise caution when purchasing or being given baby products, especially secondhand, since baby recalls cannot always eliminate all affected models from households and secondhand shops.
Defective Baby Seats
Unfortunately, many baby seats are installed incorrectly, and/or children are placed incorrectly into the seats. When this occurs, parents are placing their infants at risk for serious injury. The following guidelines are meant for parents and childcare providers to ensure the proper installation, safety, and use of their car seats.
- Never place a child or infant into a car seat in the front passenger seat of a car equipped with a passenger-side airbag. In the event of an accident and the airbag is deployed, the result can be serious injury or death for the infant.
- Always place the baby seat in the back seat of a vehicle. A rear-facing baby seat should never be placed where it can come in contact with an airbag.
- Secure the car seat tightly, allowing as little movement as possible at the base of the car seat.
- Check to make sure that an infant’s harness straps are running over the child’s shoulders. They should sit flat along the infant’s chest.
- The harness clip should lie flat at armpit level.
- You should not be able to fit more than a finger between the harness strap and the infant’s shoulders.
- Make sure that your infant is using the most appropriate type of car seat according to their age and weight.
- For infants up to 1 year and 20 pounds, use a rear-facing seat.
- For infants one year of age and up to 30-40 pounds, use a forward-facing seat.
- For infants weighing more than 30-40 pounds, use a booster seat.
Lawsuits filed against baby products
Lawsuits filed against baby product manufacturers can be brought by families of victims who have suffered injuries as a result of defective baby products. There are thousands of baby products on the market including car seats, cribs, baby furniture, children’s toys, bedding, strollers, and much more. There are several ways that defective baby products can cause harm to a young child. Young children are at a greater risk for suffering injuries associated with products than adults, as young children lack both cautions in product safety and the ability to protect themselves from or prevent product injuries.
It is unlawful to manufacture, produce, sell or refurbish any baby product that is unsafe for infant use. Products are unsafe if they have the potential to cause harm or injury in the course of their intended use. Injuries can include choking, suffocation, entrapment, drowning, contact with sharp edges or materials, falls, and many other hazards.
Government statistics show that over 90,000 babies are injured every year as a result of defective baby products. Nursery products are ranked the ninth most dangerous and toys are ranked fifteenth most dangerous. Cribs and car seat injuries are the most common sources of lawsuits filed against baby product manufacturers.
Cribs and car seats are the baby products most regulated by the federal government for safety. Three of every four car seats that have been produced have been recalled after being sold on the market. Crib injuries affect more than 10,000 infants and are responsible for at least fifty deaths every year. Consumers assume that products available on the market have been tested for safety and adequately regulated; however, baby products still have the potential to cause serious infant injuries.
All baby products carry warning labels that caution users of potential risks, though these are often concealed in labeling and do not preclude a child from sustaining serious injuries from baby products. Warning labels exist to disclose dangers associated with a product’s use and to protect manufacturers from lawsuits filed against baby products, but they do not necessarily protect a child from injuries.
There are a number of official authorities that regulate or provide information regarding the safety of baby products. The Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) is responsible for regulating more than 15,000 products in an effort to protect the public from unreasonably dangerous products. This organization issues warnings and recalls on unsafe products. This agency also pursues lawsuits filed against baby product manufacturers when these companies fail to report consumer complaints about the safety of their products or provide an unreasonably dangerous product.
Lawsuits filed against baby product manufacturers are available for victims of product injuries where the product is found to be unreasonably dangerous for its intended use. If your child has suffered from injuries sustained as a result of a defective baby product, you have the legal right to seek compensation through a lawsuit filed against baby products manufacturers, distributors, or sellers.