Our top Chicago child injury attorneys have previously written about the dangers of drop-side cribs – and about our government and regulators’ inexcusable failure to act to eliminate this danger. Now, we are pleased to report that our efforts, and those of the many others who have voiced their support of stricter crib safety rules, have finally paid off.
In an announcement issues last Friday, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) informed the public of its new crib safety rules. The vote at the CPSC in favor of the new rules was unanimous.
The new rules, called “mandatory standards,” will apply to both traditional full-size cribs and smaller, non-full-size baby cribs. The standards contain four major provisions. First, they ban any further manufacture or sale of dangerous, often deadly drop-side cribs. Second, the require stronger mattress supports, also an issue that has arisen in recent recalls and led to serious injury for infants and toddlers. Third, the new standards require crib manufacturers to make all crib hardware more durable, and thus less dangerous. Fourth and finally, the new standards require more rigorous and thorough safety testing for cribs sold in the United States.
The Chicago product liability lawyers of Passen & Powell applaud the CPSC’s new crib safety standards, which were far too long in coming. In point of fact, in the past three years, the CPSC has recalled more than 11 million cribs for dangerous defects that can and have injured and killed infants and toddlers.
In particular, so called drop-side cribs either caused or “were associated with” (a CPSC term meaning “caused, but we can’t quite prove it and don’t want to anger the powerful manufacturer”) at least 32 infant deaths in the past decade. These helpless infants died when the “drop side” rail of the crib either came off its runners or partially detached, and the infant became trapped in the resulting gap, resulting in suffocation or strangulation. And these were just the deaths from drop-side cribs: other infants have died from other crib defects, including defectively designed or manufactured crib hardware.
If only these important safety rules could be immediately effective. Instead, the new standards become effective June 2011. As of that date, they become applicable to all cribs manufactured, sold, or leased in the United States. Then, two years after the standards are published, they will be applicable to cribs not newly purchased, but found in any child care facility (for example, day care centers, Head Start centers, and homes that offer paid childcare), as well as “places of public accommodation,” such as hotels and motels.
We are more than pleased to see the new rules enacted, and will be even happier to see them take effect. But our Chicago product liability lawyers still remain skeptical of the motives and effectiveness of the CPSC. And for good reason. Even putting aside the fact that these dangerous cribs have been causing infant injuries and death for over a decade without CPSC action, there is also the manner of that action to consider. In fact, the CPSC merely adopted, with only slight technical modifications, a set of “voluntary” standards promulgated by the crib industry itself, via the the American Society for Testing and Materials.
Moreover, the CPSC did not ever independently come to a decision to take this necessary action to protect our nation’s infants. Instead, the agency waited to act until forced to do so by legislation – the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act, passed by Congress in 2008, mandated that the CPSC update crib standards. Prior to the passage of the Act, the CPSC had not updated the applicable crib standards in almost three decades.
Although the problem may now have been corrected, our Chicago injury attorneys are appalled that this problem was allowed to fester for so long. In short, although CPSC Chairman Inez Tenenbaum calls the new standards, “an accomplishment achieved through the incredible work ethic and dedication to the safety of children demonstrated by CPSC staff, my fellow Commissioners and our stakeholders involved in the voluntary standards process,” we cannot help but wonder why an agency so dedicated to safety took decades to act.
For a free consultation with an experienced Chicago personal injury lawyer at Passen & Powell, call us at (312) 527-4500.