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Ongoing Sale of Defective Play Yards Results in $400k Settlement

Mar 18, 2013 - Birmingham, Personal Injury by

A company that manufacturers traveling play yards for infants and toddlers has agreed to pay a hefty civil fine in order to resolve allegations that it failed to report defective child products or remove them from the market.
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Our Birmingham personal injury lawyers understand that the defect resulted in hundreds of reports of the product collapsing on infants and young children. In all, there are about 350 reports of collapsed play yards between January of 2000 and July of 2009. Of those, nearly two dozen resulted in injuries. Those included scrapes, bruises, bumps – and at least one concussion.

When you’re talking about a child that young, even seemingly minor falls or impacts to the head have the potential to do serious and lifelong damage.

Play yards in general have come under intense scrutiny in recent years from government regulators, namely the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, which began drafting mandatory standards for them in 2011 amid numerous reports of injuries and deaths.

Since November 2/?p=1007, play yards have been associated with some 2,000 non-fatal incidents and 50 deaths. The majority of the children who died were 1 year-old and younger.

While some of those incidents involved young children who climbed out of the pen and into a nearby pool, where they subsequently drowned, a number of others involved:

  • Entrapment from a collapsed device;
  • Strangulation from a looped strap hanging in the device;
  • Entrapment between the unfolded mattress pad and the floor liner.

Nine out of 10 of the injury-inducing incidents involve the collapse of the side rail. That can cause the child to get their neck stuck in the rail or in children being able to escape and subsequently suffering harm.

In this case, the side rail of the devices didn’t properly latch, meaning they could unlatch without warning when a child pushed against it. The firm had hired an outside expert in mid-2005 to look at the problem. After learning what the defect was, the company, Kolcraft, included warning labels and instruction sheets with all new devices.

Yet, it failed to report the defect to the CPSC – as required by federal law – until early 2009. The law requires that companies – be they manufacturers or retailers or distributors – must notify the government within 24 hours when they have learned that a product contains some type of defect that could result in a substantial hazard that could result in injury or death.

By the time Kolcraft told the government about the problems with their products, they were in the process of initiating a recall of some 1 million units.

They had continued to sell the product for another four years after learning about the problem, without ever warning the government or consumers about the dangers it posed to small children.

In addition to the fine, the firm has been ordered to boost its internal procedures and policies to ensure a faster reporting of an issue should another arise.

Additional Resources:

Kolcraft settles defective play yard charges, March 12, 2013, By James Limbach, Consumer Affairs

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