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CPSC Investigated Recalled Cribs in 2005. Yet Despite Baby's Death, Did Nothing to Warn Parents.

Sep 24, 2007 | Parker Waichman LLP

A defective Simplicity crib was blamed for the death of a 9-month-old infant more than two years ago, but even though the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) investigated that child’s death, it issued no recall.   Instead, the CPSC waited until last Friday to recall more than 1 million hazardous Simplicity and Graco cribs.   By then, the cribs had killed two more children. But even those deaths might not have been enough to prompt the CPSC to take action.  Instead, the CPSC only issued the crib recall after learning that a newspaper was about to print a story exposing  it’s failure to take action against the faulty cribs after the first tragic death.

On Friday, the CPSC issued a recall for 1.2 million Simplicity and Graco cribs because a flaw in the design of the cribs allowed parents to install the drop rail upside down.  When this happened, the drop rail could separate from the crib, creating a gap into which a child could fall and suffocate.   The recall was so urgent that in issuing it, the CPSC warned parents not to allow their child to sleep in the defective cribs “for one more night” until they obtained and installed a repair kit.

But the CPSC did not take such urgent action more than two years ago when it was first informed of the faulty cribs’ potential problems.  According the Chicago Tribune, the CPSC first encountered the cribs when it investigated the death of little Liam Johns in April 2005.   Liam’s mother had found him hanging in a gap between his crib’s drop rail and mattress, where he had suffocated.  During the investigation, the CPSC inspector had never even bothered to inspect the crib where Liam had died.  Even worse, when the final report on the baby’s death was released by the CPSC, it failed to note the crib’s manufacturer and model.  The CPSC did not issue a recall for the Simplicity and Graco cribs at that time.   

As a result, in the years after Liam’s death, millions of parents purchased the Simplicity and Graco cribs, unaware of the dangers they held.  Following Liam’s death, two more children died when they fell into the gap created by the faulty drop bar.  And in the 2 ½ years since its initial investigation, the CPSC received at least 55 other reports of incidents involving the recalled Simplicity and Graco cribs.

The CPSC finally did issue a recall for the dangerous cribs late last week, but that action came only after it had learned that the Chicago Tribune was investigating the deaths of Liam and the two other children.  According to the reporter working on the Tribune investigation, the CPSC finally inspected one of the cribs after he had called the agency seeking comments for his story.   Three days later, the CPSC issued the crib recall.  

Now parents and caregivers have been warned that the defective Simplicity and Graco cribs could become a death trap, and fortunately they can take action to prevent even more tragic deaths.   But had the CPSC conducted an adequate investigation of the recalled cribs following little Liam’s death, two more fatalities could have been avoided. Undoubtedly, the CPSC will have to answer some tough questions about its inadequate 2005 probe into the deadly Simplicity and Graco cribs.  


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