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Maclaren Knew About Dangerous Strollers For 5 Years, Took No Action

Nov 13, 2009 | Parker Waichman LLP This week we’ve been following the massive recall of Maclaren strollers that was finally made official following reports of children’s fingertips being amputated. Now, it seems, that information is emerging that Maclaren knew—for an unbelievable five years—that the strollers could sever children’s fingers but did nothing until forced to by the government, the New York Post has reported.

Maclaren USA, Inc., of South Norwalk, Connecticut issued a recall of about one million Maclaren Strollers because the stroller’s hinge mechanism poses a fingertip amputation and laceration hazard to the child when the consumer is unfolding/opening the stroller. To date, Maclaren has received 15 reports of children placing their finger in the stroller’s hinge mechanism, resulting in 12 reports of fingertip amputations in the United States.

The recall includes every Maclaren stroller sold in the past decade, since 1999.

Although Maclaren acknowledged that the fingers of children were amputated as a result of the stroller’s hinges, it never advised the U.S. Consumer Products Safety Commission (CPSC) at the time it was first made aware that a "potential danger," existed, said the Post. The Post, citing sources, noted that Maclaren, which is based out of Great Britain, could face, at least, upwards of $1 million in fines. Companies are federally mandated to "report to CPSC immediately on learning of a problem with a product that makes it a substantial hazard or poses a potential hazard," agency spokesman Scott Wolfson said, quoted the Post.

In this case, Maclaren was allegedly aware that its stroller hinges could sever fingers since as far back as July 12, 2004, said the Post, when a 23-month-old Connecticut child’s right pinky was lopped off by the defective Maclaren stroller hinge, said the Post, citing court papers. The accident happened when Jane DeWinter, the child’s mother, was shopping at a Right Start store near Greenwich and was looking at a Maclaren Triumph stroller, said the Post. DeWinter was testing the mechanism when her son, Carlos, put his finger on the defective hinge and experienced a "traumatic amputation," according to court papers. The pinky was not able to be reattached, although two surgeries were attempted, said the Post.

Meanwhile, both Maclaren and Right Start blame the mother’s "own negligence," according to the lawsuit, said the Post. Regardless, Robert Moro, an engineer and former CPSC compliance officer disagreed, based on his 2007 testimony in which he stated that “this stroller contains a substantial design defect when compared to other types of designs of strollers intended to be used by children," quoted the Post. Further, the design and manufacturing of the stroller—which was made in China—is in violation of federal guidelines to prevent horrific “scissoring effect,” according to Moro, said the Post. "Maclaren had a legal obligation to report this," Moro told The Post. "It's extremely unfortunate a lot of little kids had to get their fingers amputated." Maclaren and the DeWinters settled for an undisclosed sum, said the Post.

Of note, defective imports from China have been making headlines in recent years; this massive stroller recall is another of many such issues on which we have been writing. In 2008, nearly 80 percent of all product recalls in the United States involved imports from China. Products such as dog food, baby formula, toys with lead paint, and even pharmaceuticals like heparin have been found to have been made with toxic materials and other counterfeit ingredients that have long been putting United States consumers at significant risk. Also making news is the ongoing Chinese drywall disaster involving imports from that country.

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