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Simplicity Bassinet Recall Sparks Lawsuit

Oct 31, 2008 | Parker Waichman LLP The distributor of recalled Simplicity bassinets has been named a defendant in a lawsuit filed by the Illinois Attorney General.  The lawsuit alleges that SFCA Inc, which acquired Simplicity Inc. last year, ignored a nationwide recall of Simplicity bassinets that had suffocated two infants.

In August, dozens of retailers recalled the defective Simplicity bassinets.  The massive recall affected nearly 900,000 bassinets and was prompted by the death of a six-month-old girl from Shawnee, Kansas who was strangled on August 21 when she became trapped between the bassinet’s metal bars.  In 2007, a four-month-old baby girl from Noel, Missouri, became trapped in the bassinet’s metal bars and died. It was determined that metal bars on the  Simplicity bassinets were spaced farther apart than federal standards allow.

When the Missouri baby died last fall, Simplicity was already in dire financial straits, owing to another massive crib recall it had issued earlier in the summer.  With creditors circling, Simplicity sold its assets at auction two months later to SCFA, an affiliate of Blackstreet Capital, a Bethesda, Maryland private-equity fund with $88 million dollars under management.  Under the deal, SFCA bought the right to sell products under the Simplicity brand but did not take legal responsibility for products made under its previous owners.  Because of that legal loophole, the  Consumer Products Safety Commission (CPSC) had to ask retailers to recall the Simplicity bassinets.

In announcing her lawsuit, Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan criticized both SFCA and the CPSC for the way the Simplicity bassinet recall was handled.  "Our investigation revealed that SFCA continued to distribute recalled products that posed serious risks to children," Madigan said in a statement. "I will not allow this company to wash its hands of responsibility to Illinois families."

Madigan wants SFCA to implement a recall that  it would publicize in newspapers across Illinois.  The lawsuits also seeks a refund for retailers who were forced to take on the costs of the Simplicity bassinet recall.

Madigan also said the CPSC should take tougher action when crib or bassinet recalls are necessary.  She criticized the commission's policy of allowing crib manufacturers to respond to recalls by issuing repair kits. She also said the commission's recall notices are unnecessarily complicated and confusing for consumers.

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