CPSC Demands Safer Infant Sleep Products

| Jul 15, 2021 | Injuries

Beginning in the middle of 2022, the Consumer Product Safety Commission will much more tightly regulate the inclined sleep products which have been linked to over one hundred infant deaths.

The new standards require all sleep products, even inclined sleepers, to meet the CPSC’s 10 degree rule. Unless infants sleep on flat surfaces away from soft sides, they could roll over and suffocate. These standards don’t apply to car seats, swings, and other non-sleep infant furniture. 

“What we’ve done today fulfills the most sacred of our obligations as Commissioners—to take steps to protect vulnerable consumers, including babies,” remarked CPSC Acting Chairman Robert Adler. “Today’s vote ensures that when a product is intended or marketed for sleep, it will indeed be safe for an infant to sleep.”

The Problem with Inclined Sleepers

Under current law, these infant sleepers are in a legal grey area. They don’t fit the definition of a crib or a bedside sleeper. Product manufacturers are well aware of this gap, which is why they aggressively market a full line of inclined sleepers. 

These items include sleepers which position babies at more than a 10 degree angle, in-bed sleepers, which parents who want to share their bed with their infants typically use, infant sleep hammocks, baby boxes, or cardboard boxes which include a mattress, and small bassinets which have no stands.

These items fall woefully short of American Academy of Pediatrics infant sleep standards. Unless infants sleep alone, on their backs, and on a flat surface, they could suffocate. 

So, inclined sleepers have a design defect. Manufacturers should have accounted for the AAP safety standards when they designed this baby furniture. But their quest for profits overruled safety concerns. Parents bought these sleepers left and right, largely because they assumed they were safe.

Despite these concerns, the CSPC almost did nothing. One Commissioner voted against the rule change and another one only grudgingly approved it. Watchdogs like the CSPC are often dominated by the companies they are supposed to regulate. The Food and Drug Administration is a good example. User fees provide most of the FDA’s funding. So, the FDA hesitates to take action. It understandably doesn’t want to bite the hand that feeds it.

Lexington personal injury attorneys usually pick up the slack in these situations. An injury claim is about more than financial compensation. Unless lawyers file claims, many companies will ignore customer welfare issues.

Manufacturing Defects and Failure to Warn

Some products, like dangerous infant sleepers, were hazardous when they were on the drawing board. Other products begin life fine. But a manufacturing error occurs.

Takata airbags are a good example. No one can deny that airbags save lives. But the design is only effective if the components, especially the chemical propellant, all work together properly. In an accident, airbags must fully inflate in the blink of an eye, but they must not explode. 

In the 1990s, Takata replaced a reliable, and expensive, chemical propellant with ammonium nitrate. This substance is basically the same thing Timothy McVeigh used in the Oklahoma City truck bomb. Ammonium nitrate is highly explosive and unstable, especially when exposed to heat or humidity.

As a result, many Takata airbags, especially in warm Southern states, exploded in collisions. Auto manufacturers eventually recalled tens of millions of vehicles. Observers believe that millions of other vehicles with potentially deadly airbags might still be on the road.

Failure to warn is an especially common claim in dangerous drug cases. Frequently, during clinical trials, drug makers learn about potentially serious or fatal side-effects. But they suppress this information, so it won’t adversely affect drug sales. 

These cases are usually quite complex. Frequently, drug makers amend warning labels after a victim has stopped taking the medication. So, these victims never got the benefit of this warning, and they are susceptible to serious injury.

Liability Issues

In all three cases, manufacturers are usually strictly liable for damages. There’s no need to prove negligence or fault, at least for liability purposes. Instead, victim/plaintiffs must normally only establish cause.

To prove cause, most Lexington personal injury attorneys enlist the help of expert witnesses. These individuals break things down for jurors without talking down to them. Of course, the drug or other company usually has experts of its own who testify that the product is as safe as mother’s milk. Jurors must determine the credibility of these witnesses.

The unforeseeable misuse doctrine is basically the only defense in these cases. Manufacturers aren’t responsible for damages if extreme product misuse caused injury. “Extreme product misuse” usually means something like riding a jetski in a swimming pool.

 

Injury victims are usually entitled to substantial compensation. For a free consultation with an experienced personal injury lawyer in Lexington, contact the Goode Law Office, PLLC. Virtual, home, and hospital visits are available. #goodelawyers