CPSC Says Company Refuses To Recall Bassinets That Strangled Two Infants

The CPSC has issued a consumer alert, urging you to stop using Simplicity Inc.’s “close-sleeper/bedside sleeper” bassinets after two infants died after being strangled by the product’s metal bars. The company is refusing to cooperate with the CPSC and will not recall the product.

“The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) is urging parents and caregivers to stop using convertible “close-sleeper/bedside sleeper” bassinets manufactured by Simplicity Inc., of Reading, Pa. CPSC has learned that on August 21, 2008, a 5-month-old girl from Shawnee, Kan. was strangled to death when she became entrapped between the bassinet’s metal bars. This is the second strangulation death CPSC has learned of in the co-sleeper bassinets. On September 29, 2007, a 4-month-old girl from Noel, Mo. became entrapped in the metal bars of the bassinet and died.

CPSC is issuing this safety alert because SFCA Inc., the company which purchased all of Simplicity Inc.’s assets at public auction in April 2008, has refused to cooperate with the government and recall the products. SFCA maintains that it is not responsible for products previously manufactured by Simplicity Inc.

The Simplicity 3-in-1 and 4-in-1 convertible bassinets contain metal bars spaced farther apart than 2 3/8 inches, which is the maximum distance allowed under the federal crib safety standard. The metal bars are covered by an adjustable fabric flap which is attached by velcro. The fabric is folded down when the bassinet is converted into a bed-side co-sleeping position. If the velcro is not properly re-secured when the flap is adjusted, an infant can slip through the opening and become entrapped in the metal bars and suffocate.

Infants Strangled to Death in Simplicity Bassinets: CPSC Urges Consumers To Stop Using Simplicity 3-in-1 and 4-in-1 Convertible “Close-Sleeper” Models [CPSC]

Comments

Edit Your Comment

  1. Is this legal? Don’t they HAVE to recall it?

    • yasth says:

      Compelling a recall is a rather long process (and one that is almost never done). Given the confusion about who actually is responsible it would almost certainly end up in court.

      The CPSC is just doing the proper thing, and asking that people not use the products, rather than waiting however many years the court battle might take.

    • Rachacha says:

      @ Vivelafat: A company is not required to VOLUNTARIALLY recall a product. Most of the recalls that CPSC announces are those that are voluntarially initiated by the company in cooperation with CPSC. CPSC does have the power to FORCE a recall (and to assess fines), but it is a very lengthy process, so this consumer alert is simply to get the word out that the product is dangerous. The “recall” will seek to pbtain restitution for those that have purchased the product and want to have it repaired, or have their money refunded.

      @2719 By voluntarially cooperating with CPSC, you as the manufacturer can help to wordsmith the press release/recall announcement to place as positive a spin on it as possible. read any of the recent press releases, and there is never any blame placed, and there is rarely a statement that says that the product is unsafe. By NOT cooperating, CPSC has total control over the press release, and they must prepare a report that identifies the specific hazards that the product poses and there is a certain threshold that the product must meet before CPSC can conduct a recall. If the product meets this threshold (I would suspect that this one does), then the US Government says in the report that the product is unsafe whic would pretty much be a slam dunk for any liability lawsuit, so while issuing a press release stating that your product MAY present a risk might be bad, having the government produce a report that says your product is unsafe is 1000 times worse.

  2. RonDiaz says:

    I thought the CSPC just got new powers to protect us? And they are FAIL already? Congress FAIL FTW.

    • blackmage439 says:

      @RonDiaz: I agree completely. And I also agree with vivelafat. It is disgusting on the part of SFCA, Inc. to not take responsibility for the products they purchased the rights to. An upstanding company would say, “Yes, we realize these cribs are a death trap, and were manufactured incorrectly and illegally. We’re issuing a recall.” Instead, they’re plugging their ears and shouting, “Sorry about your baby. It’s not my baby who died, so I don’t give a fuck. LA LA LA LA LA!!! I can’t hear your babies’ muffled choking sounds! LA LA LA!”

      Sadly, it seems when companies manufacture their products in China, they pick up more than savings; they pick up some of the less stellar nuances of a Communist regime…

  3. timmus says:

    Mr. Mainway, I’m afraid this is, by no means, a very safe accessory. And I have concerns about this Bag O’ Glass, Bag O’ Nails, Bag O’ Bugs, Bag O’ Vipers, Bag O’ Sulfuric Acid…

  4. no.no.notorious says:

    the way a company thinks is that is costs less money to deal with the lawsuits form infant deaths than it costs to recall a product. unfortunate, but true

    check out the world famous case of the ford-pinto issue:
    [books.google.com]

    skip down to pg. 28 where they put a value on “pain and suffering” and come up with a “total cost per fatality” figure. it’s pathetic, but that’s how they work. Hopefully, business leaders in the future will change things.

    • noi56u says:

      @no.no.notorious: this was the crux of Ed Norton’s job in Fight Club, no?

    • ceriphim says:

      @no.no.notorious: Well, it’s called doing business. Not to defend Corporate America or anything, but they’ve gotta put a price on this stuff somehow.

      This may come as a total shock, but corporations don’t typically do “what’s right” out of the kindness of their hearts. That’s where the Gov’mint steps in with laws or regulations that (hopefully) have our best interest at heart. Or that’s the idea anyway.

  5. SinisterMatt says:

    I hear the sound of the wild lawsuit fairy in the air, especially if people don’t head CPSC and buy it anyway, and their kid dies.

    Cheers!

  6. Nighthawke says:

    It’s an election year, so sit back and watch 200+ congresscritters get behind the CPSC and it’s ruling on this, declaring fiscal and financial war on the corporation. Then watch as the company’s stock plummets because they didn’t cooperate with the CPSC in the first place.

  7. dulcinea47 says:

    Entrapped? What about just plain old trapped?

  8. Gopher bond says:

    Yikes, that looks like a pretty bad design flaw.

  9. zentex says:

    SFCA maintains that it is not responsible for products previously manufactured by Simplicity Inc.

    Orly?

    [www.reuters.com]

    SFCA, Inc. purchased the debt of Simplicity,
    Inc. and then purchased the assets through a Foreclosure sale.

    “We are thrilled to complete the purchase of the assets of
    Simplicity, Inc. We believe that SFCA, Inc. can use these assets to
    build a new company that will be a leader in the baby furniture
    industry,”

    Seems to me that they WOULD be responsible after purchasing both debt and assets. But something is telling me they purchased how they did so they would minimize their liability after Simplicity was folded.

    given the fact they SFCA is gonna use Simplicity’s assets to make more baby items…this is disgusting.

    I hope lawyers sue them out of existence! (one of the few times i’ll advocate lawyers winning)

  10. Gopher bond says:

    Does that kid have a baseball for a head?

  11. howie_in_az says:

    I hope everyone emails the CEOs at SFCA and informs them that their products will not be purchased.

    • boxjockey68 says:

      @howie_in_az: Yes definately, I have already printed out my letter and put a stamp on it, but does anyone know what else they sell, I would hate to send even one single penny their or their partners way, ya know?

  12. wgrune says:

    I am confused as to how a child would get into the situation shown in the picture…

  13. A responsible parent would measure the item and ensure its safe. If you buy something and just assume its ok then I worry about you. Never assume that what you purchase is perfect.

    Maybe I am cynical, I have a friend that’s an attorney that works with these types of cases and he has two warehouses full of faulty crap. A lot of cheap propane barbecues and plastic surge suppressors.

    Ignorance does not mean you are not culpable for your actions.

    But I do think the least the company should do is build a guard that closes that gap and make that available for free. What could manufacture costs of that be in China?

    And shouldn’t we look at the government and the regulators for not catching this a long time ago? We fail more than twitter.

    • petitcerise says:

      @The_Red_Monkey: Are you a parent? It doesn’t sound like you are. You really don’t have time to sit and measure things that you buy when you are dealing with a newborn and little sleep. You really assume that these companies that manufacture things specifically for babies have done their homework. I think that the two parents that lost their babies never imagined that a co-sleeper bassinet would be responsible for their baby. I can imagine how horrible it must feel to walk away from your baby for a few minutes or to fall asleep and wake up to find your baby strangled.

    • ugly says:

      @The_Red_Monkey: Go ask your parents how much of your crap they measured when you were a baby.

      I have an ongoing argument with some co-workers about this kind of thing (no, I’m not alone) and basically I think everyone agrees that while companies can’t always foresee out of use kind of dangers, those that result from regular use (like a baby slipping out under a bar) should absolutely be foreseen. Barring predicting and fixing the issue, a recall seems like the bare minimum they should be responsible for.

      I wonder if in their (cost of recall) <= (cost per death) * (number of deaths) calculation there’s any thought as to the cost per death escalating after they’re aware of the issue. I can imagine that if they ARE found liable here that a jury discussing damages would not look too well on a company that simply ignored a recall direction.

  14. dieselman8 says:

    What happened here was SFCA only bought the assets and debts of Simplicity, leaving the liability with Simplicity, which still exists.

    This is a common practice and otherwise just another form of a non-statutory merger. It will probably be rather difficult pinning SFCA for liability.

  15. jscott73 says:

    Looks like Simplicity takes safety “very seriously”. On their website, simplicityforchildren.com, under “safety info” we get:

    “Safety is critical. At Simplicity for Children we take it very seriously”

    The press release and their website sure use the word safety a lot. Too bad their actions don’t back up their words.

    I have two children and will be sure to avoid their products and inform other parents to do the same.

  16. megsuma says:

    And neat, my Kotaku login works here too :]

    I heard about this on NPR, and, as stated, the company claims no responsibility for bassinets manufactured before they bought Simplicity. While they should be able to be held accountable, probably via legal action, they are in no way obligated to make a recall – but they should. They should also consider what could happen if they don’t at least compensate people who bought these older models. NPR noted as well yesterday that the more recent models negate this issue because of permanently attached fabric on the sides or something.

    Still, by not really doing anything, they definitely showcase the blindness of Verizon and the ineptness present in many a BofA rep.

  17. wgrune says:

    Ok, I understand how that could happen now. Thanks folks.

  18. 2719 says:

    If they do a recall isn’t that in a way accepting responsibility for those deaths? If they clearly state they are not responsible for products manufactured prior to purchase I don’t think they should be held responsible.

    • megsuma says:

      @2719: IANAL, but I think you take on certain responsibilities when you take over another company. They should have a PR department capable of stating that “While we are not responsible for the deaths caused by products manufactured by Simplicity, we will gladly refund or recall defective bassinets in hope of avoiding further fatalities.” They can’t necessarily ignore it, but they can’t necessarily claim responsibility either without taking the proper steps to be understood in this situation instead of being demonized.

    • mythago says:

      @2719: They were happy to make money selling the product. You think it’s OK for them to get the benefit but not have to accept any problems from the product?

      Whether or not an asset purchase results in liability is not a simple legal question. However, I’d love to be the attorney who gets to ask the CEO “So you were aware that at least two children had strangled to death from these bassinets, but you still refused to recall them?”

      A recall doesn’t automagically create liability. “No, we don’t think it’s our fault, but we recalled them anyway because we didn’t want any children to die”–well, as an attorney on the other side, that’s NOT an answer that helps my case.

  19. mzhartz says:

    Anyone here own one of those? That looks like something I probably wouldn’t buy in the first place. Taking down a velcro flap is supposed to do what?

  20. dotorg greg says:

    the private equity firm which bought Simplicity structured the deal with the company’s lenders, National City, so that they first bought the senior debt [probably the line of credit used to operate the business], THEN Simplicity technically declared bankruptcy, held an auction, and sold off just the assets–to the same firm. The management who made and sold these pieces of shit stayed in place. It’s like they just rebooted the company to wipe out any technical liability for their millions of previously sold dangerous products [this is their fourth crib recall since 2005.]

    AND they get James Baker and a bunch of Republican lobbyists and cronies on their board now, so it’s win win.

  21. Coles_Law says:

    Looks like we have a front runner for Worst Company 2009. If they’re making money from this bassinet, they should take responsibility as well.

  22. UniComp says:

    They should at least put a warning sticker on the box, “May Kill/Snuggle your baby.”

  23. mtalman says:

    There’s something wrong here. Here are the Google Ads that are delivered with this article:

    Baby Bedside Crib
    Find Baby Bedside Crib at Target.
    Shop and Save at Target.com.
    http://www.Target.com

    Recall
    Infant & Child Product Recalls -
    Learn Which Products Made The List
    http://www.Parents.com

    Recalls
    Find Out The Brands Being Recalled
    With The Free News Toolbar
    News.alottoolbars.com

    Simplicity Baby Furniture
    Shop The Simplicity Baby Store Now
    At Walmart.com. Always Low Prices!
    WalMart.com

    Recall
    Huge selection of
    Recall items.
    Yahoo.com

    Does it bother anyone that 3 out of 5 items are for recall items for sale?

  24. failurate says:

    Reminds me of a bathroom at a McDonalds’ on I-57. Someone had scratched off the “C” on a Baby Changing Station sign.

  25. Pro-Pain says:

    I wouldn’t recall my product just because a couple of dumb babies, or dumb baby parents let them choke. It’s always somebody else’s fault. Enough is enough. Lazy and litigeous people for the loss.

  26. They should at least use that pic up there for the picture on the box that it comes in, that way consumers can make an informed decision.

  27. Boogerhead says:

    A few issues come to my mind. It’s great that the CPSC caught this and brought so much attention to bear; it seems they’ve learned from the Chicago Tribune stories. It’s sad it took two deaths to do this. It makes me question whether the CPSC should have had enough staff to measure widely sold baby products even before a single child was injured. Would it really take so much employee time to send a guy to Wal-mart and Babies R Us once a month with a measuring tape?

    Second, that crib bar width standard has been around for years, and the (old) Simplicity must have known about it. That’s pure incompetence, and will surely add to the inevitable lawsuits.

    Third, for the (new) Simplicity: I’m sure consumers will take into account their refusal to recall a defective product created by a community from which they’d bought both assets and liabilities. I wonder if the accountants took into account the presumed destruction of the company’s reputation.

    Fourth, while our Simplicity high chair has never tried to kill my little girl, it’s proven to be badly designed, impossible to clean and highly impractical. I hate that the death of two children happened, but it gives me another reason to steer prospective parents away from the company’s products.

    • Rachacha says:

      @Boogerhead: Should the CPSC have enough staff to periodically inspect products at the retail stores…ideally, but the sad fact is that they did not have the funding to maintain such a staff. Hopefully the new legislation [www.cpsc.gov] that mandates 3rd party certification of certain toys and cribs will significantly reduce injuries and deaths.

      Fortunately several retailers have agreed to recall (and refund the money) for those who have purchased the product. Hopefully they will pressure Simplicity to recall the product as well.

      Looks like CPSC found the first company that wants to test out its new powers!

  28. SharkD says:

    Well, the easy answer is that my wife and I will remove any Simplicity and/or SFCA-related products from our baby’s registry (if there are any on it) and we’ll be sure to counsel our friends (who are all right around the age to have a child, if they don’t alread) to avoid any and all products from Simplicity and SFCA (and whoever buys them when they go under).

    If everyone tells 3-4 expectant parents to avoid Simplicity and SFCA (and whoever buys them out), they’ll quickly face the corporate equivalent of leprosy.