Retailers Recall Death Bassinets Because The Manufacturer Won't

The CPSC says that several retailers have agreed to recall some bassinets with a deadly flaw that has resulted in the strangulation deaths of two infants. The parent company that now owns the manufacturer of the bassinets is refusing to recall the product, claiming that they are not responsible for items that the old company, Simplicity, made before they bought its assets.

The Chicago Tribune, heady with the power of Illinois’ badass toy laws, stormed into some stores and bought two of the deadly bassinets.

In fact, a Tribune reporter on Thursday bought two bassinets at Baby Depot at Burlington Coat Factory on the West Side. Before the reporter left the store, an employee checked the model numbers to see whether those versions contained the deadly flaw. She told the reporter they did not.

But she was wrong. Both had the dangerous design.

Whoops. The Trib says that although the company that bought Simplicity (after it went bankrupt due to a previous crib recall) is denying responsibility for the bassinets, they say their bassinet had a shipping label with the new company’s name on it.

SFCA countered by saying Simplicity products are not its responsibility. “The products in question were manufactured and distributed by Simplicity Inc., a company that is no longer in business,” SFCA said in a written statement. “SFCA purchased Simplicity’s assets at auction after Simplicity Inc. went out of business and has no legal liability for any products distributed previously by Simplicity.”

But one of the deadly bassinets the Tribune purchased Thursday carried a shipping label with the name “SFCA Inc.” This seemed to contradict the written statement SFCA issued Thursday: “The CPSC product alert does not involve any product manufactured and distributed by SFCA Inc.”

Asked to explain this discrepancy, SFCA spokesman Paul Nathanson would not comment directly. Instead, he wrote in an e-mail: “As far as I know none of these model numbers were manufactured and distributed by SFCA.”

To read a full list of the model numbers affected by this recall and to see a list of retailers who are cooperating with the CPSC, click here.

We wondered why the CPSC is still unable to issue involuntary recalls, but were unable to find a straight answer anywhere. Consumer Reports says that the CPSC told them that they were using some of their special new powers to deal with the situtaion — namely the ability to skip a 30 day waiting period before issuing a consumer warning about a dangerous product.

“The CPSC is continuing to seek all options with SFCA to ensure there is recourse for the consumer,” said agency spokeswoman Julie Vallese. “However, this is a very complicated case and there is a question whether SFCA has legal liabilities for products manufactured by Simplicity.”

Consumer Reports suggests that when you try to return the product, that you print out the CPSC’s warning and bring it with you to the store. We think that’s a good idea.

900,000 bassinets targeted [Chicago Tribune]
Six Retailers Agree To Stop Sale and Recall Simplicity Bassinets Due To Strangulation Hazard [CPSC]
Two deaths trigger safety alert for Simplicity bassinet [Consumer Reports]

Comments

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  1. lowercase says:

    Normally if you buy up a company you take over their assets *and* their liabilities. But if they really just bought their physical stuff, maybe it’s different. But if they own rights to things like trademarks, patents, etc, it seems like they’re on the hook.

    Seems like the smart thing for them to do, if they don’t carry the legal liability, is recall them for an exchange only- won’t cost as much as a cash refund but still gets them out of the PR doghouse.

    • cmdrsass says:

      This story is also a useful reminder to new parents to select baby gear carefully and avoid gimmicky, multi-purpose stuff if possible.

      • Wes_Sabi says:

        You’re only supposed to use the bassinet with the flap down in co-sleeper mode, which means it is directly against your own bed. The model I returned to the store yesterday had three snaps as well as the velcro to prevent the side panel from opening accidentally. The side panel also had a hole where you inserted the canopy frame as another measure to prevent accidental opening.

  2. There is a great article at DaddyTypes about Simplicity’s strategy here and the fact that their sale kept “keeping Simplicity’s business operating and its management team intact”

    [daddytypes.com]

    • godlyfrog says:

      @deliciousbaby: Wow… four recalls in two years for Simplicity, and SFCA willingly bought the assets to keep the executive team responsible for this in place? These guys deserve the bad reputation they’re going to get from this.

      Recalls aren’t cheap, but who else except an idiot buys something that’s worthless in order to keep the people who made that thing worthless in their jobs?

  3. IC18 says:

    Baby Depot: How can I help you.

    Me: Just trying to return a bassinet.

    Baby Depot: Anything wrong with it.

    Me: Nope, I was picking out a casket and got this instead.

    I know its bad, but couldnt help it.

  4. karmaghost says:

    I would have thought that when they bought the company, they also “bought” all the responsibility from any mistakes the previous company made.

  5. nicemarmot617 says:

    Is it really possible to buy another company without buying their liabilities? And if it is, why haven’t every company buying a business with asbestos liabilities managed to get out of it?

    • mythago says:

      @nicemarmot617: When a company buys another company’s assets, it gets tricky as to whether or not they bought the liabilities. And yes, asbestos companies are all over trying that tactic.

  6. BrianDaBrain says:

    I wouldn’t think that you can buy a company and get all the assets, but none of the liabilities. That’s like buying a used car and refusing to accept that it’s going to break down… wait, bad metaphor.

    Anyway, regardless of the legalese involved here, you’d think that it’s the human thing to do to just offer a recall. True, it may or may not be SFCA’s responsibility LEGALLY, but MORALLY they need to step up and do something. Dragging the big, corporate heels while babies die is a really good way to find themselves up the same river that Simplicity drowned in.

    • RandomHookup says:

      @BrianDaBrain: Yes, you can sell only the assets. It’s called an “asset sale” and the liabilities can remain with the original entity, which can then be dissolved.

  7. lightaugust says:

    All well and good, you’re not legally liable. How about morally, you pondscum? Way to pass the buck. I’ve got a two month old, and they just assured that nothing with the Simplicity name will be coming my way.

    BUT, as much as I bitch about well, everything when it comes to retailers, I kind of want to hand it to the retailers for doing the right thing with this. I mean, are they legally liable as well?

  8. Zimorodok says:

    I would totally jump on selling out all my assets to myself if it meant my prior liabilities would disappear in the process!

  9. Great company. They’re basically willingly complicit in (potentially) killing babies due to a technicality in contract law.

    May they bankrupt soon.

  10. jaylectricity says:

    It has been pointed out to me that the cover to that Bassinet is on backwards. The opening is supposed to open on the other side where the bar is higher and removable.

    The users of this product might want to check their instruction manual.

    • AustinTXProgrammer says:

      @jaylectricity:
      I am fairly certain I own that model… The cover is not on backwards, but it still shouldn’t be in that position during proper use.

      There is a bar that goes all the way around the top, with one side being removable. That piece has been removed and is not pictured. It should be in a loop at the bottom of the flap that is hanging wide open. The pictured bar ONLY exists on the side that has the flap.

      That flap is to be over the pictured bar. Between the velcro and the weight of the top bar, there should be NO way for a baby to fall through that opening. I look at all my babies toys and furniture to check for hazards.

      Well, our youngest of two children has outgrown (or almost outgrown) the bassinet. Since we have used it twice I won’t expect the retailer to take it back. I would have sold it at a garage sale, but I guess now it has to go into the trash. I would still feel safe using it personally, but I don’t want to risk a purchaser not using it correctly.

  11. SKURRY says:

    I’ve taken all of their products off of my baby registry. Can’t trust them.

  12. TangDrinker says:

    It looks like they did own the patent – and then recently (as in, the past 2 weeks)transferred it to a company named “China United International Company”

    [assignments.uspto.gov]

    Perhaps they are passing the buck?

  13. mariospants says:

    If SFCA is making money from the sales of these products, then they are responsible for the consequences of any recall actions. They should *at the very least* recall any unsold merchandise.

  14. thebluepill says:

    That picture makes me cringe! I have a small daughter and even the thought of this happening to her makes me sick at my stomach. That any company would risk this happening to babys is 100% outragous! It makes me mad as hell!

  15. HogwartsAlum says:

    That gap is HUGE.

    Even if they have no liability legally, if they want to stay in business, they need to get their heads out of their collective asses. If you’re shipping a product that is killing people, you might want to, like, um, stop.

  16. picardia says:

    Not only are they immoral jerks, but they’ve got lousy legal counsel. This kind of flimsy denial, combined with no proactive steps toward getting the killer bassinets off the market, is exactly how a company ends up losing all assets in litigation.

  17. Joedel263 says:

    if you own one of these and it came from Babies R Us, they will take it back no questions.

  18. notsofresh says:

    The fecklessness of the CPSC, as well as consumer rights in general, are another thing that’s at stake in the current political campaign. No endorsements here, but people who are serious about their rights as consumers and the safety of the products they buy and use might want to think about which candidate(s) might be expected to do more or less along those lines.

  19. gc3160thtuk says you got your humor in my sarcasm and you say you got your sarcasm in my humor says:

    That’s nice. The targeted ads on the side of the page offered Tons of Recalled Items at Yahoo Shopping. LOL. That’s effing funny!

  20. Ajh says:

    I had to print out the list of retailers from the CPSC because walmart would not let my cousin take the bassinet back. When she returned to the store to try again she showed them the cpsc notice saying walmart would take it back they were suddenly more than happy to do the STORE CREDIT exchange she’d wanted in the first place.

  21. parrotuya says:

    They are baby-killers, plain and simple. I will not buy or accept their products ever again!