Did The Chicago Tribune Embarrass The CPSC Into Recalling A Million Cribs?

When it comes to consumer reporting about hazardous children’s products, the Chicago Tribune might be the most badass newspaper around. After shaming Walmart, Target, and Kohl’s by finding (illegal) recalled toys on their shelves, the Tribune went after Simplicity cribs and a massive recall followed:

Photographs taken of Liam Johns’ crib by the Sacramento County Coroner’s Office clearly show where it came apart.

The drop rail had detached from its plastic track, creating a gap through which the 9-month-old boy slipped feet-first. Instead of falling to the floor, Liam got his head stuck between the rail and the mattress. Trapped in a hanging position, the boy asphyxiated.

Liam’s April 2005 death prompted an investigation by a federal watchdog agency and a family lawsuit against the crib’s manufacturer, Simplicity Inc.

But the company and the Consumer Product Safety Commission didn’t warn parents across the country about the potentially fatal flaw in Simplicity cribs–not after Liam suffocated, not after more complaints about the crib rails and not after two more infants died.

Once the Tribune began questioning the company and the agency this month, a massive recall of Simplicity cribs followed.

The CPSC is denying that the reporter’s questioning had anything to do with its decision to recall the cribs, but after 55 complaints, seven infants trapped and three deaths over several years… why did the CPSC suddenly decide to recall the cribs? According to Chicago Tribune reporter Maurice Possley, the CPSC didn’t even pick up the crib from the storage locker where it was being held by the familiy’s lawyer until the Tribune informed them of their intention to publish an investigative report. From ABC News:

“The CPSC didn’t even pick up the crib until after I told them about it,” said Tribune reporter Maurice Possley. “A kid died in April of ’05, and a kid dies in November of 2006, and you’re the parents of a kid who dies in February of ’07, and you know that something could have been done about it? Boy, I’d be really, really angry.”

Missteps delayed recall of deadly cribs [Chicago Tribune]
Crib Recall Came Years After Infant Deaths [ABC News]
Did an Investigative Reporter Awaken the CPSC? [The Pump Handle]


Edit Your Comment

  1. mconfoy says:

    Hey, just like Brownie at FEMA and Chartoff at DHS, they are doing a heck of a job. You liberals want all this expensive regulations. The cost of that is much greater than a few lives are worth, come on.

  2. rbb says:

    So, what’s next? Mandatory classes to in assembling flat pack furniture? Can’t go into Ikea without a certificate of proof that you completed the class?

  3. kimsama says:

    …the CPSC blamed a flawed crib design and hardware that allowed parents to install the drop rails upside down, which can cause the rail to detach from the frame.

    Pretty much all flat-pack furniture is like that — the instructions and parts are such that it’s easy to mess up. It might be a better idea for the CPSC to mandate better instructions/different hardware.

    I know my husband (who’s pretty bright) did a real number on our bathroom storage, which now has half of its shelves upside down. He didn’t realize until he installed it, and we didn’t really care enough to take the whole damn thing apart. I guess at least it’s not killing any babies. (I’ll make sure not to have the same “oh, the hell with it” attitude when assembling a crib).

  4. harshmellow says:

    Nice job Maurice Possley and the Chicago Tribune for doing that thing called “journalism.” Maybe some other newspapers will give it a try. More reporters could “investigate” and “report,” and possibly regain some respect that has been lost in the last few years of asleep-at-the-wheel stenography.

  5. tschepsit says:

    I’m surprised that nobody mentioned the instructions for assembling the crib directed the assembler to install the railing upside-down. If assembled per the manual, the product is dangerous. For those people who don’t typically read the manual and assemble it based on what looks right, they’re probably in less danger. Go figure.