Defective Child & Infant Products
Product Liability Attorney for Children's Products
When parents buy children's products, including bassinets, car seats, cribs and strollers, they expect the products to have passed stringent safety tests, ensuring the safety of their child. Unfortunately, manufacturers often scrimp on testing, which results in the availability of products that conceal production or design defects.
At Arnold & Itkin, we are dedicated to representing injured consumers who have suffered because of manufacturing or design defects in the products they use. Assisting injured children is an area of particular importance to us. The products created particularly for children should be designed and manufactured with special care to ensure they are free from defects. They should include proper instructions and sufficient warning labels to ensure they are used properly. When this does not occur and a child is seriously injured, we are standing by to seek justice.
Table of Contents
- Car Seats
- Child Restraints
- Bicycle Helmets
- Lead Paint Poisoning
- Choking Hazards
- Strangulation Hazards
Defective Car Seats
If you drive with a child or infant in your car, you realize that you are carrying precious cargo. You want to do everything you can to ensure your child's safety when driving. You likely put your child in a car seat to protect them in the event of an accident, but sometimes that may not be enough. Unfortunately, it is estimated that about 10 million car seats were found to be defective and recalled after reports of safety malfunctions which caused an infant or child harm. Many of those recalls were from major brand names and manufacturers of car seats.
The defects that typically occur in car seats include:
- Bad handles
- Weak construction
- Sudden buckle releases
Because car accidents are the #1 cause of unintended death for children under the age of 14, it is important to be well-informed about child car seats and their possible safety risks. If you notice any cracks in the buckles or any part of your child's car seat, it should not be considered safe. Some models of car seats that have been recalled include Baby Trend, Basic Comfort, Britax, Dorel, and Graco. This is not a comprehensive list, so if you are concerned that your child's car seat may not be safe, look up the manufacturing name to see if they have issued any recalls.
Defective Restraints for Older Children
Babies have special restraints designed for their safety as adults do, but children who are too big for infant restraints and too small for adult restraints are missing out. Built-in child safety seats would make it safer for older children to ride in vehicles, but currently, no effort is being put forth to make this a safety standard. Typically, a product such as this would target children who are between the ages of four and eight, weighing at least 50 pounds. Many accidents lead to child injury because the seatbelts they were using were not conducive to safety.
Commonly used are "booster seats," which is currently the standard for older child car safety. However, in a recent study, only 20-38% of children in the vulnerable age (4-8) use these booster seats.
This is probably because there is no clear message about the standards for older child car safety and the NHTSA campaigns tend to shy away from the topic. The agency actually doesn't even require booster seat testing for older children and even more shocking than this, they do not require vehicle manufacturers to build vehicles that can accommodate older child safety restraints. While many measures are currently being taken to improve overall passenger safety in vehicles, the number of injuries to young children has actually increased in recent years.
Because it is not required, U.S. auto makers do not manufacture their vehicles with older child safety in mind. They also do not typically test their vehicles for safety or advise car owners on the potential risks. It seems now that it is up to individual automobile manufacturers to develop better safety mechanisms to outfit their cars with so that they are safe for children. If your child was injured in a car accident and you believe that their injuries could have been lessened or prevented by adequate child restraints, then you should definitely seek legal help. A skilled product liability attorney can help you with your case and advocate on your behalf should you become a client.
Defective Bicycle Helmets
One product type the CPSC has issued public acts and requirements for is bicycle helmets. If a helmet is proven not to meet the Children's Bicycle Helmet Safety Act standards, it will be recalled even if there have been no reported injuries. All bicycle helmet manufacturers must perform tests on their helmets, record the results of those tests, and place inserts or stickers on all of helmets stating the product has been tested and approved by CPSC standards.
One common way in which a helmet can fail to meet consumer safety standards is if the chin strap is faulty. Most chin straps are held on by a plastic buckle. If this buckle is faulty or easily breakable, then in the event of a fall, the helmet would come off and not protect the wearer. Helmets may also be made of faulty materials. If the plastic or other material is too thin or fragile, then the helmet would not comply with CPSC standards because it would not fully protect the wearer from head injury in the event of a fall. Materials used in the manufacturing of bicycle helmets must be able to absorb the shock of a fall, and when they do not, they pose a safety hazard.
Did you know that over 11 million cribs, bassinets, and playpens have been recalled since 2007? Before purchasing a crib for your child, check to make sure it has not been recalled. The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission has a detailed list of recalled cribs. Besides checking to ensure your child's crib has not been recalled, parents are also urged to ensure the crib is structurally sound. There should not be any gaps larger than two fingers on the sides of crib and mattress. Failure to assemble the crib according to the instructions can also lead to injury and as can using an old or modified crib. Curtin cords and blinds also pose a strangulation threat, so do not place a crib next to a window.
Lead Paint Poisoning
Lead poisoning is a disease that results from the presence of heavy metal lead in the body. This lead may cause damage to tissue and bodily organs. Because it commonly interferes with the body's nervous system, it is most dangerous to children because their nervous systems are not yet fully developed. Children often come into contact with the lead through lead-based paint commonly used in the home and on children's toys. Since young children often put toys in their mouth, they can become exposed to toxic lead in this way. Parents should be aware of products containing lead-based paint in order to ensure the safety of their children.
Stay informed on product recalls and eliminate any products in your home that you know contain lead-based paint or plastics. Even some older houses may have contaminated drinking water, so if you are concerned about this risk, have your home tested for toxic lead levels. Since lead has no smell and is difficult to detect, you must watch out for the symptoms of lead poisoning. Depending on the quantity and duration of the lead exposure, your child's symptoms can range from moderate to severe. Some recorded lead-poisoning cases have cited brain damage, seizures, hyperactivity or ADD, headaches, and kidney problems. Your child may also be at risk even if they are still in the womb. Mothers can pass on exposure to lead-based products, which can cause birthing complications.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, an estimated 250,000 children in the U.S. under the age of 5 years old have blood lead levels higher than the safe amount. If you are concerned that your child has been exposed to lead products, you should seek medical attention immediately.
One of the leading causes of child death in conjunction with children's products and toys is choking. Choking hazards are serious and kill children every year. To combat the rise of choking-related child death, the CPSC passed the Child Safety Protection Act that would ban products with small parts for children under the age of three. This is why many products we see in the stores have a label that says something like "not intended for children under 3."
Small part regulations are detailed in the Code of Federal Regulations Title 16, Parts 1501 and 1500.50, 51 and 52. Small children are especially prone to putting things in their mouths, which is why choking deaths and injuries are so common. Toy manufacturers must test their products in order to determine if they qualify as a choking hazard. If they do, then the manufacturer must properly place this warning on the product's label and packaging. A failure to do so will constitute a marketing defect which can impose fines and even result in the total recall of the product.
So how does the CPSC determine which products are dangerous for small children? They use something called the "choke test cylinder."
Even if a product does not fit through the cylinder, but has parts that can break off and fit inside the cylinder, it will be considered a choking hazard for children under the age of three. Products that have small, round object especially pose a threat to young children. Balls that are less than 1.75 inches are considered a choking hazard. Anyone can purchase a choke testing tube in order to test their children's toys. It is important to note that, on some occasions, some products that can pass through the choking tube may still present a choking hazard to young children.
It is important to note that not all products must pass this test and put warnings on their labels. The CPSC details all of the products that can present a choking hazard but are not subject to these small part regulations:
- Books and other paper articles
- Crayons, chalk, pencils, and pens
- Paint, watercolors, and clay
- Clothing and accessories
These products are exempt because they need to be small in order to perform their intended function. Rattles and baby pacifiers are also subject to their own regulations listed under a different section of federal regulations.
Every year in the U.S., hundreds of children's products are recalled due to incidents of strangulation, choking, and suffocation accidents. Products range from clothing and bags to play equipment and cribs. Strangulation hazards caused by children's products, in fact, account for nearly 22% of all accidental fatalities in children in the U.S.
There are two types of strangulation:
- Ligature strangulation refers to strangulation by a cord or rope. For instance, a child wearing clothing with drawstrings or playing with window blind cords can wrap the cords around their neck, interrupting oxygen supply. Breathing difficulties result almost immediately and asphyxiation can result if there is no adult nearby to give emergency aid to the child. Ligature strangulations are often seen in children of curious ages, specifically 1 to 2 years old. 30% of all strangulation deaths recorded are the result of ligature strangulation.
- Suspension strangulation occurs when the body is suspended above the ground by the neck. Such strangulations often occur with playground equipment, cribs and other children's furniture. Cribs with low sides are a common cause of such accidents. Suspension strangulations are the most frequent of all child strangulation accidents, accounting for nearly 70% of all related fatalities.
As a parent, there are certain steps you can take to help avoid strangulation hazards that may affect your children. For example, the Consumer Product Safety Commission has a list of cribs that have been tested and proven safe for children. Choosing a crib from this list is a wise choice.
A few other helpful tips:
- Never buy a secondhand crib for a child. Most have unsafe designs and may have missing parts.
- Never buy a crib with high corner posts. A baby's clothing can easily get snagged on these.
- Never buy cribs with vertical slats far enough apart to trap a baby's head.
- Avoid keeping loose pieces of clothing in the crib or any items that can be wound around their neck.
Sometimes, in spite of our best efforts to protect our children, a defective product will cause them injury. If your child has suffered any type of injury as the result of a defective child or infant product, make sure you discuss your legal options with a product liability lawyer at our firm. We can determine how you can hold the responsible party liable.
No matter the particular nature of product liability claim you may have as related to a children's product, you can count on our knowledge and experience. Contact a defective product attorney at Arnold & Itkin today.