On November 9, 2009, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (“CPSC”) announced a voluntary recall by one stroller manufacturer because, “the stroller’s hinge mechanism poses a fingertip amputation and laceration hazard to the child when the consumer is unfolding/opening the stroller”. (CPSC Release # 10-033). According to statistics compiled by the CPSC, the stroller company already received 12 reports of fingertip amputations within the United States. It is unknown how many more children have been seriously and permanently injured.
All of the amputations and other injuries suffered by young children were easily preventable had the stroller maker taken reasonable steps to protect children. According to a report by the British Broadcasting Corporation (“BBC”), the recall does not affect models sold in the United Kingdom. Sadly, this reflects a common disparity between the protection of child consumer safety in the U.S. vs. the rest of the developed world. In this particular instance, it appears the hazardous hinge on the U.S.-sold strollers does not contain a cover over the hinge that is found on strollers sold outside the U.S. It is this simple and inexpensive cover that would have prevented the 12 children from suffering amputation.
The future does not look brighter. While companies tend to prefer less expensive voluntary recalls, the response by the stroller maker and CPSC is not strong enough to prevent serious injuries to future children. Once the CPSC publishes the voluntary recall notice, the legal requirements of a voluntary recall allow the stroller maker to sit back and wait for affected consumers to come to them for a “free repair kit”. Unfortunately, those parents who don’t see the recall notice will continue using their strollers without realizing the amputation risk this everyday product poses to their young child. Under a more stringent recall system, the manufacturer would be forced to track down and fix every dangerous product it put in homes across the country.
Notwithstanding the nature of response by the CPSC and product manufacturer, stroller makers (just like any other product maker) can be held accountable in a civil lawsuit guaranteed by our state and federal constitutions.
Parents should immediately stop using their stroller if it was made by Maclaren, which made the strollers subject to the recall, and contact the stroller maker for free hinge covers that protect their children. In addition, whatever company made the stroller, all parents should carefully inspect their children’s strollers for exposed hinges that might also pose a risk of harm. Parents should not hesitate to contact the stroller manufacturers and sellers of these products for more information about child safety.
For those parents whose child has already suffered injury due to a needlessly dangerous stroller or other child product, you and your child may have a legal right to hold the manufacturer accountable.
UPDATE: According to the Associated Press, it has been announced today, January 20, 2010 that 1.5 million Graco strollers are being recalled due to fingertip amputations. For more information about the recall, click here.