Product Liability

Is Your Infant's Crib Safe?

By Margaret Jasper, Attorney

Every parent is concerned with child safety. You pay careful attention to warnings on your baby's toys, and you child-proof your home to protect your baby from injury. But, were you aware that often the most dangerous place in your home is the crib where your baby sleeps?

Safety Recalls

In the last two years, the US Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) has recalled more than 5 million cribs, bassinets and play yards. You should always check to see whether the crib you own or intend to buy has been recalled. You can check for recalls on the CPSC web site.

Because there are so many cribs recalled, especially those cribs with drop sides that can detach and perhaps trap and suffocate a child, it's unwise to purchase a used crib. Cribs made before 1991 aren't likely to meet all of the current CPSC safety standards, which only apply to new cribs. Unfortunately, most of the reported injuries and deaths have occurred in secondhand cribs.

Safety Guidelines

According to the CPSC, thousands of infants suffer serious crib-related injuries each year, some resulting in death. In an effort to prevent such tragedies, the CPSC has recommended the following safety guidelines for parents who are in the market for a crib:

  • Use a firm, tight-fitting mattress so your baby can't get trapped between the mattress and crib
  • To prevent your baby from suffocating, never place pillows, thick blankets or stuffed toys in the crib
  • If you use bumper pads, make sure they fit around the entire crib; tie or snap into place; and have ties along each side, corner and edge that are trimmed so your baby can't become entangled in them
  • Make sure the crib is properly assembled and there are no missing, loose, broken or improperly installed screws, slats, brackets or other hardware on the crib or mattress support that can entrap or suffocate your baby
  • Allow no more than 2-3/8 inches between crib slats so your baby's body or head can't fit through the slats and cause strangulation
  • Make sure the corner posts are no more than 1/16th inch high so your baby's clothing can't catch on the posts and become entangled
  • Make sure there are no cutouts in the headboard or footboard so your baby's head can't get trapped
  • When using a mesh crib or playpen, make sure the mesh is less than ¼ inch in size so that tiny baby buttons can't get through and entangle your baby, and make sure the mesh is securely fastened to the top rail and floor
  • If you paint the crib, make sure you use a high quality lead-free enamel paint
  • Never place the crib near a window that has hanging cords because your baby can become entangled in the cords causing strangulation

The Juvenile Products Manufacturers Association (JPMA)

The Juvenile Products Manufacturers Association (JPMA) rates cribs according to the safety standards issued by the American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM). The ASTM standards are stricter than the mandatory CPSC standards under Federal law, and are considered the gold standard for crib safety.

In order to receive a JPMA Safety Certification Seal, manufacturers must voluntarily submit their cribs for testing. When shopping for a crib, check with the JPMA for a list of JPMA-certified baby cribs before making a purchase.

Protect the Children

According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, at least 12 states have passed laws based on the CPSC recommendations. Some state laws specifically require a safety inspection of all cribs.

To help prevent more infant deaths, Congress introduced the federal Infant Crib Safety Act (H.R. 5692) in April 2008. The Act prohibits the manufacture and sale of cribs that don't meet the most up-to-date safety standards, and the use of secondhand cribs in hotels, motels and inns. 

Questions for Your Attorney

  • What responsibility do I have as a consumer in checking out the safety of a used or existing product, like a crib, when updated models are available? Can manufacturers and retailers still face liability if a child is injured by a used product?
  • What laws and regulations cover safety recall information? Do manufacturers have to keep recall or repair notices available for a certain length of time?
  • How does the age of a product factor into a product liability claim? Do consumers accept the risk of using an old product, even if it's in excellent used condition?

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