Many parents feel, and rightfully so, that their babies are safest in their cribs. They are in their own homes, unable to get into unsafe situations. Unfortunately, this is not always the case. Between 1990 and 2008, over 7500 infant injuries involved cribs. As a result, new federal rules have been enacted to make cribs safer for babies.
One major culprit has been drop-side cribs, responsible for up to 32 infant deaths. The movable sides of drop-side cribs have been shown to drop unexpectedly, causing a baby to become trapped or suffocated by the crib side, or allowing an infant to fall. As of June 28, 2011 manufacturers are no longer allowed to make drop-side cribs. Although over 11 million of the cribs have been recalled, many are still in use by daycare centers and hotels, which have until December 28, 2012, to replace drop-side cribs with those with stationary sides. To see if a crib has been part of a recall, individuals can check www.cpsc.gov, www.keeping babiessafe.org, or www.recalls.gov. Parents who own a drop-side crib that was not recalled can contact the manufacturer to see if an immobilizer is available. The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) warns that these immobilizers are not subject to the more rigorous standards, so it would be better to replace the crib.
According to the CPSC, crib manufacturers must also "strengthen crib slats and mattress supports, improve the quality of hardware and require more rigorous testing." Faulty crib slats and mattress supports can come loose, creating an opening large enough that a child could get trapped. Hardware can come loose and create an entrapment situation or a hole large enough for a child to fall.
A combination of these factors caused the death of a Kentucky infant when the plastic hardware holding the drop side of the crib broke, allowing the side to slide down and the infant to become entrapped between the side and the mattress. The 7-month-old's death in 2009 was one of 11 attributed to cribs manufactured by Simplicity, which no longer is in business. The parents of a Florida 9-month-old who died in a Simplicity crib settled a wrongful death lawsuit for an undisclosed amount in 2010.
The injuries and deaths of infants in cribs result in numerous types of lawsuits, including wrongful death, product liability, and negligence. A wrongful death suit is filed by the victim's family requesting compensation for grief, medical and funeral costs, and lost future wages. Product liability suits pertain to injuries sustained when using products that were poorly made or designed. Compensation in this type of case may be requested for medical expenses, pain and suffering, disfigurement, and physical disabilities. Negligence is similar to product liability in that a company is sued for failing to provide a safe product or environment, or for failing to inform an individual that a product or environment is unsafe. Plaintiffs in these types of cases can also seek punitive damages, which serve as punishment to the defendant in the hopes it will deter similar actions in the future.
Kentucky attorneys Robert Miller and Rheanne Falkner have been handling wrongful death, negligence, and product liability cases for over eight years. Their combined experience includes cases involving faulty vehicle parts, prescription drugs, and hazardous equipment.
Updated: The New Crib Standard: Questions and Answers; CSPC; June 14, 2011
Safer Sleep for Babies; The Courier-Journal; Darla Carter; September 8, 2011
11 Baby Deaths Now Linked to Simplicity Cribs; WHAS11.com; December 18, 2009
Dropside Crib Wrongful Death Lawsuit Against Walmart, Simplicity Settled; March 29, 2010