Last weekend, two young children in Franklin tragically died after getting trapped in a defective wooden hope chest during a game of hide and seek. The chest was one of 12 million manufactured by the Lane furniture company of Virginia between 1912 and 1987.
Attorney David White from the Boston product liability firm, Breakstone, White & Gluck, commented on ways consumers can avoid injuries from defective products, including second-hand goods.
According to reports, the Franklin children were probably playing a game when they got into the chest and the lid closed. The lid automatically latched shut when closed and could not be opened from the inside. When the family purchased the second-hand chest 15 years ago, they had no warning of the defect or the fact that the product had been recalled.
The chests were recognized as defective after four children were trapped in them and died prior to 1996, leading to a product recall 1997. In 2001, Lane paid a $900,000 civil penalty to the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) to settle claims that it had provided late notice of the deaths to those four children.
Even after the recall, probably six million of the chests still have the defective locks. Although there have been sporadic efforts to notify the public of this widespread and serious hazard, it is not clear how aggressively Lane has tried to make sure the defective latches are either removed or replaced.
White, a Boston attorney who specializes in injury and liability cases, said companies have a responsibility to inform clients of recalls and stores have a responsibility not to sell recalled products, but sometimes consumers still do not receive notice, including in cases involving products purchased in second-hand stores. He said defective products are causing injury.
White told Fox 25 that the problem is no one registers a hope chest with a company as they would an electronic product such as a new television. His safety tips:
1) Consumers can learn what hazard signs to look for in products and remove unsafe products on their own, even if they have not been recalled.
2) A few products to watch carefully:
- Cribs, car seats, bassinets, strollers and other products which hold babies.
- Products with small pieces that break off.
- Novelty toys with magnets which children can easily swallow. These have been recalled.
3) Consumers can check the CPSC website for recalls.