The Consumer Products Safety Commission is the federal agency charged with “…protecting the public from unreasonable risks of serious injury or death from thousands of types of consumer products…” While CPSC has jurisdiction over consumer products generally, historically it has been most active with regard to products hazardous to children. Most recently, CPSC advised that infant crib positioners were hazardous to children’s safety and should not be used at all.
CPSC administers several federal laws directly relating to child safety such as the Child Safety Protection Act (toy safety), Flammable Fabrics Act (standards for children’s sleepwear and mattresses), Poison Prevention Packaging Act (child resistant packaging of hazardous household products and medications), Refrigerator Safety Act (to prevent accidental entrapment of children in discarded refrigerators), and more recently the Virginia Graeme Baker Pool & Spa Safety Act (includes safety requirement to prevent entrapment in drains). In addition, the CPSC has passed numerous regulations relating to the child-safety of various products. Examples include: baby bouncers and walkers, cigarette lighters, cribs and infant cushions, garage door openers, and swimming pool slides. Despite the CPSC’s regulatory efforts, thousands of products have been the subject of recalls and consumer warnings similar to that issued for the infant crib positioners.
Many of these products violated the laws and regulations that the CPSC was charged with enforcing yet made their way into the hands of consumers, injuring both adults and children: Baby Bouncers that strangled their infant occupants; cigarette lighters that were not child resistant as required allowing toddlers to start fatal fires; cribs designed and manufactured which strangled the children sleeping in them; garage door openers which, while closing, failed to retract when a child was underneath, causing death or serious injury; and swimming pool slides whose non-compliant design puts swimmers at risk for quadriplegic injuries.
The length of the list of recalled consumer products, even with the regulatory efforts of the CPSC, demonstrates the necessity of the other mechanism promoting consumer product safety: product liability law. When despite the CPSC regulation, a consumer product causes personal injury to a child or adult, a product liability claim against the manufacturer can provide compensation for the victim, public exposure of the product’s defects, and can contribute to the safety of the product going forward either through redesign or removal from the market. An attorney experienced in product liability attorney law should be consulted whenever a serious injury or death is caused by a consumer product.
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