Sean and Lexi Munroe, 7 and 8 year old siblings respectively, of Franklin, Massachusetts, died tragically when they were locked inside a Lane hope chest and suffocated. The Hope Chest had a lid that locked on the outside when the children went inside the chest. The lid could only be unlocked from the outside. As a parent, this case raises concerns regarding how we can keep our children and family safe from dangerous products.
In Massachusetts, manufacturers and sellers of products cannot sell products that are unnecessarily dangerous. If the manufacturer(s) do sell such products and the product causes harm, then the manufacturer is responsible for the harms caused. Product manufacturer(s) or seller(s) may be liable if the (1) design of a product makes that product more dangerous than necessary; (2) if during manufacturing, the product is made more dangerous than necessary; and if (3) the product has a known danger but does not provide a sufficient warning to consumers regarding the foreseeable harm.
Here, these cedar chests were designed with a dangerous defect. For example, the defective locking mechanism was made as the design intended, however, the defective design of the locking mechanism made all these products more dangerous than necessary.
In 1996 The Lane Furniture Company announced recall for in-home replacement of locks on cedar chests for in-home replacement of locks on cedar chests after six children over a period of 17 years became trapped inside and suffocated.
In 2000 the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) and The Lane Company renewed the search for cedar chests after another death and two near fatalities when children were entrapped after the lid closed and automatically latched shut. Lane is providing new locks free of charge that are easy to install by consumers and will prevent entrapments, as they don’t automatically latch shut when the lid is closed.
In 2008 the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act (CPSIA) was signed into law. It increased the budget of the SPSC and imposed new testing and documentation requirements, and set new acceptable levels of several substances. It also increased fines and has jail time for some violations.
The U.S. CPSC works to protect the public from unreasonable risks of injury or death associated with the use of thousands of consumer products within their jurisdiction.
“Federal law bars any person from selling products subject to a publicly-announced voluntary recall by a manufacturer or a mandatory recall ordered by the Commission”, according to the CPSC website. You can check for recent or past recalls here.
If you have a cedar chest with the brand name “Lane” or “Virginia Maid” or know anyone who does, go to The Lane website to request replacement locks. You can also call them.
To search for recalls or reports, or report a dangerous product or product-related injury, go to www.SaferProducts.gov or call CPSC’s Hotline at (800) 638-2772.
Learn more about experienced products liability attorneys here.