Six nationwide retailers say they will stop selling Simplicity bassinets implicated in the deaths of two infants. Wal-Mart, Toys "R" Us, Kmart, Big Lots, Target and J.C. Penney said they will provide a refund or store credit to consumers who bought the bassinets.
The Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) issued a warning urging parents and caregivers to stop using the bassinets. That warning came eight hours after an exclusive ConsumerAffairs.com report about the dangers of the Simplicity bassinets, sold largely at Wal-Mart.
Although the agency acted swiftly after our story, critics say the agency has known about the dangers of these bassinets for months and could have prevented the recent death of six-month-old Kennedy Brotherton.
Below is a listing of Simplicity 3-in-1 and 4-in-1 Convertible "Close-Sleeper" model bassinets that are included in the recall. The model number can be found on a label on the underside of the bassinet.
RECALLED Model Numbers
An apparently faulty frame on the Winnie the Pooh 4-in-1 Simplicity Bassinet crushed and suffocated two babies according to family members and a police report. The Simplicity 3-in-1 and 4-in-1 convertible bassinets had a removable flap of cloth that separated a side railing and the bed. Babies could slip through the space between the mattress and the railing.
The most recent death occurred last week on Thursday when Kennedy Brotherton slipped between the mattress and the side railing after the mattress came loose from the frame, her aunt, Melissa Brotherton, told ConsumerAffairs.com in a phone interview.
Kennedy's body slipped through a space between the mattress and the railing until she dangled by her head on the lower bar of the railing and choked, according to Capt. Ron Copeland of the Shawnee Police Department in Kansas.
"She was laughing and smiling when her parents put her to bed," Brotherton said. "They checked on her three times within an hour period. They were in the living room less than 10 feet away. She never cried."
The first death occurred last fall when Katelynn Simon suffered a similar fate in the same bassinet. "The rail design allowed her to slip her legs through and as she kept inching out she slipped lower," Simon's grandmother, Lori Crammond, wrote in a complaint to ConsumerAffairs.com. "Finally, her lungs were unable to expand."
The product appears to be sold exclusively at Wal-Mart and on Wal-Mart's Web site. As of yesterday, ConsumerAffairs.com found the product at two Washington, D.C.-area Wal-Marts we visited. The bassinet comes in two different Winnie the Pooh fabrics with the product identifications 3123DOH8 and 3112DOH7 and sells for between $100 and $110.
Pictures of bassinets on sale at Wal-Mart.
Crammond wrote that she warned Wal-Mart of the dangerous bassinet last fall. "Wal-Mart is very aware of what happened but continues to sell it with a five star rating," she wrote.
Wal-Mart has not returned two requests for comment made yesterday morning and this morning. Wal-Mart spokesperson Tara Raddohl said in an email sent to ConsumerAffairs.com Tuesday that they are "investigating."
The Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) is simply issuing a warning rather than a recall because SFCA, the company that owns the defunct Simplicity, Inc. and the products it manufactured, refused to cooperate.
"SFCA maintains that it is not responsible for products previously manufactured by Simplicity Inc.," according to a CPSC press release. Simplicity's lawyer, Rick Locker, has not responded to multiple requests for comment.
A phone call to the company's headquarters was met with a prerecorded message stating "Simplicity, Inc. is no longer in business and we no longer service Simplicity, Inc. products."
Using authority recently granted to the agency under a new law, the two standing commissioners were able to vote to release the warning. Further action may be taken against SFCA, Inc. to force it to recall the products.
An attorney for the Simons notified the CPSC a few days after Katelynn's death about the dangers of the Simplicity bassinet, but never heard back from the agency, he told the Chicago Tribune.
Agency spokeswoman Julie Vallese told the paper they are still investigating the death of Simon because there are still questions surrounding the circumstances of that baby's death."
But McDonald County, Mo. coroner B.J. Goodwin III told the Tribune there was no doubt the death was an accident. "It was clear-cut," he said. "We all felt it was the crib that caused the passing."
Both the Brotherton and Simon families said their goal is to warn as many consumers as possible."Our main concern is to get the product recalled," Brotherton said.
More than a million Simplicity cribs were recalled for the same reason from May 2005 to September 2007 in four separate recalls, after four children died and countless others were injured when they were trapped between the mattress and the railing.
The product also is under the Baby Disney product line since the bassinet is adorned in Disney's Winnie the Pooh characters. Disney responded last night but has not returned a subsequent phone call.