Caroselli, Beachler & Coleman, L.L.C.

Pennsylvania liability suit: Negligence led to girls’ deaths

Toddlers aren't old enough to realize climbing on or in a bedroom dresser or other furniture can be dangerous. Pittsburgh manufacturers must use designs that consider how child products will be used by people who aren't old enough to read. That often requires the inclusion of added safety features and strongly-worded warning labels for parents.

A product liability wrongful death lawsuit recently was filed in Pennsylvania's Beaver County. The claim alleged negligence by a furniture manufacturer and retailer caused the deaths of two sisters. The Baby Cache dresser the girls' parents bought at Babies R Us apparently did not come with a tip-over warning or wall-hugging safety strap.

The girls, ages 2 and 3, were killed in a bedroom of their Aliquippa home when a dresser fell on top of the toddlers. Reports said the children's father, in a nearby bathroom at the time of the fatality, initially was charged with involuntary manslaughter. The charge eventually was dropped, but both parents then faced child neglect allegations.

The complaint, filed by the toddlers' estate, claimed the dresser sold to the parents was a floor model offered at a discount. The sale of the cheaper dresser evidently did not include the safety strap or warning label. Some furniture makers include wall straps with purchases or advise consumers to buy the straps separately.

Federal product safety researchers learned that from 2000 to 2013, tens of thousands of people required hospital treatment for furniture-related accidents. Eighty-four children were among the 430 victims killed during that time. Safety straps on children's bedroom furniture are not mandatory, but industry officials have urged manufacturers to include them since 2009.

You might assume manufacturers respond whenever product injuries are reported. Liability lawsuits frequently are the result of some manufacturers feeling redesigns or added safety features burrow too deeply into profits. Dangerous product losses suffered by consumers may be recovered through legal claims.

Source: CBS News, "Babies R Us, furniture maker sued over toddler deaths" Mitch Lipka, MoneyWatch, Feb. 10, 2015

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Caroselli, Beachler & Coleman, L.L.C.
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