CPSC, Bassett Furniture Reach Consent Agreement Over Crib Hazards

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE  
February 14, 1980  
Release # 80-006
 

CPSC, Bassett Furniture Reach Consent Agreement Over Crib Hazards

WASHINGTON, D.C. (February 14) -- The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission provisionally has accepted a consent agreement with Bassett Furniture Industries, Inc., involving two crib styles that could pose a life-threatening strangulation hazard to infants.

The terms of the agreement require Bassett to undertake an extensive remedial action program and to pay a $175,000 civil penalty. The firm estimates that the cost of the program, including the civil penalty, could be as high as $1 million.

The Commission provisionally approved the consent agreement on February 7 by a 3-2 vote, with Commissioners Zagoria and Statler dissenting. Both dissenting Commissioners believe that the amount of the civil penalty levied should be greater. (A copy of the dissent is attached.)

Bassett Furniture Industries, Inc., of Bassett, Virginia, is the manufacturer of the "Candlelite" and "Mandalay" style cribs which reported have caused six infant deaths since 1977.

CPSC staff believes that the crib design is such that infants can trap their heads between a corner post and the headboard (or footboard) and strangle as they stand on the crib mattress.

The agreement pertains to the "Mandalay" crib models 5126-505, 5621-505 and 5225-505, and to "Candlelite" models 5028-505, 5028-510, 5127-505 and 5127-510. The model numbers can be found on an adhesive label affixed to the inside of the headboard below the mattress level.

The "Mandalay" cribs were manufactured from February, 1974, through October, 1976, and sold nationwide for approximately $100 to $125 in retail stores. The "Candlelite" cribs sold for approximately $100 nationwide, and were produced from December, 1975, to mid-October, 1977.

Consumers who own one of these cribs which has not yet been modified immediately should contact Bassett to obtain a free repair kit or instructions for eliminating the hazard. Consumers can contact Bassett at its toll-free number l-800-336-5223. (In Virginia, consumers should place a collect telephone call to Bassett at (703) 629-7511, extension 340).

In its proposed complaint against Bassett, CPSC staff alleged that the two crib styles pose a substantial risk of strangulation injuries or death to infants. CPSC staff alleged that the firm knew as early as September, 1977 that its "Candlelite" cribs could cause strangulation deaths of infants, but that Bassett did not notify CPSC staff of the potential hazard as required by law. The complaint also alleged that Bassett knew (or should have known) in March, 1978 that the "Mandalay" cribs could present a strangulation hazard but failed to report to CPSC staff. In entering into the consent agreement, Bassett does not admit that it had an obligation to report, that reportable information exists, or that the product presented a substantial hazard.

Bassett had been undertaking corrective action since February, 1978 to locate and modify the potentially hazardous cribs. Despite its efforts, approximately 4,700 "Mandalay" style cribs (out of an estimated 5,800 produced) and about 400 "Candlelite" cribs (of 1,654 produced) still may not have been modified to eliminate the hazard.

The central part of the consent agreement requires Bassett to take the unprecedented step of sending hazard notifications by direct mail to all parents who have had children within the previous 21 months. This mailing is expected to include more than four million parents of infants and young children.

In addition, Bassett will purchase advertising space in "TV Guide" and "Family Circle" magazines, in which they will run l/2-page advertisements warning consumers of the potential crib hazard. These magazines have a combined total readership of more than 27 million people.

As an added incentive to consumers, Bassett will pay a $5 cash award to anyone who identifies the location of an unmodified crib, once its repair has been verified.

Bassett further has agreed to mail posters which describe the crib hazard and the needed safety modification to all obstetricians and gynecologists practicing in the U.S., as well as to all pediatric and maternity clinics, for display in their offices. As part of its earlier voluntary corrective action with CPSC, Bassett already has distributed posters to approximately 25,000 pediatricians and to some medical clinics.

In addition, Bassett agreed to pay a civil penalty of $175,000 settlement of CPSC staff's allegation that the firm failed promptly to report the alleged defect in the cribs. The Commission will vote whether to give final approval to the agreement following a seven-day public comment period which opens on February 14, when the agreement is published in the Federal Register. Interested persons should submit their written comments by no later than February 21 to CPSC's Office of the Secretary, Consumer Product Safety Commission, Washington, D.C., 20207.

The Commission will consider all comments in deciding whether to give final approval to the agreement.



Consumer Product Safety Commission

Of The

United States Of America

In the Mater of
Bassett Furniture Industries,
Inc., a Corporation, and
Bassett Furniture Industries Of
North Carolina, Inc., a
corporation

 
Dissenting Opinion Of
Commissioner Sam Zagoria
(Joined In By Commissioner Stuart Statler)

The Corrective Action Plan negotiated by our staff with Bassett Furniture Industries is a good one.

I regret that a majority of the Commission has decided to choose the option of approving the plan and accepting a civil penalty of only $175,000 for failure to report in a timely manner, as required by law, the existence of two substantial product hazards. The other option of approving the very same Corrective Action Plan and issuing a complaint consisting of two counts because of the styles of cribs involved with a potential fine of up to $1,000,000 is a more appropriate one. This is a case allegedly involving the non-reporting of an infant death and other serious incidents by a firm which describes itself as the "world's largest Furniture Manufacturer" with reported annual sales of $281,000,000. I recognize that litigation is fraught with uncertainties. But here, where an infant strangled to death, protection of consumers would be better served by seeking a higher penalty.

As a point of reference, Corning Glass Works paid a $325,000 civil penalty in a 1976 case where there were no deaths. On balance, I would have chosen to issue a complaint against Bassett and sought a fine larger than $175,000.

Picture of the signature of Sam Zagoria; Agency Commissioner in 1980