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Couple who lost son in dresser accident raises awareness of recalls, product safety laws

Posted at 8:47 AM, Dec 18, 2019
and last updated 2019-12-18 13:02:55-05

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- It has been 12 years since Kansas City’s Brett and Jenny Horn founded a home-safety nonprofit after losing their 2-year-old son, but their mission has held steadfast.

"Take it from me as a parent who has lost a child to a consumer product that was not built in a safe enough manner,” said Brett Horn, co-founder of Charlie’s House . “I would do anything I could to take that opportunity to investigate that further.”

In 2007, a 32-inch dresser tipped over on top of the Horns’ son, taking his life. While the product was not recalled, Brett Horn said it was not up to safety standards.

"The biggest hurdle for product safety change is a little law called 6B,” Horn said. “6B is a stipulation of the Consumer Product Safety Act (CPSA), which delays the Consumer Product Safety Commission from taking immediate action on reported injuries or deaths from certain products."

That law allows the CPSC a 15-day window to respond to consumer complaints – but that time frame can be drawn out for weeks, if not months, through legal action, according to Horn.

“And in the meanwhile, kids die," Horn said.

UMKC law professor Judy Popper said that the law is not a protection for consumers, but rather “for correct information to be given to the public.”

“It comes rather at a late stage for the consumer," Popper said.

When asked if that protection comes at the cost of life, Popper said, "Often, sure."

Horn said the Consumer Product Safety Commissioners, whom he has met with, “truly feel handcuffed” by the law.

“Its intent is to ensure false claims aren't made about products and companies,” Horn said. “However, there has to be some middle ground to where if there's a known hazard out there, the timeliness of the reporting and the response time that the CPSC is allowed, should be shortened.”

Purchasing second-hand recalled items

In today’s marketplace, second-hand items can be purchased online, and, sometimes, recalled items still make their way to sites such as Facebook Marketplace.

In April, Fisher Price announced its first infant sleeper recall , with more than 30 infant deaths confirmed at the time. More than eight months later, that number is now at more than 70.

After Consumer Reports shed light on countless recalled Fisher Price Rock and Play Sleepers still for sale online, retailers Amazon and eBay banned all infant inclined sleepers – even ones without recalls.

"Take, for example, certain infant sleepers that have been recalled,” Horn said. “It might have taken through legal action involving the company etc. It might have taken 45 or 60 days from the time of the first reported death from that infant sleeper before the Consumer Product Safety Commission was able to work with the company to issue a recall, and, in that time, other children had passed."

When KSHB searched online for Fisher Price Rock 'n Play , dozens of variations of the item came up with no way of knowing what was what, begging the question, how can you know what you’re buying online and whether or not it has been recalled?

"Not really um... depending on the information you can get right? Maybe you can," Popper said.

KSHB took to Facebook Marketplace to attempt to purchase a seemingly recalled six-drawer Malm dresser from Ikea, asking for a purchase history, measurements, a serial number, manufacturer's date and an instruction manual. The seller could not provide clear answers to those questions.

Manufacturers, according to Horn, do not make it “easy enough” to determine which products have been recalled.

Popper concurred.

"There isn't enough public scrutiny until there have been so many injuries that we can't ignore it anymore, injuries and deaths," she said.

This story was originally published by Gabriella Pagán at KSHB.