CPSC Imposes $1.5 Million Fine on Retailer Selling Children’s Clothing with Drawstrings

The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) announced that the retailer Burlington Coat Factory (BCF) has agreed to pay $1.5 million in civil penalties for violating regulations affecting children’s upper outerwear, such as jackets and sweaters. The CPSC regulates, and largely prohibits, the sale of children’s outerwear with drawstrings. This is due to the high risk of serious injury or death when drawstrings have caught on other items. The penalty to BCF is reportedly the largest one ever assessed by the CPSC for this particular regulation.

The CPSC issued its first set of guidelines regarding drawstrings on children’s upper and lower outerwear in 1996, which it included in a set of voluntary standards the following year. According to the CPSC, since the voluntary standards took effect, the number of deaths caused by children’s upper outerwear drawstrings has declined by seventy-five percent, and it has not received reports of any deaths from waist-level drawstrings.

The primary risk of upper outerwear drawstrings comes when a drawstring is caught on another object. The CPSC states that it has received twenty-six reports of cases where children were killed after a drawstring became tangled in an object. These included school bus doors and playground slides, among others. Drawstrings around the neck present a risk of strangulation, and waist drawstrings have resulted in children being dragged by vehicles when they are caught in doors. In the six-month period from November 2011 to May 2012, the CPSC says it issued eight recalls of products involving drawstring hazards. It has recalled a total of 130 drawstring products.

The CPSC revised the voluntary standards into an official safety rule on July 1, 2011. The rule prohibits drawstrings on upper outerwear sizes 2T through 12, and it limits waist drawstrings in clothing sizes 2T to 16 to three inches outside the garment when it is fully expanded. Any garment not meeting these criteria is in violation of federal safety regulations.

The CPSC brought an action against BCF for violations of the safety standards surrounding drawstrings, alleging that it sold multiple products that violated the drawstring standards between November 2003 and January 2012. According to the settlement agreement between the CPSC and BCF, the retailer was aware of the 1996 guidelines, the 1997 voluntary standard, and a 2006 directive from the CPSC to stop selling children’s upper outerwear with neck drawstrings due to safety hazards. The CPSC alleged that BCF failed to notify it of the potential hazards of the garments it offered for sale, and it sold garments that were subject to recall. BCF denied the CPSC allegations and said that it notified the agency as soon as it discovered that it was selling recalled drawstring products. It also noted that it is a retailer, and was not responsible for manufacturing garments that violated CPSC standards. BCF agreed to pay $1.5 million to settle the matter without admitting liability.

At Lebowitz & Mzhen, we help people in the Washington, DC area, who have suffered injuries due to dangerous products, to recover their just compensation. For a free and confidential consultation, contact us today online or call (800) 654-1949.

More Blog Posts:

New National Safety Standards Issued for Children’s Play Yards, Washington DC Injury Lawyer Blog, July 5, 2012
NHTSA Rejects Petition Calling for Safety Belts on School Buses, Washington DC Injury Lawyer Blog, August 25, 2011
CPSC Recalls 1M Pool and Hot Tub Drain Covers Because They Pose Drowning and Entrapment Risks, Washington DC Injury Lawyer Blog, May 26, 2011

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