SAN DIEGO (CN) - Carter's crib bumpers do not protect infants as advertised, but "put children at greater risk for suffocation or crib death," a mother claims in a federal class action.
Lead plaintiff Yaritza Vizcarra says Carter's markets its crib bumpers - cushions placed in the bottom of a crib and tied to the slats - to protect babies from "crib related injuries."
"Despite the evidence that these bumpers are not safe and pose a risk of serious injury and death, defendants have turned a blind eye to the dangers posed by Carter's Crib Bumpers in order to maintain sales and profits, and continue to sell their products. In selling their crib bumpers to plaintiff and the class, defendants have knowingly concealed these serious risks and affirmatively misrepresented that Carter's Crib Bumpers are safe if properly installed," the complaint states.
Vizcarra does not claim that her own baby suffered injury or death.
Carter's is "one of the largest branded marketers of apparel and related products for infants and children in the United States," according to the complaint. It sells its crib bumpers separately for $40 to $70, and for around $175 as part of matching bedding sets.
"Infant bedding sales exceed $50 million annually - a number that includes over 200,000 crib bumpers," according to the complaint.
Vizcarra says she bought a Carter's Crib Bumper from (nonparty) Wal-Mart after seeing ads packaging that claimed the bumpers "are safe if properly installed."
She says these ads are "false, misleading and reasonably likely to deceive the public" because crib bumpers "actually put children at greater risk for suffocation or crib death."
She claims the warnings included with Carter's crib bumpers are inadequate because they claim parents can protect babies from strangulation simply by "properly secur[ing] the bumper" and removing it from the crib when the baby can sit up unassisted.
"This statement not only fails to disclose the true risks that accompany the use of Carter's Crib Bumpers, it also implies that by following defendants' instructions, use of their Carter's Crib Bumpers is safe," the complaint states.
"Defendants reaffirm this deceptive message by enclosing a 'naptime to nighttime information sheet' created by the Juvenile Products Manufacturers Association," which instructs parents to remove pillows and stuffed animals from the crib while the baby is sleeping - but not the bumpers - according to the complaint.
Vizcarra says Carter's crib bumpers increase a baby's risk of injury or death, from suffocation, strangulation by the bumper's ties, and restriction air circulation around a baby, which can cause overheating and contribute to sudden infant death syndrome.
Crib bumpers originally were intended to protect babies from getting their heads stuck between the wide slats on "older style-cribs," but all cribs now sold in the United States have such narrow slats that "it is virtually impossible for a baby's head to fit through" them, according to the complaint.
Vizcarra claims that crib bumper sales remain high despite these changes in crib design because "manufacturers and distributors of crib bumpers, including defendants, perpetuate the falsehood d that crib bumpers eliminate risk of injury or death in the crib environment. The opposite is true: crib bumpers are themselves a hazard, totally superfluous and unneeded - and at best, worthless.
"In fact, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, in 2009 alone, 665 babies died from accidental suffocation or strangulation while in bed."
Many groups have raised alarms about crib bumpers, including the American Academy of Pediatrics, which warned in October 2011 that "bumper pads should not be used in cribs," the complaint states.
Chicago banned crib bumpers in 2011, and many other states are "considering similar bans," according to the complaint.
Vizcarra claims that Carter's "reaped enormous profits from their false marketing and advertising campaign."
She seeks restitution, disgorgement of unjust profits, damages for consumer law violations and unfair competition, and wants Carter's ordered to issue corrective advertising.
Vizcarra is represented by Todd Carpenter with Bonnett, Fairbourn, Friedman & Balint.
Many crib and baby products have been recalled
in recent years due to strangulation hazards, according to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission.