When I said I would blog every day in November, I did not really mean that I would blog about Maclaren every day in November. But having been sucked into the commentary about the commentary about Maclaren’s recall, I did what no one should ever do, really, and read the hundreds of comments on the NY Times and time.com websites, half of which are most unflattering to “hysterical mommy bloggers” like me, who are supposedly blowing this whole stroller thing way out of proportion. “Hello? Are you going to sue knife companies next?” one non-parent flamed, and I would just like to point out this is really an imperfect comparison, since knives are 1) dangerously sharp by definition, and 2) not marketed as something you put your children INSIDE.
Now, a confession: I used my Maclaren just this morning, even though my hinge covers have not yet arrived. So I am neither boycotting their products, nor even wishing them ill. But there is some interesting back story in the New York Post this morning. Apparently, Maclaren has known this dangerous finger- snapping possibility has existed since 2004, but failed to immediately report it to the Consumer Products Safety Commission, as is required by law. No surprise there; that seems to be standard business practice in these recall situations. The interesting part of this Post story is the details of the first reported finger amputation, which I have to say I have been wondering about. Who were these children (and mothers) and why weren’t we hearing from them? Now the Post has the details, and they are not pretty:
The company has known the stroller hinges could become finger guillotines since at least July 12, 2004, when 23-month-old Carlos DeWinter lost his right pinky… His mother, Jane DeWinter, was shopping for a Maclaren stroller at a Right Start shop, and she was testing the one-handed folding and unfolding mechanism.
As she was about to lock the stroller into the open position, Carlos put his finger on the hinge, and he suffered a “traumatic amputation,” the court papers said. Despite two surgeries, the pinky could not be reattached. Maclaren and Right Start argued that the mother’s “own negligence” was to blame. Maclaren settled with the DeWinters for an undisclosed sum. Jane DeWinter said she could not comment.
I found this story kind of horrifying. Ms. DeWinter did not even OWN a Maclaren! She was just trying one out in the store, and during what I presume is the first time she EVER opened the thing, she lops off her 2 year old’s pinky finger. This, I think, sort of belies the notion that this stroller recall is a bunch of lazy parents blaming everyone else for their own negligence. One cannot really blame Ms. DeWinter or her son for knowing those huge hinges were present– and extremely dangerous– the first time she ever used the stroller.
Another pooh-pooh response out there has been that this sort of injury could happen with any folding stroller, and that Maclaren is being unfairly maligned. Not so fast:
Robert Moro, an engineer and former compliance officer with the Consumer Products Safety Commission, testified in 2007 that “this stroller contains a substantial design defect when compared to other types of designs of strollers intended to be used by children.”
The way the stroller was designed and manufactured in China violated federal guidelines intended to prevent a gruesome “scissoring effect,” Moro said.
“Maclaren had a legal obligation to report this,” Moro told The Post. “It’s extremely unfortunate a lot of little kids had to get their fingers amputated.”
Shall we storm the Maclaren headquarters? I’m not saying that. But if anyone out there tries to blame this on the “hysterical mommy” instead of on a wilfully negligent manufacturer, please send them my way.