Happy Birthday To Us

We here at Abnormal Use celebrate our first birthday today. That’s right: Our very first post – our mission statement – was published one year ago today. We’ve greatly enjoyed bringing you products liability litigation commentary over the past year, and we were humbled when we were named to the ABA Journal‘s Blawg 100 list late last year. (Another unexpected joy was learning yesterday that we had been named by the ABA Journal as the most popular torts blog).

What else to say on the occasion of the first anniversary of the birth of one’s law blog? We could look forward to the coming year and preview what we have in store for our readers. But that would be telling. We could wax philosophical as some blogs do on such occasions, and there is some purpose to such self reflection. So we’ll do just that, if only for posterity.

It all began in the final months of 2009. Those were the halcyon days during which we planned and plotted this blogging enterprise. Knowing that a successful blog must offer fresh commentary weekly, preferably daily, we wanted to ensure that we could do so. Thus, we developed an infrastructure that included two principal authors and five contributors, each with his or her own assigned beat to cover. It has proven to be a successful formula, and we are pleased with the results. We think the ability to post daily is one of the keys to our success.

We also knew that in order to keep our commentary lively and interesting, we’d need to inject a bit of personality into our posts. This, of course, is something we learned from our good friends over at the Drug and Device Law blog who aren’t shy about expressing their opinions. (Neither, in fact, are our pals Walter Olson and Ted Frank at the Overlawyered and Point of Law blogs).

One thing that we have not yet accomplished is to establish this site as a place for back and forth discussion between we, the authors and contributors, and you, our readers. We know from our Sitemeter statistics that we have a certain number of visitors each day, including some who we suspect are regular repeat visitors. (If you’re a regular, say hello!) In the coming months, we’d like to encourage a dialogue between ourselves and our readers on our topics of interest.

In the end, though, we look back and must confess that we’ve quite enjoyed this blogging thing. We look forward to another year of the same, and we thank you again for your support.

Cost-Effective Remedies Not Sufficient to Prevent Ban on Drop-Side Cribs

After recalling more than 11 million dangerous cribs over the last three years, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (“CPSC“) recently approved, effective June 2011, new mandatory safety standards for baby cribs and issued a ban on the manufacture and sale of cribs with drop-down sides. Childcare facilities and hotels have 24 months from the publication of the rule to institute compliant cribs into their facilities. Reports of at least 32 infant strangulation and suffocation deaths since 2000 associated with drop-side cribs prompted the CPSC’s decision.

USA Today reports that prior to the CPSC announcement over 900 incident reports were filed with 14 crib companies indicating that drop-side cribs were falling apart, injuring and killing infants. The combination of malfunctioning hardware, cheap plastics, and problems in assembly would cause the crib’s drop-side rail to detach creating a “V”-like gap and potential “suffocation zone” between the mattress and the side rail.
In response to past recalls, crib manufacturers such as LaJobi and Delta offered free “retrofit” kits to customers to immobilize the drop-side railings. While an immobilized railing deprives the user of the potential benefit of a drop-side crib, there is no evidence that the retrofit conversion kits are ineffective in remedying the safety concerns. Unfortunately, as CPSC Chairman Inez Tenenbaum indicated in her statement [PDF] on crib safety before the Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations, there are still “far too many parents who have not responded to recall announcements.” Even with the lack of recall response, we must question the necessity of an absolute ban which places childcare facilities in a financial quandary during an era of economic uncertainty when cost-effective measures could be taken to alleviate the potential hazards of drop-side cribs. Certainly, childcare facilities would opt for a free retrofit kit when faced with the choice of bearing the expense of replacement costs.
We here at Abnormal Use would never advocate for the continued presence of a product in the marketplace that poses potential serious injury to children. If I discovered that my daughter’s “Handy Manny Talking Tool Box” was defective and posed a serious safety hazard (besides the threat to her father’s sanity after hearing its catchy jingle repetitively), I too would become a persistent voice in the ear of the CPSC. However, a total ban on drop-side cribs only serves to alleviate an alleged design defect at the expense of the consumer.
On one hand, the CPSC is justified in its pursuit of improving crib safety standards. After all, these standards had not been revised since 1982. On the other hand, child care facilities are left to shoulder the burden of these changes when a cost-effective measure could have cured the problem. Presenting childcare facilities with the choice of either complying with the recall or bearing the replacement costs of new cribs would have protected these facilities and still achieved the desired outcome of child safety.
Through this decision, the CPSC is placing manufacturers on notice that it will not tolerate repeated massive recalls of products that pose serious threats to the safety of their users even when a cost-effective measure may be taken to remedy the design defect. Unfortunately, at this time, the CPSC decision still leaves me having to take my own draconian measures to protect myself from the serenade of Handy Manny and his toolbox.

Happy New Year!

We here at Abnormal Use wish you and your family a very Happy New Year. However 2011 turns out, we expected it to be at least somewhat different than how these men in 1931 predicted it would be.

By the way, the image above is the cover of Action Comics #41, published way back in 1945. As you can see, Superman is helping to usher in the new 1945 while bidding farewell to 1944.

Have a safe and eventful holiday. We look forward to bringing you plenty of commentary in the coming year.