Page last updated at 12:42 GMT, Wednesday, 9 December 2009

Parents sue pushchair maker over 'injury warnings'

By Anna Adams
Interactive reporter, BBC News

Olivia Harmer with bandaged hand
Olivia Harmer had plastic surgery after her fingertip was severed

A group of parents are suing pushchair maker Maclaren claiming it knew its products had injured children and ignored warnings others could get hurt.

More than 15 UK families are seeking compensation, claiming their children had fingertips severed by hinges.

Maclaren said it would not comment on specific cases but was trying to establish details of any incidents.

Last month Maclaren USA recalled one million pushchairs after 12 children had their fingertips cut off.

More than 30 parents have contacted BBC News saying their children were treated in hospital after lacerating their fingertips in Maclaren pushchairs. Some cases date back several years.

Many said they had contacted Maclaren after the accident but did not receive a satisfactory reply.

It shouldn't have happened to anybody else's child
Liz Harmer

Parent Liz Harmer, from Manningtree, Essex, wrote to the company 18 months ago when her daughter Olivia sliced off her fingertip in the hinge of her buggy.

The accident happened when Olivia was 15-months-old. She had plastic surgery to repair the fingertip but still has a scar.

Mrs Harmer said: "My mother was looking after her at the time and she had no idea what she had done.

"Olivia screamed and there was a lot of blood and it was only after she folded up the buggy that we found the little tip of Olivia's finger in the hinge.

"The most frustrating thing about this is that it has happened again and again.

"I find it very distressing that this is still happening because we alerted Maclaren to this over a year ago now and the fact that they just brushed it aside is very frustrating.

"It shouldn't have happened to anybody else's child."

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Parents sue buggy injuries firm

'Guillotine'

Richard Tomlinson, a paediatric consultant at the Royal Devon and Exeter Trust, also wrote to Maclaren after he treated a child who had lost part of a little finger in the hinge.

Dr Tomlinson said: "Mother's back was turned at the time and she didn't see exactly what had happened but it was quite clearly when he was playing with the buggy.

"When we examined the buggy in the hospital the tip of the finger fell out so we were in no doubt it had been amputated in the mechanism of the hinge."

We regret any children have been injured during the opening and folding of our buggies
Maclaren

"The boy's finger had been cut like a guillotine. This wasn't the kind of incident I'd ever seen before so I did something I don't usually do and I wrote to Maclaren to tell them I thought they needed to take a look at the design."

Richard Langton, a consumer lawyer, is now representing the British families. He says injuries could have been prevented if Maclaren had put a better warning on their pushchairs.

Mr Langton said: "It's not an obvious risk. It's not something that every parent would realise and one of the biggest problems is that you just don't expect this kind of thing to happen with a brand like this.

"Children are unpredictable and of course accidents happen but these parents are far from negligent and the most disgraceful thing is to say parents or users of the buggy are to blame."

Maclaren buggy
Injuries have been caused by hinges of pushchairs as they are being unfolded

Maclaren, which has sold tens of millions of buggies in the UK since it began trading in 1967, said: "Hinge covers are available to all parents in the UK free of charge. We regret any children have been injured during the opening and folding of our buggies.

"We are making every effort to establish the exact nature of the incidents. Our impeccable safety record means there are zero injuries when the child is properly fastened into the buggy."

The Baby Products Association said it "strongly reiterate[d] its support" for Maclaren products, which "met and often exceeded" European and British safety standards.

A spokesman said: "The assertion that this is solely a Maclaren issue is wholly inaccurate as any folding product must be treated with care and operated in accordance with the instructions.

"We hope that all parents will take extra care and consideration when operating any folding product when children are near."

Last month Maclaren issued a product recall in the US after 12 children lost their fingertips.

Complaints from British families then prompted the company to issue parents in the UK with protective hinge covers.

For some parents, this is not enough. They said it was not compensation they wanted but recognition that accidents they thought they had caused were not their fault.



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SEE ALSO
Row over pushchair safety risks
10 Nov 09 |  Business
Pushchair amputation risk recall
10 Nov 09 |  Americas
Mattel apology over toy recalls
12 Sep 07 |  Business
How effective are product recalls?
20 Feb 07 |  Magazine

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