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Child Injured While in Bumbo: Who's at Fault, Parent or Product?

By Monica Bielanko |

The Bumbo features prominently on the baby shower registries of millions of women around the world.

But, as Mitch Lipka reports over on Yahoo, although the chair – which is used to help babies sit up before they’re able to do so on their own – has an unquestioned success in sales, its safety record is not as certain.

Lipka says Kevin and Lucy Ferrell learned that lesson the hard way when 9-month-old Colby fell out of the seat and fractured his skull.

“He arched his back up and he kind of flipped out of it sideways and backwards and rolled right off (the table),” Kevin Ferrell says. “It just happened in a split second.”

Those injuries are happening a lot. So much that the South African company recalled Bumbo in 2007 after 28 injuries reported to the Consumer Product Safety Commission. Bumbo began placing warnings on the seats that they shouldn’t be used on elevated surfaces like tables and couches but, unlike cribs, car seats and high chairs, the Bumbo is not governed by any government or industry standard.

The Ferrells decided to file a lawsuit against the company and Toys R Us, where the Bumbo was purchased on their registry. They accuse Toys R Us  of knowingly stocking a baby product that has caused injuries. Documents obtained as part of that lawsuit show 300 reported Bumbo-related accidents in America, Great Britian and other countries. The Ferrell’s case is still in a pretrial phase.

A month ago the Consumer Product Safety Commission issued a warning that there have been another 45 accidents since the recall. Not only that, but it had learned of another 18 older cases where children were injured as a result of sitting in the Bumbo whether it was on the ground or elevated.

The Ferrell’s lawyer, Ross Cunningham, tells Yahoo he has settled a dozen lawsuits over Bumbo’s safety. He also says the company has done absolutely nothing to fix the product to prevent children from getting out of it even though they know it can be dangerous to children.

Bumbo’s U.S. attorney offers up a statement from Bumbo:

“The Bumbo baby seat is a safe product for infants when it is used as intended: on the floor and never on an elevated surface,” the statement says. “Children should always been closely supervised when they are in the Bumbo seat.”

The company also says it is working with the Consumer Product Safety Commission to educate parents on the correct use of the seat. Which leads me to my question for you. If you own a Bumbo, wouldn’t you check out how your kid does in it before sitting him on a kitchen table? As with any other type of baby gear – don’t you thoroughly vet how well your kid does in it before completely trusting it?

Violet always rolled out of her Bumbo. Henry too. He wouldn’t sit in it for two seconds without arching his back and flipping out. I would never leave either kid alone in it. So while I think Colby Ferrell’s injuries are horrible, I question the Ferrells’ judgment is sitting their son in a an unrestrained chair on a table. I’d sit Violet in the Bumbo on the couch next to me or on the floor while watching TV, but that’s it. And Henry, forget about it. The Bumbo has been put away.

The question, I suppose, comes down to this: Do you have complete trust in any type of baby product or do you test out how your kid will do in each and every product. Sure you trust a crib not to collapse, but that’s not a similar analogy. The Bumbo isn’t failing to work properly, some kids just don’t sit still and I don’t think it’s Bumbo’s responsibility if they get injured. That’s a kind of use-at-your-own-risk product. While some babies may sit still for hours, you never know what crazy maneuvers other babies are going to make, you know? So does this make it Bumbo’s fault or are they simply offering a product, one that doesn’t have a seatbelt, that parents can choose to use with their baby or realize the risks and not use?

Also, have you ever had any close calls with the Bumbo? Would you blame yourself or the product if your child was injured?

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About Monica Bielanko

monica-bielanko

Monica Bielanko

Monica Bielanko was raised on the wild frontier of late 1970's Utah. She is a recovering Mormon who married the guitar player of an unknown band. She's been married to her Babble Voices writing partner, Serge Bielanko, for the past nine years. Her personal blog, The Girl Who was in the top ten of last year's Top 50 list. Read bio and latest posts → Read Monica's latest posts →

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21 thoughts on “Child Injured While in Bumbo: Who's at Fault, Parent or Product?

  1. Lauren says:

    Ridiculous lawsuit, they admitted it wad on an elevated surface…they just want money.

  2. Becca says:

    I’m really sad for them that their baby was injured – the thought of that happening is unbearable.

    But… 100% the fault of the parents. There are no restraints, the product is not sold as a safety device. It’s all about the purpose of the product – cribs are designed for children to be left alone to sleep in; high chairs are designed for feeding (and therefore not being left alone); Bumbo is designed to “seat young babies who can’t sit up by themselves yet”, not to raise baby up to your level by placing on elevated surfaces. If you use something for its express purpose, the risk is minimal.

    Suing the retailer as well as the manufacturer smacks of greed. Bumbo isn’t as giant and deep-pocketed an organisation as Toys R Us.

    We’ve been learning about household accidents at the local Children’s Centre, and there’s a common denominator – people just not thinking enough. This is what I believe happened in the Ferrell household.

  3. Sara says:

    I tested the Bumbo out on my baby, and I *did* use it on counters and tables because he couldn’t get out of it. Until all-of-a-sudden he could. Luckily, he wasn’t hurt. He just flopped onto the table and I was right there, so I got him before anything else happened. And we quit using the Bumbo. My point is, even if you test a product out, babies grow and change and learn stuff. You have to be vigilant and extra careful always.
    I agree that it is the parents’ responsibility in general. But I know that you can’t be watching them every second. I also think it would be really easy and cheap for the company to add a seatbelt or something for a little extra security. Why don’t they?

  4. snakecharmer says:

    Ummm…they had the baby in the bumbo on a TABLE?!?! I have one and I read the instructions and under no circumstances are you supposed to have the baby sitting in it on an elevated surface. It’s right there in the manual. Totally the parents fault on this one.

  5. jason says:

    Parents fault. I don’t feel one bit sorry. #1 rule……..NEVER leave a child unattended. PERIOD ! DUH !

  6. rebecca says:

    100% parents fault….. You wouldn’t lay your baby on the table and walk away out of reach so why would you think that seat would hold him perfectly safe?

  7. Mandi Duncan says:

    THEY STRICTLY SAY DO NOT SIT ON TABLE OR ANYTHING ITS MADE TO GO ON THE FLOOR…… ITS IN BIG LETTERS THAT ITS NOT SAFE ON ANY TABLES OR COUNTERS !!!!

  8. Kelly L says:

    I agree with everyone, this is the parents fault. I actually can’t think of any baby product that doesn’t have a safety label on it that says DO NOT PLACE ON ELEVATED surface. It’s indicated on my car seat, my boucy seat, my travel swing, anything my child was could sit in, regardless if it had a seatbelt of not. Babies wiggle, move and can fall out of anything or even if buckled in, can tip over the item they are in, therefore, making the item fall with and on top of them. And even with cribs, a baby gets to the point of being able to climb out and can seriously hurt themselves falling. Should every crib company and the store who sold it be sued because toddlers can’t sit still? The product or company cannot be held responsible for the parent not using correctly. There are instructions and warnings for a reason. They need to take ownership of their own actions and not look for a scapegoat to blame.

  9. Tammy M says:

    This accident was absolutely the PARENTS’ FAULT. They stupidly put their baby on a table. It doesn’t take a genius level IQ to know that was dumb. I pray their lawsuit is thrown out as frivolous! The Bumbo seat has warnings on it. If the parents choose not to heed those warnings, they should be held responsible for their choices. It was neglect to leave a 9mo in an unrestrained elevated seat.

  10. Lizs says:

    this is typical for north america, i always have the feeling that people here are not trained to think for themselves, they believe that everybody else has to tell them how to live their lives properly and always find somebody else to blame if something happens, I just heard that canada wants to ban Vicks vaporub because a mother put in under the nose of her baby and the rub got inhaled into the babies lungs and caused severe damage, seriously? people start to think a little bit for your self and stop blaming others!

  11. Meagan says:

    For the love of God or whatever flying spaghetti monster you choose to worship, how do people not know by now not to put babies in baby equipment on elevated surfaces? I thought we went through all this with car seats a decade or two ago?

    Everyone is allowed lapses in judgment, but what I don’t get is how anyone can pretend this is a product defect rather than user error.

  12. Meagan says:

    @Sara a seatbelt would not make it much safer, it would just bring the seat down with them when they fell. On the other hand, it might give parents a false sense of security and make improper usage more likely. Plus, looking at the design, I can’t see how a seatbelt could be used with a bumbo- there’s no way to get between the seat and child for buckling.

  13. Teri says:

    Totally the parents fault! The Bumbo is designed to help teach your child to sit up, if your child is strong enough to arch his back & push it around he should not be using the Bumbo! Also it states you DO NOT use on elevated surfaces!! Were they even watching him as he sat on the table? I have used our Bumbo on the chairs (while we were eating & I was sitting right beside her) Until she got too big! I have also used it in the shower, I put my daughter in it while I showered, she got to play with toys and be right there with me, again until she got too big, once she was able to push or arch out of it she was no longer in it!! I mean what’s next? We sue because our toddler climbed out of the crib & got hurt? Parents need to be responsible for their own actions!

  14. Becca says:

    @Liz – unfortunately, it’s over this side of the pond as well. My husband works for an insurance company, and read a case where a woman sued the council when she tripped over the “keep off the grass” sign, which was on the grass!

  15. Tommy says:

    Seems to me like the Farrells are just trying to make a quick buck…. I bet there is a lot more to this story, like Lucy was in the other room hitting her crack pipe.. horrible parenting leads to accidents like this!

  16. Rachel K says:

    It is 100% the parents fault. I am sorry for what happened to their child but they can only blame themselves. With that being said, my Houdini of a son could get out of his at probably 3 1/2 mo of age and managed to fall out of it on our tile floor and still hurt himself (hey, I had to pee so it was my only option). I think Bumbo needs to find ways to modify their product or add a safety belt. But Bumbo was still a miracle product when I needed free hands.

  17. Amy says:

    Never used one.

    If babies were biologically ready to sit up they wouldn’t need a Bumbo. If you want your child upright, hold him. If you don’t have time to hold your baby, let someone else take a turn or lay him on a blanket on the floor where he can exercise the muscles he’ll need to sit up on his own.

  18. Kirsten says:

    It says all over the box DONT PUT ON ANY ELEVATED SURFACE

  19. k Santi says:

    The recall on this is absolutely ignorant…The company is not responsible for the negligence of watching your child…any parent should know that if the child sits on a table or counter there is a fall risk that he or she is taking….nothing beats parental supervision! I use mine on the table with supervision!

  20. Amanda says:

    It’s common sense seriously when your baby is old enough to sit unassisted would you leave him/her sitting on counter alone. Gosh people are money hungry.. That is 110% parents fault. People need to use their brain.

  21. Heather says:

    Babies grow and develop new skills quickly. That includes arching their backs and pushing with their legs, which can cause them to fall out of the Bumbo. However, with so many injuries, the manufacturer should have began including safety straps long ago.

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