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Cosco Fined For Safety Delays

Baby products maker Cosco Inc. has agreed to pay $1.3 million to settle charges it delayed reporting safety defects that led to hundreds of injuries and the deaths of two children.

The Consumer Product Safety Commission had alleged that Cosco redesigned or relabeled five products after receiving reports of more than 300 injuries but failed to notify the agency as required by law, The Washington Post and USA Today reported Wednesday.

The agency also claimed Cosco failed to inform it of 24 cases in which infants were trapped in misassembled cribs over a two year-period before an 8-month-old child died of asphyxiation, the newspapers said.

The other death involved a toddler bed, company spokeswoman Carol Dingledy said in an interview Tuesday night with The Associated Press. In both cases, the products were misused or misassembled, she said. Both products were recalled.

A total of seven products were involved in the charges, most manufactured from 1994 to 1998. Five were made by Columbus-based Cosco, and two by Safety 1st, according to a statement by Montreal-based Dorel Industries, which owns both companies.

Safety 1st of Canton, Mass., will pay $450,000 for failing to report problems with a walker and a diaper-wipe warmer, the newspapers reported.

The safety agency was expected to officially announce the settlement Wednesday.

Martin Schwartz, president and chief executive officer of Dorel, said the company now has a better understanding of reporting obligations and has pledged to improve its reporting practices.

"But we strongly object to the implication that we don't care about the safety of our products or the consumers who use them," Schwartz said in a statement. He said the company is paying the penalties to settle the matter and denies liability.

Cosco is one of the nation's largest makers of baby products, including car seats, cribs, high chairs and strollers. The company paid $725,000 in 1996 for not reporting problems with toddler beds and guardrails.

Last month, the company recalled about 170,000 "Bungee Baby Jumpers" because a clasp on the device can detach, allowing a child to fall.

In November, the company recalled about 1 million high chairs after receiving 57 reports of children being injured when their seats collapsed or restraints gave way.

"We put in the marketplace each year over 14 million products," Schwartz said. "When you consider our size, our safety record is the best in the industry."

By Charles Wilson
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