Dangerous Hope Chests


September 3, 2018 / Product Injury

Do you have a cedar chest, otherwise known as a “hope chest,” in your home? Perhaps you inherited it, or maybe you bought it secondhand. If you have children in your home, pay close attention to the following recall. They could be at great risk.

The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) wants everyone who has a cedar chest in their home to check and see whether it is a “Lane” or “Virginia Maid” brand chest. These chests manufactured between 1912 and 1987 have been recalled because, when the lid closes, it locks automatically. It is this flaw that has suffocated 14 children who have gotten trapped inside. A few cases stand out:

  • During 2001 alone, three St. Louis, Missouri, kids suffocated together in a chest, and two brothers died inside a Springfield, Massachusetts, chest.
  • In Unity, Wisconsin, three sisters suffocated in a chest (2002).
  • In Somerset County, Pennsylvania, two brothers died inside a chest (2004).
  • A seven-year-old brother and eight-year-old sister from Massachusetts died together in a chest (2014).

Not all the children who died were young. A 15-year-old girl suffocated inside a chest in nearby Reynoldsburg, Ohio, during 1999.

These chests have a push-button-type latch; to open the chest, you must push the button, but you can do it only from the outside of the chest. If someone climbs inside the chest and the lid falls closed, there is no escape. Whoever is trapped inside will quickly suffocate and die.

A Decades-Long Danger

The CPSC originally issued a recall for 12 million Lane cedar chests in 1996, so the problem is hardly new. But because of some recent deaths, the Commission is advising people to check once more to see if they have one of these deadly chests in their homes, sheds, garages, or in any other building on their property. Patty Davis of the CPSC commented, “We are concerned that millions of these chests remain unrepaired and in consumers’ homes . . . [Check] your attic, your basement to see if you have one of these recalled chests.”

I Found a Chest. What Now?

If you have one of the cedar chests in question, the first thing you must do is remove the latch and lock on the chest. If you remove the three screws in the upper latch on the chest’s lid, the latch should come off and the chest will not be able to lock shut. If you do not or cannot remove the latch, you should secure the chest someplace where it cannot be found and opened.

Once you remove the latch or have secured the chest, contact the Tupelo, Mississippi, company United Furniture Industries, Inc. (UFI). In 2017, UFI bought the rights to the Lane brand name, which includes the Virginia Maid brand. They are giving out free replacement locks and latches to anyone who owns one of the recalled cedar chests.

You can call UFI at 877-251-5010 toll-free from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Central Time, Monday through Friday. When the phone is answered, select Option 4. You can also write UFI an email if you prefer: LaneRepair@ufifurniture.com. Additionally, you can order your replacement latch online.

If you have not removed the old latch, install your replacement latch as soon as you receive it to prevent a tragedy.

One more thing: If you have a used chest and you want to sell it, fix it first!

When something goes wrong, we are left to wonder.

When you or a loved one is harmed by a defective product or suffers a personal injury, you must investigate the causes and make things right. If you or a family member has been injured by someone else’s negligence, we hope you’ll speak with an experienced Indiana personal injury lawyer at Stephenson Rife.

Both Mike Stephenson, with his more than three decades of experience, and Brady Rife, with his diverse experience in personal injury litigation, strive always to meet the highest standards of client care. Stephenson Rife offers free consultations; we would like to discuss how we can be of service to you. Please keep in mind that there is a time limit for filing your case, so it is wise not to delay. Call us today, or use our confidential online contact form.

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