We Cannot Trust Products We Buy to be Safe: Consider These Fines, Imposed on Respected US Companies for Putting Dangerous Products On Our Store Shelves


We Cannot Trust Products We Buy to be Safe: Consider These Fines, Imposed on Respected US Companies for Putting Dangerous Products On Our Store Shelves

Companies are out to make money, and that is a good thing when you consider that the company pays employees’ wages and sets up insurance and pension benefits.  Having companies interested in making money isn’t such a good thing when they do things like fail to report their products can hurt people, because they want to keep selling those products to unsuspecting consumers for a profit.

Sure, but those are just the shady companies right?  Surely the nationally known and long respected corporations that have products in stores across the country wouldn’t do this, right? Wrong.

Consider this.  So far, in the first half of August 2011, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission reports that these three national companies, while not admitting that anyone knowingly violated the law or did anything wrong, will collectively pay over a million dollars in penalties – and that is just in the first two weeks of this month:

1. Black & Decker Agrees to $960,000 Civil Penalty for Failing to Report Defective Grasshog XP Weed Trimmer/Edgers

…Black & Decker (U.S.) Inc., of Towson, Md., has agreed to pay a civil penalty of $960,000. … The settlement resolves CPSC staff’s allegations that Black & Decker knowingly failed to report several safety defects and hazards with the Grasshog XP immediately to CPSC, as required by federal law. CPSC staff also alleges the firm withheld information requested by CPSC staff during the course of the investigation.

Federal law requires manufacturers, distributors and retailers to report to CPSC immediately (within 24 hours) after obtaining information reasonably supporting the conclusion that a product contains a defect which could create a substantial product hazard, creates an unreasonable risk of serious injury or death, or fails to comply with any consumer product safety rule or any other rule, regulation, standard or ban enforced by CPSC.

CPSC staff alleges Black & Decker knew, on or before May 2006, that the high-powered, electric Grasshog XP GH1000 was defective and could cause harm, but failed to report this to CPSC.

CPSC staff also alleges that Black & Decker failed to provide full information about defects with the Grasshog XP as requested in May 2006. Based on the incomplete information provided at that time, CPSC closed the case. The firm did not give CPSC staff full information about the extent of Grasshog XP defects or the mounting number of incidents and injuries until October 2006.

In July 2007, Black & Decker and CPSC announced the recall of about 200,000 Grasshog XP model GH1000 trimmer/edgers. By that time, there were more than 700 reports of incidents, including 58 injuries with the Grasshog XP. The trimmer/edgers spool, spool cap and pieces of trimmer string can come loose during use and become projectiles. This poses a serious laceration hazard to the user and to bystanders. The trimmer/edgers also can overheat and burn consumers. Black & Decker sold the Grasshog XP weed trimmers from November 2005 through spring 2007 for about $70.

The recall was reannounced in August 2009 with an additional 100 injuries reported. CPSC urges consumers with recalled Grasshog XP trimmer/edgers to contact Black & Decker for a free repair kit.

2. Perfect Fitness Must Pay a $425,000 Civil Penalty for Failing to Report Its Exercise Equipment Causes Falls

….The penalty agreement resolves staff allegations that Perfect Fitness knowingly failed to report to CPSC immediately, as required by federal law, about a defect with the handles of Perfect Pullup exercise equipment. The defect causes the handles of the product to break during use, resulting in a fall hazard to consumers.

CPSC staff alleges that Perfect Fitness concluded in June 2008 that its exercise equipment was defective following retesting of the handle design. The testing was done after the firm received a complaint and, according to the firm’s internal review, an unusual number of product returns. Perfect Fitness redesigned the product to correct the defect in July 2008.

CPSC staff alleges that Perfect Fitness was aware of at least 23 injuries associated with its product in March 2010 and posted a notice on its website to let consumers know they could get free replacement handles. Staff alleges the firm told consumers that the original handles were “inferior” and could result in an “accident.”

The firm did not report the defect to CPSC until December 2010. By that time, CPSC staff alleges the firm was aware of at least 45 complaints of injury associated with the handles breaking and had received more than 2,000 requests for replacements.

In February 2011, the firm and CPSC announced a recall of about 7,000 Perfect Pullups. The exercise equipment with the original handles sold for between $80 and $100 at sporting goods stores nationwide and on Amazon.com from January 2008 through February 2011. The exercise equipment with the original handles was also sold through direct television marketing and on the firm’s website during some of 2008.

Federal law requires manufacturers, distributors, and retailers to report to CPSC immediately (within 24 hours) after obtaining information reasonably supporting the conclusion that a product contains a defect which could create a substantial product hazard, creates an unreasonable risk of serious injury or death, or violates any consumer product safety rule, or any other rule, regulation, standard, or ban enforced by the CPSC.


3. CVS Must Pay $45,000 Civil Penalty for Failing to Report Drawstrings in Children’s Jackets Can Strangle Kids

The penalty resolves CPSC staff’s allegations that CVS knowingly failed to report to CPSC immediately, as required by federal law, that it had sold children’s hooded jackets with drawstrings at the neck from August 2008 to January 2009. Children’s upper outerwear with drawstrings, including sweatshirts, sweaters, and jackets, poses strangulation and entanglement hazards to children that can result in serious injury or death. In March 2009, CPSC and the importer of the jackets announced a recall of the products, which were sold under the brand names Golden Grove and Young USA.

In 1996, CPSC issued drawstring guidelines (pdf) to help prevent children from strangling on or getting entangled in the neck and waist drawstrings of upper outerwear, such as jackets and sweatshirts. In 2006, CPSC’s Office of Compliance announced that children’s upper outerwear with drawstrings at the hood or neck would be regarded as defective and presenting a substantial risk of injury to young children.

Federal law requires manufacturers, distributors, and retailers to report to CPSC immediately (within 24 hours) after obtaining information reasonably supporting the conclusion that a product contains a defect which could create a substantial product hazard, creates an unreasonable risk of serious injury or death, or fails to comply with any consumer product safety rule or any other rule, regulation, standard, or ban enforced by CPSC.

Note: On June 29, 2011, the Commission approved a final rule that designates children’s upper outerwear in sizes 2T through 12 with neck or hood drawstrings, and children’s upper outerwear in sizes 2T through 16 with certain waist or bottom drawstrings, as substantial product hazards.

What This Means to You, The American Consumer Buying Products in Illinois or Indiana

In each of the instances, products that were dangerous were setting on store shelves for people to buy.  Products that could hurt someone, maybe even kill a child.

When you buy anything in this country, you cannot assume that you are safe just because the product has made it to the store.  You’re not. All too often, people are seriously injured before companies will agree to take their products out of the marketplace – because profits, sadly, are all too often prioritized over people.

If you think you or a loved one have been hurt by a product, then you can do several things.  You can report it to your local consumer protection advocacy group, you can report it to state officials, you can report it to federal agencies like the CPSC.  You can complain to the store, you can call the manufacturer.

However, none of these things will provide you with an avenue to seek monetary compensation for the damages that you or a loved one have sustained.  To pursue a claim for justice, you must seek the help of a personal injury lawyer experienced in product liability claims.  That’s right: you will have to make a claim and maybe file a lawsuit to get the company to take responsibility.


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