Defective High Chair Manufacturer Fined $3.5 Million

The manufacturer of many popular children’s products has agreed to pay $3.5 million in fines to settle a case in which federal authorities alleged the company failed to report to federal regulators on a dangerous defect on one of its high chairs.
The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) reported that phil&teds created an unreasonable risk of serious injury to children with its MeToo high chair. Not only was the product defective, the agency stated, the company intentionally made claims that were false or misrepresentations when the CPSC investigators first launched an inquiry in 2011.

But despite that hefty figure, it’s likely the company will only be forced to pay a $200,000 penalty. That’s because all but this much of the fine has been suspended, based on sworn depositions by company leaders that the firm can’t afford to pay any more than this without closing shop.

Of course, considering the potential injury children can suffer due to this defect – and the company’s insistence in covering up this fact – one has to wonder if ceasing operations would be a bad thing.

According to the CPSC’s report, these specific model of high chairs – of which 13,000 were sold nationwide – have clamps that can detach from the table. When that happens, depending on the way it happens, one of two things could occur:

  1. Both clamps become detached, and the child falls several feet to the ground. This could result in broken bones, skull fractures, head trauma and other injuries in a small child.
  2. One clamp becomes detached, and the child’s finger could be crushed between the bar and the clamping mechanism. This would likely result in amputation.

Between late 2009 and late 2010, the company received numerous reports of both of these scenarios. There were at least two cases in which children’s fingertips had to be amputated as a result of the defect.

Even though these reports were submitted to the company and even though the company implemented two different design plans to address the issue, it failed to immediately report the problem to the CPSC as required by law. When the company did finally report the issue to federal regulators in early 2011, it did not reveal that the chair posed an amputation hazard. When the CPSC requested a model of the chair for independent analysis, the company did not send one of the original, defective models. It instead submitted one of its redesigned models to regulators.

The CPSC has stated these actions were clearly deceptive and intended to minimize the possible financial impact to the company – with disregard for the fact that thousands of children were still using these defective chairs that could have caused serious personal injury – and their parents had no idea.

Finally in August 2011, the $50 high chair was recalled.

In addition to paying the fine, the company will also have to implement and maintain a compliance program to ensure it complies with federal law on safety standards.

Contact our Carolina personal injury lawyers at Lee Law Offices today by calling 800-887-1965.

Additional Resources:
Maker of high chairs fined for hiding dangerous defects, Sept. 10, 2015, By Mitch Lipka, CBS MoneyWatch

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