Ready or not, the holiday shopping season begins in earnest this week. Enjoy shopping for loved ones, but remember to buy with caution, especially when selecting toys and products used by young children. The Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) recalled millions of unsafe toys this year, and also many of the most basic children’s products, including car seats, strollers and furniture. Shoppers should closely examine every purchase. Here are a few holiday shopping tips:
Here are some of the important ones to remember:
Graco Recalls. Graco recalled millions of car seats earlier this year because of sticky-buckles which were trapping children in the seats. Just last week, it also recalled 4.7 million defective strollers which can cause finger amputation. Graco recalled the 11 stroller models after 10 fingertip amputations and one finger laceration. The strollers were sold from 2010 until earlier this month at a number of retailers, including Target, Toys R Us, Walmart, Amazon.com and Walmart.com. Read the recall notice.
Furniture Recalls. Common home furniture also caused child injuries this year. In August, Ace Bayou recalled 2.2 million bean bag chairs after two children unzipped them, crawled inside and suffocated to death. Anyone with one of these defective chairs should call the company for a repair kit to disable the zipper.
Another serious recall impacted in Massachusetts. Earlier in the year, Lane furniture renewed its recall of wooden cedar chests after two children in Franklin became trapped in one and suffocated. The children had apparently been playing hide-and-seek and became locked inside. The company first recalled the chests in 1996, but millions of the defective chests are believed to still be in use without the necessary repair.
In the Massachusetts case, the children’s family is believed to have bought the used chest at a second-hand store more than a decade ago. Second-hand sales are challenging to regulate, as are families and friends who pass along used products to each other. This makes it important to know the characteristics of an unsafe product as well as specific products which have been recalled.
Buy age-appropriate. Read the age recommendation on toys and children’s products. Consider a child’s family. If you are buying for a child with younger siblings, buy something which is safe for all ages in the household.
Be careful buying online. After a product is recalled, it is against the law to sell it in stores or online. But some auction and online listing websites do not police private sellers closely. Avoid these sites when holiday shopping for children.
If you purchase through a merchant website such as Amazon.com, make sure you receive the right product and that it has the same age appropriate label and pieces as shown online.
Beware of suffocation and choking hazards. Avoid balloons, marbles and toys with small pieces which children can put in their mouth. Also avoid small magnets. Remember these things come with many toys, but they also come from other gifts and products that enter a home. For instance, the magnet desk sets which were so popular many years ago for adults turned out to be extremely dangerous for children. In some cases with the Buckyball magnet sets (which have been recalled), children found small magnets years after families brought the set into their home in hard-to-reach places, such as under a couch. Our point is: Please consider every gift carefully.
Long before the deaths and injuries, Takata knew its airbags were defective, according to two former employees of the company.
In fact, Takata knew about the defects as far back as 2004, the workers told The New York Times. The Japanese company learned one of its airbags exploded and sent metal debris spewing at a driver in Alabama, then began secret testing at its U.S. headquarters in Michigan. The testing was conducted outside normal work hours and was never disclosed until now. Three months into testing, employees began to theorize the problem was the welding on the airbag’s inflator canister, but the investigation was shut down and employees were instructed to destroy all testing data.
It took Takata four years to report the faulty airbags in a regulatory filing. In November 2008, the first Takata airbags were recalled.
The law requires car manufacturers to report safety defects to the government within five days once they are identified. This year has seen the most auto recalls in U.S. history and some hefty fines for Toyota and General Motors for failing to disclose defects. In March, Japan-based Toyota agreed to pay $1.2 billion to the U.S. government to avoid prosecution for hiding “unintended acceleration” defects. In May, General Motors was ordered to pay a record $35 million civil fine for failing to disclose deadly ignition switch defects.
Starting in 2008, Takata’s airbag recalls continued slowly, then got a big push last month from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). NHTSA issued a consumer advisory which urged drivers to immediately check if their vehicle’s airbags had been recalled and arrange for a repair. To date, 11 car manufacturers have recalled more than 14 million vehicles worldwide. Four deaths have been linked to the defective airbags and at least 139 people have been injured.
A few notes about this story:
Check Your Car. Every driver should check if their car has been recalled at SaferCar.gov. You can also read our blog for answers to many common consumer questions. Most impacted drivers will have to wait for replacement airbags so it is best to call your local dealer as soon as possible. Some carmakers are advising drivers not to carry passengers until their airbags have been replaced.
Why the Airbags are Defective. The airbags are defective because they have a steel canister which can crack when the device deploys in a car crash, sending metal, plastic and chemicals exploding at drivers and front seat passengers. The airbags have an inflator, which is comprised of a propellant based on a common compound used in fertilizer.
Honda. One question going forward is: How much did Honda know? This matters because Honda made more than 5 million of the recalled vehicles. The New York Times reports a 2002 Honda Accord was involved in the 2004 accident in Alabama. Honda officials say Takata assured them the accident in which a driver was injured by a ruptured airbag was an “anomaly.” Honda settled the case with the driver but Takata began its own secret testing, according to the employees. The NHTSA has ordered Honda to produce all its documents related to the Takata airbag recall by Dec. 15, so we may learn more then.
About Breakstone, White & Gluck
The Boston product liability lawyers at Breakstone, White & Gluck have over 100 years combined experience representing clients injured by negligence in Massachusetts. If you have been injured, learn your rights. For a free legal consultation, contact us at 800-379-1244 or 617-723-7676 or use our form.
We have written in the past about Buckyballs, a dangerous magnetic desk toy which has injured too many children. Last week came another development, which we hope finally removes this unsafe product from circulation.
On May 12, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) announced a voluntary recall for all Buckyballs and Buckycubes. The recall settles an administrative case filed by the CPSC in July 2012. As part of this, Craig Zucker, the former chief executive officer of Maxfield & Oberton Holdings, agreed to establish a Recall Trust. Consumers will be able to request a refund from this fund, which will be controlled by the CPSC. The agency also urges the public to stop using these defective products immediately and look for loose pieces.
Maxfield & Oberton Holdings began selling Buckyballs in 2009. The company said the magnetic desk toy was intended for adults. The problem is if a child starts playing with the tiny magnets, they can swallow them. The magnets can attract inside a child and cause painful intestinal injuries. Surgery is often required and there can be serious longstanding health consequences, such as children having to consume food through a feeding tube.
The CPSC first worked with the company to improve warning labels. The products were marketed for children “Ages 13+” and the CPSC said they should have been marketed for age 14 and up. The company agreed to recall 175,000 magnetic toys and made the change. But the injuries continued. In July 2012, the CPSC filed a lawsuit asking the company to stop sales altogether, a rare legal action the agency has only taken four times in 11 years. The agency alleged that Buckyballs and Buckycubes contained, “a defect in the design, packaging, warnings and instructions, which pose a substantial risk of injury to the public.”
Maxfield & Oberton refused to recall Buckyballs and Buckycubes and in December 2012, the company went out of business. But it was vocal about disagreeing with the CPSC and posted this message on its website:
“Due to baseless and relentless legal badgering by a certain four letter government agency, it’s time to bid a fond farewell to the world’s most popular adult desk toys, Buckyballs and Buckycubes. That’s right: We’re sad to say that Balls & Cubes have a one-way ticket to the Land-of-Awesome-Stuff-You-Should-Have-Bought-When-You-Had-the-Chance.”
In April 2013, six retailers voluntarily recalled Buckyballs and Buckycubes while the CPSC kept trying to raise awareness about the dangers of Buckyballs and other magnetic toys. It established the Magnet Information Center as a consumer resource. Between 2009 and 2011, the CPSC estimates there were 1,700 ER-treated magnet ingestion cases related to high-powered magnet sets.
Zucker will have to eventually fund a website, where consumers can apply for a refund.
Buckyballs and Buckycubes High-Powered Magnet Sets Recalled Due to Ingestion Hazard; Craig Zucker To Fund A Recall Trust, Settles With CPSC, Consumer Product Safety Commission.
Toyota issues its second largest safety recall ever while GM CEO addresses Congress and Mazda reports a new web of problems
Toyota has more bad news for drivers. Just a few weeks ago, Toyota agreed to pay a record $1.2 billion criminal penalty to the federal government. The Japanese automaker, which has recalled over 9 million vehicles worldwide in recent years, recalled another 6.4 million vehicles on Wednesday for steering, airbag and other safety defects. This is the company’s second largest single recall announcement. Toyota states that it is not aware of any crashes or injuries involving these defects.
In March, Toyota agreed to pay the $1.2 billion criminal penalty to federal government for misleading consumers and the government about unintended acceleration in its cars and trucks. The Justice Department had charged Toyota with wire fraud, but agreed to defer the criminal charge for three years while the company submits to government monitoring.
This week’s recalls involve 27 Toyota models, including the RAV4 and Yaris. The largest recall involves 3.5 million vehicles which have defective spiral cables that can be damaged when the steering wheel is turned. Other defects involve a seat rail that can be pushed forward in a crash, as well as faulty steering column brackets, windshield wiper motors and engine starters.
GM ignition defects draw Congressional inquiry. Last week, General Motors CEO Mary Barra was questioned by Congress about faulty ignition switches in GM vehicles, and about her company’s slow response to protecting the public after learning about at least 13 deaths linked to the defect. GM has recalled over 2.5 million vehicles which may be equipped with the faulty ignition switch.
A week later, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) is waiting on more answers from General Motors. It reports the company has failed to respond to more than a third of its written questions. The company is being fined $7,000 each day for failing to fully respond, and the NHTSA is expected to hand the matter over to the Justice Department shortly.
Spiders and hoses and gas, oh my! Mazda also issued a recall this week, one involving an unusual, but familiar safety problem. For the second time in three years, Mazda has recalled 42,000 Mazda6 sedans. This recall involved vehicles from 2010, 2011 and 2012.
The problem is the yellow sac spider. The spiders are attracted to the smell of gasoline and can weave a web in the evaporative fuel hose, causing pressure to build up in the fuel tank. Too much pressure can cause fuel tank cracks, leaks and fires.
In 2011, Mazda had recalled 65,000 Mazda6s from 2009 and 2010 for this defect. The car manufacturer attempted to remedy the defect by installing a spring inside the vehicle’s fuel line, but recently reported nine cases in which this was not adequate. The company is not aware of any fires due to the defect, but will now notify car owners. The remedy requires checking of the evaporative canister vent line and software reprogramming.
As it turns out, a popular wristband for tracking sleep and exercise was actually contributing to poor health.
The Fitbit Force wristband has been recalled and pulled off the market after 9,900 reports it caused skin irritation. Another 250 consumers reported blistering. The product had only been on the market since October. The company has recalled about one million wristbands in the U.S. and 28,000 in Canada. The reactions can be caused by the stainless steel casing, materials used in the strap and adhesives used to assemble the product, the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) announced in its recall notice last week.
This recall involves Fitbit ForceTM wireless activity-tracking wristbands with model numbers FB402BK, FB402BKS, FB402SL and FB402SLS. Consumers should contact San Francisco-based Fitbit for a full refund. They can call (888) 656-6381 or visit www.fitbit.com and click on Recall/Safety info on the bottom right side of the home page.
The wristband serves as a pedometer, sleep monitor and watch. It is about ¾ inch wide and is made of plastic with a stainless steel casing and clasp and a small LED display screen.
The recalled wristbands had a wide distribution. They were sold at several major retailers, including AT&T, Apple Stores, Best Buy, Brookstone, Dick’s Sporting Goods, Radio Shack, REI, Sports Authority, Target and other stores. It was sold online at Amazon.com and Fitbit.com. Each was sold for about $130.
In a statement to the media, Fitbit said that “a thorough analysis by independent labs and medical experts revealed that the reactions reported by a small percentage of Force users were likely the result of allergic contact dermatitis.” The exact number appears to be in dispute as consumer watchdogs questioned the figures following the CPSC recall announcement. The company had previously issued a voluntary recall on its own on Feb. 21, offering a refund to consumers who wanted one.
Fitbit Recalls Force Activity-Tracking Wristband Due to Risk of Skin Irritation, Consumer Product Safety Commission
Reports of Rashes Spur Fitbit Recall, ABC News.
About Breakstone, White & Gluck
The Massachusetts product liability lawyers at Breakstone, White & Gluck have over 100 years combined experience handling injury cases involving defective products. If you have been injured, it is important to learn your rights. For a free legal consultation, contact us at 800-379-11379 or 617-723-7676 or use our contact form.
Parents across the country are checking their backseats after Graco issued one of the largest child safety seat recalls in history this week. It may not be the last recall either; the Georgia-based company is facing pressure from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) to recall 1.8 million additional seats.
Graco recalled 3.7 million car seats manufactured between 2009 and 2013, the fourth largest recall ever for safety seats and the largest in five years, according to media reports. The NHTSA announced Tuesday that Graco was voluntarily recalling 11 models, though the agency had sought recalls of 18 models. The agency has stated it could take legal action to force the recall of the other models, which are rear-facing models for infants.
The car seats have defective buckles, which can be difficult to unlatch or become stuck. Graco said it was not aware of any injuries resulting from the car seat, but the New York Times reports the NHTSA began investigating Graco in 2012, after parents complained to regulators about having to cut children out of the seats from straps. One parent said it took her 45 minutes to loosen the straps enough to pull her daughter out.
But there is at least one case of serious injury. In a Jan. 14 letter to Graco, the NHTSA noted the company was a defendant in a wrongful death lawsuit in Los Angeles Superior Court in which a two-year-old child was killed in a fire following a car crash. The child was traveling in a Graco Nautilus car seat. The company has said the wrongful death case was resolved by a confidential settlement agreement.
Read the full list of recalled car seats. Parents who have defective car seats can contact Graco for a free replacement buckle. Graco says the seats are safe to use until parents obtain a replacement, but the NHTSA is urging parents to find other seats until they receive the new buckles.
Parents want to be able to trust the car seats, strollers and cribs they use to care for their children. Because these are important purchases, many parents and family members spend time researching and reading consumer reviews on Internet shopping sites such as Amazon.com before purchasing.
These reviews are helpful, as is feedback from other parents. But there are a few other steps parents can take:
Mail in the product registration. You want to make sure the company knows you have its product and need to be notified of any defect or recall and be included in the remedy process.
Do your research. Search the NHTSA database for car seat recalls.
Car seat inspection. Visit this NHTSA website page to search for sites where you can get your car seat inspected. Watch as the certified professional fits your child’s car seat and what to watch as you go about your daily driving routine.
Check your product. Remember a few basics about all children products, from toys to car seats. First, make sure they do not have small parts which can easily break and become a choking hazard. Make sure your child can move freely in seats with straps. Make sure the product can fully support your child by reading the age and weight requirements.
A few weeks ago, two young children in Franklin tragically died after becoming trapped in a defective wooden hope chest during a game of hide and seek. We follow reports of defective products carefully, and we now share some of the January product recalls issued by the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC). That agency is charged with protecting the public from unreasonable risks of injury or death associated with consumer products.
Britax Stroller Recall
Britax recalled 225,000 strollers last week due to the stroller’s folding mechanism, which poses a risk for partial fingertip amputation. The company had received eight incident reports, including one partial fingertip amputation, one broken finger and severe finger lacerations.
Consumers are advised to stop using the recalled strollers immediately and contact Britax for a free repair kit.
The recall involves these models: Britax B-Agile, B-Agile Double and BOB Motion Strollers. They were sold at major retailers and juvenile product stores nationwide from May 2011 through June 2013. They were also sold through Amazon.com, ToysRUs.com and other online retailers. They sold for between $250 and $450.
In recent years, Maclaren USA has also recalled strollers with hinges which posed an amputation risk. In 2009, Maclaren USA recalled one million strollers after 12 reports of fingertip amputations and three other incidents. The company re-issued the recall in 2011. By that time, it had received a total of 149 reports, including 17 reports of fingertip amputations and other injuries, including lacerations and fingertip entrapments/bruising.
There were two recalls related to pacifiers this month. On Jan. 22, Playtex recalled 1.25 million pacifier holder clips in the U.S. and 150,000 in Canada. These clips attach the pacifier to clothing, diaper bags and strollers.
Playtex received 99 reports of the holder cracking or breaking. No injuries have been reported. Consumers are advised to stop using the product and contact Playtex for a full refund.
Last week, Fred & Friends recalled three models of its “Chill Baby” pacifier line, including 183,000 in the United States and 17,000 in Canada. The pacifiers have novelty features which can detach and do not meet federal safety standards. No injuries have been reported but consumers are advised to stop using the pacifiers and return them to Fred & Friends for a $12 refund.
Gree Dehumidifier Recall Expanded
In September, Gree recalled 2.2 million dehumidifiers under 12 brand names because they posed a risk for fire and burns. It expanded this recall last week, adding another 350,000 dehumidifiers under the GE brand name in the U.S. and 2,700 in Canada. The company had received 16 reports of incidents, including 11 reports of overheating with no property damage and 5 reports of fires associated with $430,000 in property damage.
The previous recall was associated with more than 71 fires and $2,725,000 in property damage. No injuries have been reported.
These dehumidifiers were manufactured by Gree Electric Appliances of China and imported by GE Appliances of Louisville, Kentucky. They were sold from April 2008 through December 2011 at Sam’s Club, Walmart and other stores in the U.S. and Canada. They were also sold on Amazon.com and Ebay.com. They sold for between $180 and $270. Consumers are advised to stop using the dehumidifiers and contact Gree for a refund.
Walmart Card Table and Chair Sets Recalled
Walmart recalled its Mainstays five-piece card table and chair set earlier this month because the chairs can collapse and may pose a risk of finger injury, including amputation. The retailer received 10 reports of injuries, including one finger amputation, three fingertip amputations, sprained or fractured fingers and one report of a sore back.
These table sets were sold in Walmart stores and online from May 2013 through November 2013 for about $50. On the bottom of the chairs, they have a label which reads: “Made by: Dongguan Shin Din Metal & Plastic Products Co,” or “Made by: Taiwan Shin Yeh Enterprises”, is printed on a white label on the bottom of the chairs.
Consumers are advised to stop using this product and return to Walmart for a full refund.
Combi USA announced a recall of over 33,000 car seats last week and said parents should expect repair kits starting in February.
Combi USA recalled its Coccorro, Zeus, Turn and Zeus 360 models made through January 2013. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reports the seat straps do not meet minimum requirements. Children may not be properly secured in case of a car accident.
The Charlotte, N.C. company said one part of the harness failed strength tests, but the harness as a whole meets safety standards. Seats made after January 2013 do not have this defect.
Combi USA will notify owners who have registered their products and mail out free harness replacement kits starting in February.
What to Know About Child Safety Seats
Choosing a safe car seat and learning how to properly install it is a struggle for many parents. There are a number of resources to help make the process easier.
Product Recalls.The Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) website provides updates on product recalls. This recall was reported in the media and not listed on the website, but most recalls can be found there.
NHTSA. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration provides online resources about child seat safety ratings.
State of Massachusetts. In Massachusetts, children must use some type of child passenger safety seat until they are 8 years old or weigh 57 pounds. All seats must meet federal standards. Read what types are appropriate for each age.
Local Police Departments and Organizations. Your local police may have an officer who has been specially trained to fit car seats. This is a free service.
Parents who shop at IKEA should be aware of a far-reaching product recall involving a children’s lamp which has been blamed for a 16-month-old’s death.
On Dec. 11, the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) announced the recall of IKEA children’s wall mounted lamps sold from July 1999 through May 2013. A total of 23 million of the SMILA-series wall mounted lamps were sold around the world. Of these, 2.9 million were sold in the United States and 1.1 million in Canada.
The recall follows two tragic incidents in Europe. In one case, a 16-month-old child in a crib died after becoming entangled in the lamp’s cord. In another incident, a 15-month-old became entangled in the cord and was nearly strangled.
Consumers are instructed to stop using the recalled lamp and contact IKEA for a free repair kit.
The lamps were recalled by IKEA North America, of Conshohocken, Pennsylvania. IKEA is a Swedish company which sells home furniture. The company has 340 IKEA stores in 42 countries. The company has 38 stores in the United States, including one on Route 24 in Stoughton, which opened in 2005. This is the only Massachusetts IKEA store.
The defective wall lamps were sold in eight designs through IKEA’s stores, catalog and ikea-usa.com for between $10 and $13.
What Consumers Should Know
Here is the IKEA lamp recall notice. The lamp was sold in eight designs, including a blue star, yellow moon, pink flower, white flower, red heart, green bug, blue seashells and an orange horse. The lamps are about 11 inches by 11 inches and have a seven-foot long electrical cord. Model numbers are included in the recall notice.
Parents who contact IKEA for a repair kit will be given self-adhesive fasteners to attach the lamp’s cord to the walls along with safety instructions.
Recalls Related to Children
Each year, the CPSC announces recalls dozens of dangerous toys. For 2012, the agency estimates that toy-related injuries resulted in 192,000 visits to U.S. hospital emergency rooms.
The dangers poorly made toys can pose is well known and always in the spotlight around the holiday shopping season. But the public often overlooks the dangers in other children’s products, which are often used even more frequently than toys. In 2013, a number of defective children’s products were recalled, including bunk beds which posed an entrapment risk, children’s utensils, children’s hooded sweatshirts with drawstrings, pajamas and baby strollers. See the link below to learn more.
Summary of 2013 product recalls, Safe Kids Worldwide
IKEA Recalls Children’s Wall-Mounted Lamps Due to Strangulation Hazard; One Child Death Reported, Consumer Product Safety Commission.
The Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) announced several recalls last week, including a popular holiday decoration and two children’s products. The commission also announced its annual list of winter-related products which were recalled during other seasons.
Yankee Candle Ring
The Yankee Candle Company recalled about 15,000 pine berry candle rings in the U.S. and 2,000 in Canada. They pose a fire risk because of the synthetic foliage, berries and cones ornamentation. No injuries have been reported. The recalled rings were sold in Yankee Candle and Hallmark stores nationwide from September 2013 through October 2013. They were sold for between $8 and $10 at these stores, as well as through Yankee Candle catalogs and Yankeecandle.com. Consumers are asked to return candles to the nearest Yankee Candle store for a full refund. See the CPSC recall notice.
Playtex Hip Hammock Infant Carriers
Playtex is offering parents a full refund after recalling a baby hammock-style carrier. Playtex Hip Hammock infant carriers were recalled because they pose a fall hazard to children. About 305,000 baby carriers were recalled in the U.S. and 36,000 in Canada.
The company received 87 reports of the product’s buckles cracking or breaking. Two reports involved injuries, including one infant who required care at a hospital emergency room.
Consumers are instructed to stop using the carrier and contact Playtex for a full refund. These carriers were sold from June 2004 to December 2008 in the U.S. and through January 2010 in Canada. Purchase price was about $40 for the basic model and about $60 for the deluxe model.
In the U.S., the baby carrier was sold at Burlington Coat Factory, Target, Amazon.com and other baby and discount stores.
The carriers are designed for children 15 to 35 pounds and are made of a suede fabric in black and navy. They have black, black and white check and burgundy lining on the inside. Read the CPSC recall notice for model numbers.
Cubetensils Children’s Eating Utensils
Edoche Inc. recalled about 1,100 children’s spoon and fork sets because the handle can detach, posing a choking hazard for infants. The Seattle, Wash. company received one report of a handle detaching and a baby putting it in their mouth. No injuries were reported.
The utensils were sold in seven different designs and patterns from May 2012 through November 2013 for about $8 per set. They were sold at retailers and specialty stores nationwide, along with Amazon.com and ebay.com. Consumers can contact Edoche for a full refund. Read the CPSC recall notice for more information.
Consumer Product Safety Commission Website
If you have never used this website, it is a great tool to become familiar with in the New Year. You can find the latest product recalls and more information about ones you learn about in the news. But often, product recalls are not picked up by the news media so it is important to seek out the information yourself periodically. If you use Facebook, you can also stay up-to-date by following our page, where we often report on recalls.
Here is one page from the CPSC website which may help you now: “Check for These Winter Products Recalled Last Summer.”