In what is now the largest car seat recall in American history, Graco Children’s Products has been fined $10 million after failing to provide what the Department of Transportation (DOT) considered timely notification of a defect in a seat buckle that affected more than 4 million car seats and increased the risk of injury in emergencies. According to DOT Secretary Anthony Foxx, The first $3 million is due now, with the remaining $7 million to be paid over the next five years unless the company spends an equal amount on child safety improvements.
“Parents need to know that the seats they trust to protect their children are safe, and that when there’s a problem, the manufacturer will meet its obligations to fix the defect quickly,” Foxx said. This action, he added, “reinforces that responsibility in a way that will make our kids safer for decades to come.”
Graco had previously claimed that the only problem with the seat buckles was that children could spill food or drinks on them, causing them to gum up. However, parents continued to file complaints with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), with some situations requiring that the straps be cut to free trapped children. In turn, federal regulators dismissed Graco’s explanations and demanded a recall in January 2014. Graco eventually proceeded with a recall for toddler seats about a month later, which was followed by an additional recall for infant seats during the summer.
An investigation into Graco was opened after a review of Graco documents showing that parents complained to Graco about the buckles in 2009 was discovered. Federal regulations require that once a manufacturer is aware of a safety issue, it has five business days to inform the NHTSA of its plan for a recall, or else the company will face a civil fine. This is not the first time Graco has faced such penalties. In 2005, the company paid a $4 million fine after failing to inform the Consumer Product Safety Commission with problems with its products.
Car seats should be designed to keep children protected in the event of a collision and make the process of removing children from an emergency as simple as possible, with minimal delay. If your child has been injured by a defective or flawed car seat, our personal injury lawyers at Sloan, Bagley, Hatcher & Perry Law Firm can help.
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