Personal Injury Lawyer
A decades-old law may be impeding recalls of dangerous products, shielding them from the public, according to Consumer Reports (https://www.consumerreports.org/product-safety/decades-old-law-hides-dangerous-products-and-impedes-recalls/).
The recent recall of the Fisher Price infant sleeper have brought the issue this old law has created into to the spotlight. While the 19 deaths of infants related to the sleeper were available in data from the federal government, the public was unaware of the risk until Consumer Reports received the sleeper data it requested from Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) for research purposes. The government agency made a mistake and failed to redact the name of the company and the products being referred to, which is required under the Consumer Safety Protection Act if the manufacturer doesn’t give permissions to release their names or any information that could reveal them. This law applies even if the products have been linked to deaths and injuries.
Consumer Reports found that at least 32 deaths have been linked to the sleeper, and that Fisher Price was aware of those deaths.
After Consumer Reports published its findings, Fisher Price recalled all of its sleepers, and a company that made a similar product also issued a recall.
Critics have long since pointed to the law, saying it is protecting manufacturers at a steep cost to consumer safety. This law also allows companies to negotiate language used in product alerts or recalls issued by the agency, and it enables them to restrict what information is released.
This law dates back to the 1980s, in response to complaints that a company’s reputation could be unfairly damaged if the CPSC didn’t allow them enough time to review safety concerns before they went public.
Other federal agencies that issue recalls are not under the same restrictions as the CPSC. The Food and Drug Administration, for example, can issue alerts and recalls that disclose company names without permission.
Negotiations between a manufacturer and the CPSC over an alert or recall can take time, which leads to a delay in getting the information out to consumers, according to former CPSC director Pamela Gilbert.
In the Fisher Price sleeper case, Consumer Reports found that the CPSC knew the sleeper had been linked to deaths years before the Fisher Price recall, and that did not happen until the consumer nonprofit let the public know the sleeper had been linked to fatalities on its website.
Initially, both Fisher Price and the CPSC issued a joint alert. That alert, however, didn’t mention the deaths. The sleeper wasn’t pulled from the market until the 32 deaths were revealed and the American Academy of Pediatrics publicly urged a recall.
The families who been harmed by the sleeper feel the recall is too little and too late. Virginia residents Keenan and Evan Overton, for example, wish they had known about the sleeper’s history before they placed their five-month-old son to sleep in one back in December of 2017. The Overtons felt Fisher Price was a reliable company, and since the sleeper was marketed for all-night sleeping, they believed their child would be safe. However, their son died of asphyxia while sleeping in the Fisher Price product.
It’s too soon to tell whether this recall will result in changes to the regulations preventing CPSC from alerting the public to dangerous products, but at least a conversation has been started. If you’ve lost a loved one due to a dangerous product, contact a Denver personal injury lawyer for help.
Thanks to Richard J. Banta, P.C. for their insight into personal injury claims and defective product injuries.