In a free marketplace, consumers understand that some products are better made than others, and most believe that the best products will win out. However, the elimination of defective products from the marketplace can’t always be left to this long process — in the case of poorly-designed child car seats, even one in circulation can be disastrous.
Fortunately, consumer safety agencies help by recalling dangerous products like car seats. And when they fail to act quickly enough, consumers have another weapon: legal action.
Source: CDC / Amanda Mills
The Case of Serial Offender Graco
The summer of 2020 saw the filing of a class action lawsuit against child seat manufacturer Graco, a maker that had previously suffered two National Highway Traffic Safety Administration-initiated recalls.
In 2015, the company was fined $10 million for failing to carry out a timely recall of 6 million car seats with defective buckles — the largest car seat recall ever. As part of the settlement, Graco admitted fault in delaying NHTSA notification about the safety flaw within the five business days required by law.
In 2017, the NHTSA mandated the recall of another Graco child seat. The 2017 recall again failed safety tests and could have put the lives of its occupants in danger in the event of a crash.
How Recalls May Signal Manufacturer Negligence
Graco’s previous recalls seem to set a standard for negligence which the 2020 litigation highlights. It draws a connection to the company’s track record of profit-first behavior, which shows it hasn’t acted on safety issues in the past without being first subjected to outside pressure.
By pointing out Graco’s profit motive in contrast with the dubious safety of its toddler-targeted booster seats, the lawsuit makes a powerful case for a product liability lawsuit centered around the worst form of manufacturer negligence — that which is repeated, and motivated by greed. The suit spells this out explicitly by stating: “Graco wanted to corner the market on booster seats and thus falsely claims parents can safely transition their children to Graco booster seats once they reach 30 pounds, even though all scientific and crash test evidence proves that to be extremely risky and unsafe.”
This is negligent representation in a nutshell, which the suit claims to have harmed the plaintiff and others who may join the class action “because they were induced to purchase and/or own a product unfit for its intended use and therefore without value.”
How Car Seats Can Save Lives — Or Cost Them
When car seat laws began to be widely implemented in the 1970s, infants had a much higher rate of fatality than children of other ages. Since the spread of child restraint laws, these rates have fallen — when properly made and used, child car seats reduce the risk of accident death by 71% in infants and 54% in children aged 1–4.
But according to the CDC, child restraint systems are often used incorrectly. 59% of car seats and 20% of booster seats are misused in a way that could reduce their effectiveness — partly because of use errors of the type that the Graco lawsuit alleges are due to negligent misrepresentation.
Other product liability issues could include:
- Latches which unhook under mild force
- Latches which are too hard to open, and may become dangerous in an emergency situation
- Faulty construction
- Use of flammable material
- Weak shell design
- Parts that fail in a crash
The Dangers of Defective Car Seats
The following injuries could result from the use of defective child seats:
- Traumatic brain injuries
- Spinal cord damage
- Bone fractures
- Internal injuries
- Hemorrhages and lacerations
Source: Air Force / Kelly White
When to Consult with an Experienced Product Liability Lawyer
At McEldrew Young Purtell Merritt, we have over 30 years of experience in litigating product liability cases. We take all claims on a contingency basis, and will only charge you attorney fees if we are able to obtain financial compensation for your losses. Our experience comes in handy when connecting cases with the right expert witnesses, which can be invaluable in demonstrating the validity of a claim.
McEldrew Young Purtell Merritt welcomes clients local to our Philadelphia offices and those from New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania and further afield. To schedule a meeting for a free consultation, fill out our form or call us directly at 1-866-694-5578.