Praised by consumer advocates and denounced by manufacturers, a new federal database for safety complaints about everything from baby gear to household appliances is facing its first legal challenge. A motion has been filed in federal district court in Maryland by an unnamed manufacturer — labeled “Company Doe” — which seeks to stop the Consumer Product Safety Commission from publishing online a complaint about a product the company makes. Company Doe’s lawyers claim there is no factual, scientific or medical evidence to support the complaint, which involves an injury to a child. The motion asks a judge to grant the company anonymity for all pleadings, documents and forms related to what it calls “baseless allegations.”
Launched in March and overseen by the Commission, SaferProducts.gov is a database where people can file complaints, for public view, of injury or worse from everyday products such as cribs, high chairs, space heaters and power tools. The legal wrangling could have a potentially crippling impact on the database. If this case is allowed to proceed under seal, it could lead to challenges by other manufacturers — undermining the database by squelching safety complaints from consumers and others in the courts for months or years. It appears CPSC will defend the database. The Commission will file a motion to have the court documents unsealed. Scott Wolfson, a Commission spokesman, stated:
So far, there are more than 3,300 incident reports that the public has open access to view in the database. Many of these incident reports involve serious cases of deaths and injuries.
It appears from the motion that the complaint against Company Doe was filed by an unnamed government agency. It will be interesting to see how the court deals with this motion. There are plenty of safeguards built into the system to protect companies. Hopefully, the database will be preserved and allowed to do its job.
Source: Insurance Journal
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