Graco Children’s Products Inc. has added 1.9 million car seats to a massive recall over buckles that can refuse to open. The original recall was in February. Graco originally recalled 3.7 million forward-facing toddler seats over the buckles, which can become so gunked up with food, juice, formula or vomit that they won’t open. Days after the February recall, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) sent Graco a very tough letter saying the recall was “incomplete and misleading” in its characterization of the safety risk involved. The new recall adds rear-facing models for infants, seats NHTSA said in February that Graco had given no reason for excluding the first time. NHTSA said:
The agency … does not agree that the scope of the [February] Graco recall population is sufficient or that the exclusion of infant car seats from the subject seats in the recall is supported by the facts or by the law. There have been no reported injuries related to this issue or the safe use of the car seats. … Your car seat is safe.
NHTSA had slammed Graco in the February letter for “statements that may lead the public to discount the seriousness of the safety risk presented,” and ordered it to submit a revised recall report. Graco, a unit of Newell Rubbermaid Inc., is currently facing at least one class action over the issues. That suit, in California federal court, was filed in March 2013 and brings four claims on behalf of a class of all Californians who bought seats with the buckle in question manufactured from January 2009 to October 2012. It is alleged that the “Defendants” knew about and concealed the defects in every class car seat, along with the attendant dangerous safety hazards.
NHTSA’s Office of Defects Investigation (ODI) has received upward of 85 complaints of difficulties with the buckles, including nine in which the complainants could not unlatch the buckle and ended up cutting the harness or pulling their children through it. In that litigation, Graco filed a third-party complaint in November against the buckle’s manufacturer, AmSafe Commercial Products Inc. In March, after the recall, Graco withdrew that complaint in a filing citing only “the parties’ tolling agreement.”
Graco recalled 407,000 more seats in March, saying it had found more of the forward-facing seats that qualified under the February report to NHTSA. In March, NHTSA escalated its investigation, which had begun in 2012, by testing the buckles in its Vehicle Research and Test Center. In a letter announcing that step, ODI said it saw the problem as one of safety. ODI told Graco in a letter:
When a harness buckle of a car seat becomes stuck in the latched condition or becomes difficult to unlatch, it creates an unreasonable risk to safety. ODI believes that the hazards and risks involved in the delay of extricating a child from a rear facing infant car seat in any emergency situation are significantly increased and rise to the level of unreasonable risk.
At the time of the February recall, NHTSA published a series of reports on the car seats, saying it had been investigating the belt buckles since 2012. Among the problems it encountered were that the buckles would get so impenetrable that parents would end up having to pick up the child and the seat — which could together weigh more than 70 pounds — to lift it out of the car in the event of an emergency.
Graco received at least 6,100 complaints about the buckles, NHTSA said in its report. The agency noted a lawsuit against Graco in which a 2-year-old was killed in a car fire after becoming trapped in Graco’s Nautilus car seat when the buckle wouldn’t unlatch. The California class action is Long v. Graco Children’s Products Inc. et al., case number 3:13-cv-01257, in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California.
Contact us today for a free legal consultation with an experienced attorney.
Fields marked *may be required for submission.
If you would like to subscribe to the Jere Beasley Report digital edition, simply visit our Subscriptions page and provide the necessary information or call us at 800-898-2034.
Attorney Advertising - Prior results do not guarantee a similar outcome.