Last week, a manufacturer of a blender agreed to pay an $850,000 civil penalty as part of a settlement with the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC). The allegedly defective blender's blade assembly could break off, crack the glass and cause laceration injuries.
The part that shocks me about this case is that the company received its first incident report of the blade assembly coming loose back in January 2007. According to the CPSC, the company continued to receive more consumer incident reports until September 2009 and only reported the incidences to CPSC in October 2009. The blenders were ultimately recalled in December 2009. In the settlement, the company denied the defect and denied it violated Federal laws, which requires manufacturers to report immediately (within 24 hours) to CPSC after receiving evidence supporting a risk of injury by a product.
In my opinion, waiting more than 2 years to report a risk of injury is unacceptable. In those 2 years, the CPSC states that the company received 60 incident reports from consumers. Therefore, the company knew about the risks and the possibility that the blade assembly could become loose and yet chose not to report it in those 2 years.
If the company knew about the risk of injury to its consumers, why didn't it report it? If consumers were injured by the blender, they may be entitled to compensation by filing a products liability case.
There are many claims consumers can make in a products liability case. One of the claims may be for punitive damages, which is only awarded if the defendant was grossly negligent. In addition, courts may award punitive damages to punish the defendant for its egregious behavior and to deter other manufacturers from engaging in similar behavior.
If a products liability case can be proven here, it certainly appears that there is a strong argument for the court to award punitive damages because the manufacturer knew about the risk but chose not to report it to the CPSC or recall the product to protect consumers.
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