With the arrival of 2018, President Trump resubmitted his nominations for CPSC leadership vacancies to the Senate. In 2017, Trump nominated Commissioner Ann Marie Buerkle to serve as CPSC Chair and Dana Baiocco to serve as a commissioner replacing Democrat Commissioner Marietta Robinson, whose term expired. But, under Senate rules, nominations not acted on are returned to the President. At the end of the Senate’s 2017 session, this meant that roughly 120 nominations were returned to Trump. Both nominees—Buerkle and Baiocco—are expected to receive Senate confirmation this year. Continue Reading Recall Roundup: January
A reflection on 2017 reveals several highlights showing that the CPSC is in a transition phase.
The CPSC’s composition has changed and will continue to do so. At the beginning of 2017, the agency was led by three Democrats and two Republicans. In October, Republican Commissioner Joseph Mohorovic resigned his seat to return to the private sector. Thus, the CPSC now has four commissioners: three Democrats and one Republican. But the Democrats’ grip on the agency will soon slip. Indeed, after the election of President Trump, Republican Commissioner Ann Marie Buerkle became the CPSC chair. Further, President Trump has nominated a private-sector lawyer named Dana Baiocco to replace Commissioner Marietta Robinson, a Democrat whose term has expired. Further, an additional Republican nominee is expected to fill Mohorovic’s resignation. Thus, 2018 will likely see a Republican majority leading the CSPC for the first time in over a decade. Continue Reading Recall Roundup: December
There is plenty of recall activity to report but no civil penalty news to report for November. Perhaps the holiday spirit prevails at the CPSC in this holiday season.
Hoverboards were last year’s hottest toy during the holiday season, but they also caused alarm due to the tendency of their lithium-ion battery packs to overheat while charging, causing the hoverboards to catch fire or explode. This year, the CPSC is taking a proactive approach to hoverboards. In May and again this month, hoverboards by the same manufacturer caused house fires and prompted the CPSC to warn consumers to stop using those hoverboards altogether. Further, a hoverboard by a different manufacturer recently caught fire and caused $40,000 of property damage to a consumer’s home. These serious reports culminated in the CPSC issuing seven recalls this month for hoverboards by different manufacturers due to their potential fire and explosion hazards. Continue Reading Recall Roundup: November
October ushered in a case that might, on one hand, provoke a sigh of relief for manufacturers, distributors and retailers concerned about the upward trend in multimillion dollar civil penalties from the CPSC or, on the other hand, raise some eyebrows of concern about the extent of a court’s authority to prospectively impose auditing, compliance and training measures. See United States v. Spectrum Brands, Inc., No. 15-CV-371-WMC, 2017 WL 4339677 (W.D. Wis. Sept. 29, 2017). Continue Reading Recall Roundup: October
Last month, the solar eclipse captivated the United States and many consumers flocked to purchase solar eclipse glasses to safely observe the astronomical phenomenon. We previously reported how NASA issued a safety alert advising consumers on the proper eye protection they should seek. Now, some consumers have filed a class action lawsuit against a major online retailer for allegedly selling “unfit, extremely dangerous, and/or defective” solar eclipse glasses. As a result, the consumers allege “varying degrees of eye injury ranging from temporary discomfort to permanent blindness.”
August was a busy month in the world of recalls. First, the end of August ushered in a hefty $5.7 million civil penalty against a major retailer in the United States. The retailer was allegedly selling and distributing recalled products and has agreed, in addition to the civil penalty, to maintain a compliance program and a system of internal controls and procedures. The CPSC voted 4 to 1 to accept the settlement, with Acting Chairman Buerkle voting to accept a lower civil penalty. Continue Reading Recall Roundup: August
As an update to our Recall Roundup’s focus on the fidget spinning craze from June and July, the Consumer Product Safety Commission (“CPSC”) has released spinner safety tips. Although the CPSC still reports no fidget spinner recalls, Acting Chairman Ann Marie Buerkle used the CPSC’s bully pulpit to warn of the choking dangers that result when fidget spinners break and release small pieces. In addition, she references “reports of fires involving battery-operated fidget spinners.” Continue Reading Recall Roundup Update: Fidget Spinners and Eclipse Glasses
In late May 2017, the American Law Institute met to approve the Proposed Final Draft of the first ever Restatement of the Law, Liability Insurance—the culmination of over seven years of work on this project. Not surprisingly, many of the issues discussed in the Restatement have been hotly contested by insurers. The proposed Restatement is important for retail industry insureds because courts around the country may look to this new Restatement in ruling on common insurance coverage disputes arising out of product liability actions, recalls and environmental contamination. For example, some of the most hotly debated sections of the proposed Restatement include, (1) policy interpretation principles, such as when a term is deemed ambiguous; (2) the standard for determining the insurer’s duty to defend; (3) the insurer’s duty to make reasonable settlement decisions; and (4) the allocation of liability in long-tail environmental claims. Continue Reading The Restatement of the Law, Liability Insurance and Impact on Retail Insureds
Many retailers today face an increasing risk related to product recalls, which can result in extensive losses and a variety of liability claims. For example, a major supplier of meats was recently forced to recall more than seven million pounds of its product after customers found bone fragments and pieces of cartilage in their hot dogs and sausages. The large scope of this recall, and the associated challenges, is by no means unique to this company. Specialized insurance policies should provide protection to minimize most recall losses and exposure from liability claims. However, insurers often seek to rescind recall policies by asking courts to void the policies from their inception, meaning that the polices would not provide any coverage for any pending or future claims. A large number of these recall claims are being brought under New York law. Continue Reading Steps to Avoid Rescission of Recall Insurance Policies
On July 26, 2017, an amusement ride named “Fire Ball” at the Ohio State Fair broke apart, killing one passenger and injuring seven others. This deadly incident may trigger a CPSC investigation into the matter.
Prior to 1981, the CPSC exercised jurisdiction over all amusement rides. But after several high-profile cases challenged the CPSC’s jurisdiction over amusement rides with mixed results, an amusement parks trade group successfully lobbied Congress to exempt stationary amusement rides from the CPSC’s jurisdiction. In 1981, Congress passed the Consumer Product Safety Amendments, which amended the definition of “consumer product” to explicitly exempt stationary amusement rides.