In October, a federal judge permitted a company known only as “Company Doe” to remain anonymous in a lawsuit against the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC). The anonymous company argued that the CPSC’s report with consumer complaint data was “baseless” and would cause “irreparable harm to [the company’s] reputation and financial well-being.” While that is certainly a valid concern, a Washington, DC products liability attorney would likely be more concerned with the extent to which such secrecy places the public at risk of encountering the dangerous product.
The CPSC is the federal agency tasked with protecting the public from “unreasonable risks of injury or death” from consumer products within its jurisdiction. Children’s toys, automobiles, and consumer appliances all fall within the purview of the agency’s power to regulate. The CPSC is perhaps most known for issuing announcements regarding product recalls.
In this lawsuit, Company Doe sued the CPSC, asking the court to stop the federal agency from publishing a report on its public searchable database, SaferProducts.gov. Presumably, the report is related to a consumer product Company Doe produces or produced.
Consumer advocacy groups have opposed Company Doe’s requested injunction, citing the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution and the public interest in understanding why the report should remain undisclosed. They argue that the CPSC database is a critical tool for informing consumers about potentially dangerous products, and the exclusion of one product from the database by an anonymous company could undermine that purpose.
By law, the CPSC must post consumer complaints within 20 business days of receiving them, but it must first notify the product manufacturers to give them an opportunity to respond. Complaints that are shown to be materially inaccurate are corrected or removed.
Each year, thousands of consumer products are manufactured, sold, and then recalled for being defective. A product may be defective three ways. A design defect is a flaw in the way the product was conceptualized. In this case, every single instance of the product is defective, and a recall would affect every product sold. A manufacturing defect is a flaw in the production of the product, and these defective products deviate in some way from the intended product. Products recalled due to a manufacturing defect are often only a subset of the products sold, such as those manufactured and sold in a certain facility, or during a specific time frame. Finally, products may be defective if the manufacturer fails to warn consumers and potential users about foreseeable dangers of using the product, such as detachable blades or dangers of choking.
At Lebowitz & Mzhen, we help people in Washington, DC and the surrounding areas recover their just compensation for injuries caused by defective or dangerous products. Contact us online or at (800) 654-1949, to set up your free and confidential consultation.
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