A recent recall by popular car seat manufacturer Graco has put 3.7 million owners of the specific model on alert. The car seats have been recalled due to a buckle issue. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) noted that the recall was voluntary on Graco’s part. Consequently, Graco is fighting a government request for an additional seven models of car seats due to similar buckling issues. According to company spokesperson quoted in the CNN article, Graco is “offering a ‘new and improved replacement harness buckle to affected customers at no cost.’ People can obtain one by calling 800-345-4109 or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.”
Do consumers lack legal recourse if they fail to surrender a recalled car seat? Can someone still seek redress from Graco if a child suffers injury following continued use?
Graco—or the maker of any product facing a recall—can assert several defenses. The recall itself allows the company to show that it was not negligently allowing a product with known limitations to remain in the stream of commerce. Product manufacturers always have a duty to public safety. Any harm incurred by its product, however, is not automatically cut off because of a product recall. If a consumer does not use the product as intended, however, that poses a more complicated question for the court.
How does a court determine whether the consumer has used the product as intended? By gathering testimony from the plaintiffs, expert witnesses, and the company’s own consumer-use manuals and public information, and comparing all of that against the reasonable person and industry standards for permitted uses. If an industry is aware, for example, that its product is commonly used for an unintended purpose but does not issue warnings against that use, the industry may still be held liable for injuries.
At least theoretically, a plaintiff using a product post-recall may still seek damages for injuries resulting from that product’s use. The safest course of action is to follow the recall notices. In the event that someone does become injured, however, contact a personal injury attorney to discuss your particular situation.