Evenflo Car Seat Manufacturers Under Scrutiny

Evenflo Car Seat Manufacturers Under Scrutiny

May 27, 2020 | Personal Injury

Evenflo voluntarily recalled a number of car seats after a consumer watchdog group uncovered a critical flaw, and some parents say Graco invented inflated safety claims to pump up sales of some models.

Consumer Reports testing revealed that some Evenflo car seats had a critical flaw.

During low-speed impacts, the plastic split, causing the strap to retract.

That flaw exposed the child to possible paralysis and ejection. In response, Evenflo proposed a fix, but did not admit fault or negligence. 

In an unrelated matter, a group of parents filed a class-action lawsuit against Graco, claiming the company falsely marketed its booster seats as safe for children under four years old and under forty pounds.

In 2002 and again in 2010, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said this claim was false, according to the lawsuit.

Court documents also state that a crash dummy “hurtled out of the shoulder belt” during a side-impact test.

A spokesperson for Graco’s parent company, Newell Brands DTC Inc., refused to comment.

Evenflo and Defective Products

Typically, by the time a manufacturer issues a recall, many people have already been injured. Manufacturers rarely make such moves unless they are caught In flagrante delicto (red-handed).

Generally, manufacturers like Evenflo are strictly liable for the injuries their defective products cause.

Victim/plaintiffs need not prove fault, negligence, malice, or even recklessness.

Most product defects are:

  • Design Defects: Evenflo’s crack and retraction might have been a design defect. Sometimes, manufacturers do not make joints and other critical areas strong enough to withstand the pressure they face.
  • Manufacturing Defect: Alternatively, the car seat problem might have been a manufacturing defect. To save money, many manufacturers use cheap or dangerous materials.

Manufacturers are usually responsible for all product defects which occur before the manufacturer relinquishes control of a produce to a retailer. That includes anything from pre-design to shipping.

In addition to compensatory damages, which are outlined below, New York jurors often award substantial punitive damages in defective product claims.

As mentioned, most manufacturers put profits before people unless an attorney or advocate calls them out.

Jurors often punish such reckless disregard for the safety of others by awarding additional damages to victim/plaintiffs.

There must be clear and convincing evidence of intentional disregard.

Graco and Misrepresentation

Misrepresentation is a form of negligence, or a lack of care. In an advertising/misrepresentation claim, the first step is usually to establish the industry standard for these types of claims.

There is a difference between mere puffery and false claims. Puffery is usually sales-y terms, like the “best” something or other, which no one takes literally.

False claims are usually one of the following:

  • Fraudulent misrepresentation (making a statement with knowledge of its falsity or with wilful blindness of the truth), or
  • Negligent misrepresentation (making a statement without bothering to find out if it’s true).

Many jurors award punitive damages in fraudulent misrepresentation claims, assuming there is evidence which satisfies the “clear and convincing” requirement.

Generally, compensatory damages are available in fraudulent misrepresentation claims.

These damages include compensation for economic losses, such as medical bills, and noneconomic losses, such as pain and suffering.

Car Seats and the “Seat Belt Defense” in New York

The Empire State has a broad mandatory seat belt law. All children under 8 must be in car seats, and all older individuals must wear seatbelts.

So, it’s not surprising that New York is one of the few jurisdictions which recognizes the seat belt defense.

In car crash claims, insurance companies can use the victim’s lack of a seat belt to reduce the amount of compensation the victim receives.

However, the seat belt defense is not automatic and it is also fact-specific.

To use this defense, insurance companies must do more than cite safety statistics and wag their fingers.

First, the insurance company must convince the judge the victim was not properly restrained. Car seats are a good example.

Almost two-thirds of parents do not correctly use their car seats.

Perhaps they anchor the seat improperly or perhaps the child is above or below the weight limit.

Although these children are technically unrestrained, most judges would conclude that the seat belt defense does not apply, because of the parent’s good faith effort to comply.

Next, the insurance company must convince jurors of the same thing.

This showing requires expert testimony, and not all experts are created equally. Some have questionable credentials and others do not effectively communicate with jurors.

If the expert is deficient in either area, the jury can disregard some or all of the expert’s testimony.

Lawyers call these things the burden of proof and the burden of persuasion. When a party has both these things, it’s tough to prove a point.

Defective or dangerous car seats do not effectively protect small children.

For a free consultation with an experienced personal injury attorney in New York, contact Napoli Shkolnik PLLC. After-hours, remote, and home visits are available.

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