Although all manufacturers are responsible for reporting defective products in a timely manner, those in the automotive industry are regulated by even stricter deadlines. According to the National Traffic and Motor Vehicle Safety Act, a company that knows an automotive item contains a potentially hazardous defect, or reasonably should know, they must report this to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) within 5 days. If this duty is neglected, they can face serious civil penalties.
Such may be the case with Graco Children’s Products, Inc., which is currently under investigation. The NHTSA announced on December 1st that they have opened an inquiry into whether Graco reported the defect behind their recall of 6 million child car seats in a timely manner.
Several of the company’s car seats were found to include buckles that became stuck in the latched position, which could threaten a child’s life in an emergency. This dangerous defect led the company to initiate the largest recall of child car seats in U.S. history, after continued urging from the NHTSA.
However, the NHTSA intends to determine if the report of the defect and the Graco recall of the product were delayed in an irresponsible way. If the investigation finds that the company jeopardized the safety of children through an untimely report, the company could face a civil fine of up to $35 million.
According to reports published by the NHTSA, Graco was made aware of potential problems and investigated the issue back in October of 2012. The Administration has been recommending a recall of the seats since January of 2014, and the original recall of 3.7 million seats was finally initiated in February. It was expanded in March, again in June, and finally increased to over 6 million items in October. The letter sent to Graco by the NHTSA in January cited that the company had received over 6,000 complaints regarding buckles that had gotten stuck.
The NHTSA provides a compiled list of all active child car seat recalls on their website, and Liggett Law Group encourages parents to ensure that their seat is not included. Even a seemingly minor issue with a car seat can make an important difference in an emergency situation. For instance, if a vehicle is on fire, a delay in removing a child from their car seat could lead to serious harm.