Kidde, the largest manufacturer of fire extinguishers in the United States, has agreed to pay a $12 million fine to settle a complaint by the Department of Justice and the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) that it failed to inform the CPSC in a timely manner about problems associated with its products even as homes burned and people suffered injuries. According to Consumer Reports, Kidde has faced numerous similar complaints for years.
In 2015, the company issued a recall that covered more than four million extinguishers. The DOJ complaint came in late December. The DOJ alleged that before the 2015 recall, Kidde significantly underreported “the scope and nature of the defect and risk, and the number of products and models affected.” After the CPSC learned the enormity of the situation in late 2017, Kidde issued another massive recall covering nearly 38 million extinguishers made as far back as 1973.
Consumer Reports gives the example of horrific injuries endured by consumers including one involving a Pennsylvania woman who got badly burned after trying to put out a kitchen fire using a Kidde extinguisher. When it failed to work, the woman who was in a panic, attempted to carry a pot that was on fire outside. The flames hit her in the face causing her to drop the pot and the oil to spill.
The fire not only ruined the home, but also left the woman with severe burns covering her body. But, the fire extinguisher that failed in this home was not included even in the 2017 recall. The Pennsylvania family’s lawsuit alleged that their fire extinguisher was defective while also claiming that Kidde had a practice of burying consumer complaints internally, pointing to testimony by the company’s own employees to prove their point.
Concealing Product Defects
What is striking about this report is how millions of consumers purchased a product that was supposed to protect them in case of an emergency, but failed to do so. Kidde was also actively hiding information showing that these products were defective and could fail to work during an emergency, according to the DOJ complaint. So far, at least 16 people have been injured because the extinguishers failed to work as included. One person died. According to government officials, Kidde knew about these defects as early as 2005, but failed to promptly notify CPSC.
There is no question here that Kidde put profits and their bottom line over the safety and well being of the people who bought their products. Product manufacturers have a responsibility and a legal obligation to inform consumers about safety defects. If you or a loved one has been injured as a result of a defective fire extinguisher, you may be able to file a product liability lawsuit against the manufacturer. An experienced product defect lawyer can help you better understand your legal rights and options.