Polaris has agreed to pay a record $27.25 million civil penalty to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission to settle two late reporting claims from 2016 involving defective off-road vehicles that posed fire risks and were later recalled. According to a news report in the Star Tribune, the settlement announced this week was the agency’s first major penalty since caps were raised last year. The fines involved 107,000 Polaris RZR vehicle models from 2014 to 2018. Officials said the vehicles contained defects that posed an unreasonable risk of serious injury or death to consumers.
Fires Caused Deaths, Burn Injuries
CPSC officials said Polaris, which is one of the largest manufacturers of off-road recreational vehicles, knew that some of its RZR models from 2013 to 2016 posed fire hazards and that the company had already gotten reports of about 150 fires. One of the fires resulted in the death of a 15-year-old passenger. The company also had knowledge of 11 reports of burn injuries and a fire that engulfed 10 acres of land. In spite of knowing all of this information, Polaris failed to notify the CPSC of the vehicle defect or risk as required by federal law.
While the company will pay the fine, as part of the agreement, it will not admit to wrongdoing. This is apparently the largest civil penalty levied by CPSC for failing to report a product defect. The penalty covers two series of violations and is intended to enforce safety laws and ensure that consumers are promptly informed about product defects that pose safety threats. CPSC officials said Polaris’ problems potentially affected thousands of consumers. In 2014, the company received 36 reports of fires involving some 2014 Rangers.
The company made modifications to those models to prevent the heat shields from coming loose, but did not report the fires and heat shield problem to the government until July 2016 when it recalled about 42,500 vehicles. After that recall, Polaris got reports of three more fires. Had they reported these vehicle defects promptly, the other fires might have been prevented including the one that killed 15-year-old Baylee Hoaldridge. She suffered burns to 60 percent of her body. The ATV being driven by her father was traveling at 5 mph and was making a turn when it tipped over and caught fire. Hoaldridge was trapped in her seat and wasn’t able to get out in time.
Product Liability Issues
Manufacturers have a responsibility to make products that are safe for consumers. When there are defects, federal laws require them to report those within five days of learning getting reports. Notifying consumers in a timely manner about product defects is critical when it comes to preventing injuries or deaths that could potentially be caused by defective products. If you or a loved one has been injured as the result of a dangerous, defective or a recalled product, please contact an experienced product defect lawyer to better understand your legal rights and options. You may be entitled to receive compensation for your injuries, damages and losses.