Trump Administration's CPSC Nominee Defended Manufacturers of Deadly Products
President Donald Trump has picked Dana Baiocco to sit on the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC). There’s only one problem. According to an article on The Intercept, this is a woman who has made a name helping companies dodge responsibility for dangerous and defective products. Biaocco is a partner at law firm Jones Day. She’s represented big tobacco companies and fought in court against workers who developed mesothelioma after working with and around asbestos.
Her work history is in direct conflict with the CPSC’s mission – protecting consumers from dangerous and defective products. Baiocco was best known for representing Yamaha in several lawsuits over its Rhino ATV. One case involved a 14-year-old boy who was driving a Yamaha Rhino on a gravel road in North Carolina in 2004, when the ATV tipped over onto its side. He suffered bone fractures in his leg so severe that he had to have a part of his foot removed leaving him disfigured and unable to walk as before. Other than this incident, 49 people died in similar accidents involving the vehicle between 2003 and 2009.
Potential Conflict of Interest
Baiocco defended Yamaha in these cases on the grounds that the company did not have “sufficient knowledge or information to form a belief as to the truth of the allegations.” What continued were the accidents and injuries as Yamaha continued to manufacture and sell these defectively designed vehicles. It was ultimately pressure from the CPSC that helped bring an end to the production of that ATV in 2013.
This is not the area that may prove to be a conflict for Baiocco should she be confirmed. Her LinkedIn page also says she counsels clients on CPSC recalls. Her husband, Andrew Susko, has represented IKEA in cases where the company’s dressers have crushed toddlers. The company has issued a recall for nearly 30 million of these dressers.
While Baiocco has said she would recuse herself from any matter where she or her husband have a financial interest. In addition to Yamaha and big tobacco, Baiocco has also represented airplane parts manufacturer Parker Hannifin in wrongful death cases involving 13 people and Honeywell Safety Products in a suit filed by the family of a worker who developed mesothelioma after being exposed to asbestos in the World Trade Center site.
Fox Guarding the Henhouse?
As product defect attorneys who represent victims of defective products and families that have lost loved ones as a result of faulty products, we are horrified that a person who spent most if not all of her career defending large corporations in product defect cases would be named to a commission whose purpose it is to make sure those very same corporations are held accountable. This is very much akin to the fox guarding the henhouse. We hope members of the U.S. Senate do their due diligence before they confirm Baiocco’s nomination.