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Civil Penalty Sought in Lawsuit Against Retailer over Product Safety Hazard Reporting

Wednesday, April 29, 2015
Sandler, Travis & Rosenberg Trade Report

The Department of Justice and the Consumer Product Safety Commission announced April 21 the filing of a complaint charging a Texas-based retailer with knowingly violating the reporting requirements of the Consumer Product Safety Act with respect to imported glass vases. The agencies are seeking undisclosed civil penalties and permanent injunctive relief, including a strict compliance program.

According to a joint press release, the vases pose a safety hazard because their walls are too thin to withstand the pressure of normal handling. The complaint alleges that beginning as early as November 2007 and continuing for more than two years the company received numerous consumer complaints that the vases were unsafe because they shattered during normal use and caused serious injuries. The vases were recalled in September 2010.

The lawsuit alleges that the company failed to notify the CPSC of the hazard associated with the vases within 24 hours of discovering it, as required by law. Further, the complaint charges, when the company did finally notify the Commission it conveyed the false impression that it did not import the vases, even though it should have known it was the importer. This misrepresentation allowed the company to avoid legal responsibility for the recall as well as any obligation to pay costs and expenses associated with the recall, the press release states.

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