Cheers for a New U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission Rule That Exposes Renegade Manufacturers to Greater Civil Penalties

The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) voted last week to approve (4-1) a final rule interpreting factors to be considered when seeking a civil penalty amount for knowing violations of CPSC laws.

The new factors required to be considered are: (1) the nature, circumstances, extent, and gravity of the violation, including the nature of the product defect or the substance; (2) the appropriateness of the penalty in relation to the size of the business or of the person charged, including how to mitigate undue adverse economic impacts on small businesses; and (3) other factors as appropriate.

These factors are in addition to the factors already required to be considered: the severity of the risk of injury; the occurrence or absence of injury; and the number of defective products or the amount of substance distributed.

Under the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act (CPSIA), the Commission has the ability to seek higher penalty amounts. CPSIA increased the maximum penalty for each violation of the CPSA, FHSA, and FFA from $8,000 to $100,000. The maximum penalty amounts for a related series of violations increased from $1.8 million to $15 million. Promulgation of this rule was required by section 217 of the CPSIA.

The rule provides the Commission’s interpretation of the civil penalty factors found in the Consumer Product Safety Act (CPSA), Federal Hazardous Substances Act (FHSA), and Flammable Fabrics Act (FFA). The final rule goes into effect upon publication in the Federal Register. The trend towards greater consumer power versus the power of business interests is nice to see.

We have seen recently how Toyota’s incessant denials over many years of problems with unintended acceleration of its vehicles were made while Toyota knew all along that it was a significant problem. Corporate stonewalling – putting profits far above safety – is a fact of life. It behooves society to make it financially unacceptable to place insufficient attention to safety, and the ability of an aggressive government agency to impose painful financial penalties should cause manufacturers to think harder about exposing their customers to harm.

The lawyers at Levine & Slavit have decades of experience handling personal injury claims including those involving dangerous and defective products. For 50 years spanning 3 generations, we have obtained results for satisfied clients. We have offices in Manhattan and Long Island, handling cases in New York City, the Bronx, Brooklyn, Queens, and surrounding areas. If you or someone close to you has been injured by a product that was not properly manufactured, designed or labeled, contact the personal injury lawyers at Levine & Slavit for their help. To learn more, watch our videos.

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