Defective manufacturing designs are, to a certain extent, inevitable. While companies can control for quality in their factories and work to produce effective products, not everything will work perfectly. What companies can control, however, is their response to a safety concern brought to their attention by their customers. Companies who report possible safety defects immediately are, therefore, more protected by the law, and those that fail to report are often subject to heavy fines.
This week, the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) announced that the instant coffee maker company Keurig Green Mountain will be subject to $5.8 million in fines for their failure to report a safety defect that occurred in one of their products in 2014.
In December of 2014, Keurig issued a recall for 7 million units of their MINI plus brewing systems after receiving more than 200 reports of the machine overheating and spraying burning hot water onto customers. The Consumerist reports that, of the 200 complaints, “about 90 included consumers who suffered burn-related injuries to their hands, faces, and bodies. In some cases, the incidents resulted in second- and third-degree burns.”
After an investigation, the CPSC found that Keurig may have been purposefully concealing the information about the dangerous safety defect from the public. They learned that the reports of the issue had begun all the way back in 2010, four years before the recall was made public.
The commission wrote a statement on the situation which said that their investigation “revealed that Keurig had accumulated significant information over a four‐year period that resulted in several missed opportunities to report, including receipt of detailed incident and injury data, insurance claim payments made to injured consumers, and notice of at least two requests by a retailer for Keurig to undertake a product safety investigation.”
The penalty of $5.8 million is also designed to address the fact that Keurig continued to make millions of dollars off of a product which they knew was dangerous and defective. They were able to do this because they did not report the concern to the CPSC. Even more questionable was Keurig's decision to continue selling their product through the month of November 2014 after they had reported the defect. The company was thereby able to “take advantage of Black Friday sales, further padding its bottom line.”
Keurig did not admit to any wrongdoing in the settlement, and the commission expressed some degree of dissatisfaction with the amount of the settlement, saying $5.8 million does “little to deprive this multi‐billion dollar firm of its economic gain from noncompliance.” In fact, they say that the lightness of the penalty “makes the risk of a penalty seem worth the reward of greater profits from delayed reports.”
Have you been injured as a result of a defective product? Take the first step to recovery today by contacting the Law Firm of Jeremy Rosenthal online or by phone at (303) 825-2223. We have been successfully litigating product liability cases in Colorado for decades and will work to find your just compensation.