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Evenflo's defective product recall has echoes of Graco's

Our Miami area readers with young children are probably aware that Graco Children's Products has recalled some 4.2 million of its child safety seats due to a problem with the buckles. They can become difficult to open if food or liquids dry on them. This can pose a real danger in an emergency. Now another well-known maker of products for infants and children, Evenflo, has announced a recall for a similar buckle issue.

Evenflo is recalling nearly 1.4 million of its restraints due to the same problem with buckles sticking. The recall includes nine separate models, although none of their rear-facing safety seats. The company is also offering to provide customers with new buckles at no charge. Both the faulty Graco and Evenflo buckles were made by the same company.

As with the Graco recall, the Evenflo action resulted from multiple customer complaints. In some cases, parents reported that they had to cut the strap to remove their child. Graco also settled a wrongful death suit involving a child who suffered fatal burns.

Despite the recall, Evenflo, like Graco, is fighting the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration in the federal agency's attempts to get all seats with the faulty buckles off the market. Graco has refused thus far to recall nearly two million rear-facing seats. Both companies argue that because these seats detach differently than front-facing seats, the child does not have to be unbuckled to be safely removed.

These refusals to abide by NHTSA recall requests are rare among manufacturers, and the agency tasked with vehicle safety is not dropping the matter. It has ordered Graco to provide additional information about its rear-facing seats and why it believes they should not be recalled. Failure to comply could lead to possible criminal legal action. It remains to be seen what additional action it takes against Evenflo.

As we see the consequences of General Motors' handling of its ignition switch problems play out on television and the front pages of our newspapers, it may seem puzzling to many of us that manufacturers won't err on the side of caution when it comes to safety, particularly where infants and children are involved. If the threat of government action doesn't move companies to remove dangerous and defective products from the market, sometimes the fear of costly civil action by consumers can.

Source: The New York Times, "2nd Car Seat Maker Cites Buckle Flaw in a Recall" Christopher Jensen, Apr. 04, 2014

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