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By John Kristensen of Kristensen, LLP posted in Product Liability on Wednesday, April 4, 2018.
On April 2, 2018, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission announced that Polaris Industries, Inc. (“Polaris”) will pay a $27.25 million civil penalty.

Companies Must Report When Their Product Cause an Unreasonable Risk of Serious Injury

The Consumer Product Safety Act of 1972 dictates that companies must follow certain safety standards to ensure their products do not cause “unreasonable or substantial risks.” Furthermore, should a company’s product cause a serious injury or death, it has an obligation, duty, and responsibility to report such information. These standards are not only in place to maintain safe products for all consumers, but also in place to protect consumers from companies that negligently fail to report defects in their products.

Companies should be wary of playing semantic games about what is a serious injury and what is an “unreasonable” risk. Under the law, a serious injury is not just one causing grievous bodily injury, but also includes any “significant injury.” Those include injuries that necessitate hospitalization, lacerations requiring sutures, concussions, or injuries necessitating absence of school or work for more than a day. Any chronic or long term health effects should be considered, as well as immediate injuries. 16 CFR § 1115.6(c).

A company needs to report if a “reasonable person could conclude given the information available that a product creates an unreasonable risk of serious injury.” 16 CFR § 1115.6(b).

Polaris Purportedly Failed to Report Complaints to the CPSC

Polaris appeared to have failed to report that 133,000 of its 2013-2016 recreational off-road vehicles (Razors) contained one or more defects, causing the vehicles to catch fire while consumers were driving. Despite information that the Razors could create a substantial product hazard or an unreasonable risk of serious injury or death, Polaris did not immediately report this to the CPSC. Instead, on February 19, 2016, Polaris only

filed a report concerning the tire risk associated with the Razors, nothing about fires. But by that time, Polaris noted that it had received reports of 150 fires on the Razors, which had resulted in the death of a 15-year old passenger, 11 reports of burn injuries, and a fire that wiped out 10 acres of land.

Finally, on September 15, 2016, Polaris and the Commission jointly announced a recall of 42,500 of the 2014 Razors because the heat shields could fall off the vehicle, posing fire and burn hazards to riders. However, this was only after several reports of damages, injuries, and even death. And, subsequent Razors continued to pose a threat to consumers, as reports of the 2015 Razors also indicated defects, causing heat shields to come lose or fall off the vehicles.

Polaris was required to inform the CPSC of complaints of serious injuries with its products in a timely fashion. It did not do so. As part of the settlement, Polaris is required to maintain a compliance program meant to ensure the company reports future issues in a timely manner.

Kristensen LLP is one of the country’s leading product liability firms. We’ve been reasonable for record fines against automotive companies. We are currently litigating one case against Polaris involving a passenger who suffered catastrophic injuries resulting in quadriplegia while in the back seat of a 2016 Razor and another case involving a young woman whose left arm was amputated after a rollover at slow speed. Going toe to toe with large manufacturers requires tenacity, resources, and a detailed understanding of the regulations manufacturers such as Polaris must follow.

If you were involved in an accident involving a Polaris vehicle catching fire, or causing catastrophic injuries, contact Kristensen LLP .