Lawyer Peter Winik's name was misspelled in a Nov. 11 article about the Consumer Product Safety Commission's fining of two manufacturers. (Published 11/12/02)
The Consumer Product Safety Commission, under the leadership of a new, Republican chairman, is continuing to crack down on firms it believes sell dangerous products.
Today, the agency is to impose fines on two firms.
U.S. Home and Garden Inc. has agreed to pay an $885,000 penalty to settle allegations that the company failed to notify federal safety officials, as required by law, that its weed trimmer attachment for the Weed Wizard had caused serious injuries.
The trimmer's head was recalled in May 2000 after the CPSC found it had caused at least 19 serious injuries and one death -- a 3year old who was hit by the chain link of a trimmer head that flew off while her grandfather was using it.
The CPSC is also imposing a total of $270,000 in civil and criminal penalties on STK International Inc., a Los Angeles importer, and its president, Stuart T. Kole, for importing and selling products that violated federal toy standards designed to protect infants and young children from choking.
It is the first time the agency has levied both civil and criminal penalties for toy-related violations. It did so because STK is a repeat offender, CPSC officials said. In 1997, STK was ordered to pay an $80,000 civil penalty for importing and selling over 90,000 toys and art materials that violated federal safety rules. The current penalty involves 110,000 toys that could break into small pieces, such as a two-piece tambourine set or a Bathtime Water Wheel.
"We want to send a clear message to toy importers: There will be consequences for those who bring unsafe products into our country," said CPSC Chairman Hal Stratton, who assumed his post in late August. At the same time, Stratton said, the agency also wants to make it clear that "companies that ignore our reporting requirements will be penalized."
Stratton replaces Democrat Ann Brown, who retired as chairman in November 2001.
CPSC officials said they started studying the weed trimmer after the 3 year old was killed in 1997. Alan H. Schoem, associate executive director of the CPSC's office of compliance, said that in 1998, when U.S. Home and Garden bought A.A.B.B., the maker of the attachment, there had been eight lawsuits and 12 settlements involving the product. But the company never notified the CPSC.
U.S. Home and Garden denied the CPSC's allegation, but said it agreed to settle to avoid the expense of litigation. The $885,000 penalty will be split between U.S. Home and Garden and A.A.B.B. In a previous settlement between the two firms, A.A.B.B. agreed to pay U.S. Home and Garden $637,000.
STK also denied the agency's allegations and said it was settling to avoid protracted litigation. "The company believed in good faith that its toys had been tested and complied with the law," said its Washington attorney Peter Winick.