A federal court has ordered the company that produces Black & Decker brand products to pay nearly $2 million in civil penalties for its failure to report dangerously defective SpaceMaker coffee carafes and for continuing to distribute the defective glass carafes after they were recalled.
In addition to $1.9 million in civil penalties, U.S. District Judge William M. Conley ordered a permanent injunction against Spectrum Brands Inc. of Madison, Wisconsin, for its violation of the Consumer Product Safety Act related to its handling of the defective Black & Decker carafes. The injunction requires Spectrum to report to the court every six months to verify it is in compliance with U.S. consumer product laws.
According to the U.S. Department of Justice, Spectrum, a global consumer products company that owns the Black & Decker Brand, waited three years to inform the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) of customer reports about handles that suddenly broke or separated from carafes full of hot coffee.
The court noted that between 2008 and 2012, Spectrum received about 1,600 reports of broken Black & Decker SpaceMaker carafe handles. Nearly 70 consumers complained of burn injuries resulting from the spilled coffee and three others reported cuts from the broken glass.
“As detailed in the court’s summary judgment ruling … Spectrum received reports over the years from customers who said that they believed the carafe handle was dangerous,” the Justice Department noted in its announcement. “Numerous consumers told the company that spills related to broken handles caused burns to themselves or to family members. Other consumers reported near misses.”
According to court documents, Spectrum never reported the defective Black & Decker carafes and consumer complaints to the CPSC until April 2012, after the company was served with a private class action complaint alleging the carafes were defectively designed.
It was only then that Spectrum recalled the Black & Decker coffeemakers. However, the company distributed an additional 600 defective coffeemakers after the recall. The U.S. sued Spectrum in 2015 for its failure to promptly notify the CPSC of the defective products and for selling recalled products.
“When a company learns that one of its products could seriously injure customers, it must immediately report that information to the CPSC,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Chad A. Readler of the Justice Department’s Civil Division. “Waiting until someone is hurt before taking action is irresponsible and illegal. We will continue to enforce safety laws that protect consumers from unreasonable harm.”