Have a Seat? No, Thanks

Office supplies retailer Office Depot was ordered by the U.S. Consumer Products Safety Commission (CPSC) in May of 2015 to pay a $3.4 million fine for failing to report safety defects in over 1.5 million chairs it sold. The CPSC claims that Office Depot did not notify it regarding defects and injuries resulting from seat back failures in two models of office chairs it sold, the Gibson and the Quantum. The chairs have been linked to 38 serious injuries. One woman broke her hip in 2010 and required a hip replacement.

Office Depot sold 1.4 million Gibson chairs from 2003 to 2012 despite complaints that began in 2005 of seat back breakage and injury. By the time the CPSC investigated Office Depot, the retailer had accumulated 153 reported incidents and 25 injury reports. No recall was launched until 2014.

In the case of the 150,000 Quantum chairs sold, Office Depot first learned of seat back failures in 2007. The manufacturer instituted changes in 2008 and 2009, but Office Depot continued receiving reports of injuries and breakage. By the time the chairs were recalled, 13 injuries and 33 complaints had been received.

CPSC Reporting Guidelines

Companies can use the following guidelines when determining whether a substantial enough hazard exists to require reporting it to the CPSC:

  • Pattern of defect—whether the defect arises from the design or construction of the item
  • Number of defective products released for sale
  • Severity of the risk—the likelihood of injury, and its severity
  • Other relevant factors.

Once it is clear that a duty to report to the CPSC exists, a company must do so within 24 hours. However, Office Depot elected not to do so. Problems began coming to light, however, because the CPSC received a request to look at the Gibson chair.

“When a company has received information about nearly 200 incident reports and more than 35 injuries yet fails to report to CPSC as required by law, as Office Depot did, there must be accountability,” said CPSC Chairman Elliot F. Kaye. “Consumers who bought two popular models of Office Depot chairs experienced them unexpectedly breaking during use. Office Depot failed to report serious incidents to CPSC immediately, as the law clearly requires. More importantly, Office Depot failed to take responsibility and care for the safety of their customers.”

Additional Provisions of the CPSC Decision

In addition to the $3.4 million fine, Office Depot had to agree to set up an internal compliance program that includes formal policies, confidential reporting procedures, employee training programs, and rules regarding record-keeping.

Office Depot has neither admitted nor denied the charges.

When life goes wrong, we fight for what’s right.

If you or someone you care about has been injured by a defective product, you have the right to ask the manufacturer for money to cover your medical bills, property damage, pain and suffering, and any permanent disability or loss. In order to protect that right, you should speak with the experienced South Carolina product injury attorneys at the Louthian Law Firm as soon as possible. We have more than 80 years of combined legal expertise when it comes to helping injured South Carolinians seek justice, and we’re committed to ensuring that you get the best legal representation possible. For a free consultation, call us today at (803) 454-1200. Louthian Law Firm. On the case. Around the clock.

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