A federal judge has ordered Walter Kidde Portable Equipment Inc. (Kidde) to pay a $12 million civil penalty in connection with allegations that the company failed to timely inform the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) about problems with fire extinguishers manufactured by the company, the Department of Justice announced.
Kidde, based in Mebane, N.C., agreed to the civil penalty and other terms as part of a consent decree entered by U.S. District Judge Loretta C. Biggs of the Middle District of North Carolina. The consent decree resolves allegations in a complaint filed by the United States against Kidde on December 30.
The complaint concerned Kidde fire extinguishers with plastic handles that were the subject of a recall announced by the CPSC and Kidde in 2017. According to the recall announcement, the fire extinguishers could fail to discharge during a fire emergency, and their nozzles could detach. A subset of the recalled fire extinguishers was the subject of an earlier recall in February 2015.
The complaint alleged that Kidde violated the Consumer Product Safety Act by significantly underreporting prior to the first recall the scope and nature of the defect and risk, and the number of products and models affected. According to the complaint, Kidde also failed to immediately report to the CPSC information concerning nozzles detaching from fire extinguishers.
The complaint further alleged that Kidde made misrepresentations to the CPSC and misused a registered safety certification mark.
“Companies must immediately report to the CPSC information about unreasonable risks and defects that create substantial hazards,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Jeffrey Bossert Clark of the Justice Department’s Civil Division. “The Department of Justice will continue to take appropriate enforcement actions against companies that jeopardize consumer safety by failing to comply with reporting requirements.”
“I want to convey my thanks to CPSC staff and to our partners at the Department of Justice for finalizing this consent decree without the need for extended litigation,” said CPSC Acting Chairman Robert S. Adler.
The court’s order requires Kidde to maintain a compliance program to ensure that the company complies with the Consumer Product Safety Act and to maintain internal controls and procedures designed to ensure timely, complete, and accurate reporting to the CPSC as required by law. Kidde is subject to liquidated damages if the company is not in compliance with the consent decree. In agreeing to the consent decree, Kidde did not admit that it violated the law.