Black & Decker Lawn Mower Problems Result in $1.575M Civil Penalty from U.S. CPSC

Following an investigation into a 2010 cordless electric lawnmower recall, Black & Decker has agreed to pay a $1.575 million civil penalty for failing to maintain internal compliance programs and withholding injury reports involving the design defects. 

The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) announced the settlement agreement on April 29, stating that Black & Decker will be financially penalized and required to implement compliance and reporting programs for violating federal reporting laws.

The deal marks the end to a nearly five year investigation by the CPSC, which accused Black & Decker of failing to disclose information involving lawn mower problems and injuries suffered by consumers that were linked to certain cordless electric models.

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The investigation determined that there were more than 100 consumer complaints, dating back as far as 1998, which indicated that the lawnmowers may not turn off after the handle was released and the safety key was removed.

The Black & Decker and Craftsman cordless electric lawnmower recall was issued in September 2010, impacting about 160,000 units. The recall came after the company disclosed 34 consumer complaints of the blade unexpectedly activating.

The CPSC discovered more than 100 consumer complaints of the lawnmowers spontaneously starting as well as documents showing that Black & Decker hired a third party expert in 2004, who identified the defect that caused the lawnmowers to continue to run. The third party expert confirmed to Black & Decker a design defect existed that could cause danger to consumers in 2004, yet the company refused to report any hazards to the CPSC until 2009.

In 2003, one owner was rushed to the hospital for hand lacerations after the mower spontaneously started with the blade activated while he was working on the lawnmower. The report found that the safety key that disables the blade activation was not in the ignition port.

Another report in 2006 indicated a man who was cleaning his lawnmower suffered lacerations to the hand after the blade unexpectedly activated. According to the report, the local fire department was called to the man’s property, where the lawnmower continued to run for several hours before the blade could be removed.

Federal law requires manufacturers, distributors, and retailers to report to the CPSC immediately, within 24 hours, after obtaining information reasonably supporting the conclusion that a products contains a defect which could create a substantial product hazard, create an unreasonable risk of injury or death, or fails to comply with a consumer product rule, regulation, or standard.

According to the CPSC, lawnmowers are required to have quick release mechanisms that will disengage the spinning blade as well as a safety key that if not engaged will not allow the blade to spin.

In addition to the $1.575 million civil penalty, Black & Decker will be required to maintain internal compliance programs that will consist of written standards and policies for employee concern reporting, claims reviews and safety evaluations, and record retention policies. Black & Decker has also agreed to pay $1,000 per day in liquidated damages for each day the company fails to comply with any provision of the agreement.

The CPSC stated that Black & Decker never admitted guilt during the investigation or the settlement process, despite hiding known defects from the CPSC for at least five years. Justice Department’s Assistant Attorney General, Benjamin C. Mizer stated that this is Black & Decker’s fifth civil penalty since 1986 for failing to report safety defects with its products under the CPSC’s jurisdiction.


  • GaryJuly 11, 2020 at 5:01 pm

    I just bought a black & decker mower at the habitat for humanity came home to try it out and was thrown to the ground from it electrocuting me from dew on my lawn. I thought it was going to kill me I am still shaking.

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