Evenflo Booster Seat Lawsuit Filed Over Alleged Safety Deficiencies

A growing number of product liability lawsuits and class action claims have been filed against Evenflo Company, alleging that some of the company’s car booster seats were promoted as being safer than they actually were, placing children at a serious risk of injury.

Kristen Brinkerhoff, of California, filed a complaint (PDF) in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Ohio on April 27, which seeks class action status to pursue damages for herself and other consumers who purchased Evenflo “Big Kid” car booster seats.

The lawsuit raises claims similar to those presented in other cases, indicating Evenflo falsely advertised the booster seats as safe, despite the lack of a five-point harness, which the company’s internal memos even admitted were the best practice for keeping children safe. The manufacturer also failed to incorporate side impact safety measures, according to the lawsuit.

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“The truth, as borne out by Evenflo’s secret testing and as confirmed in personal injury litigation brought after very young passengers using the ‘Big Kid’ booster seats, which did not incorporate a five-point harness as part of the booster seat, were traumatically injured, is that the ‘Big Kid’ booster seats were not safe and placed children at unnecessary risk of severe injury or death,” the lawsuit states. “Moreover, both the tests and the testimony of Defendant’s own employees – which until now have been largely concealed from consumers – demonstrate that Evenflo was repeatedly warned that the seats were not safe.”

However, the company advertised the booster seats as safe for children as young as one-year-old or as small as 30 pounds, the lawsuit indicates. But behind the scenes, Evenflo’s own testing allegedly revealed the design had problems, but failed to inform consumers the seats posed a risk of serious injury or death to children involved in side-impact collisions, even adding “side impact tested” tags to the booster seats themselves.

The seats were sold to more than 18 million families and caretakers, according to the lawsuit.

Brinkerhoff purchased two of the booster seats; one in 2017 and the other in 2019. However, she did not learn about the safety problems until later. She seeks class action status for herself and all Californians who purchased the seats, saying they paid a premium based on the statements of safety made by Evenflo.

In February, the public watchdog journalism group ProPublica issued a report on the Evenflo ‘Big Kid’ booster seat, revealing internal documents and interviews with employees, as well as actual testing results, suggesting the seats were much less safe than Evenflo claimed, and that the manufacturer knew it.

ProPublica reported that in a 2016 deposition, an Evenflo project engineer admitted he would not put a 1-year-old in a booster seat, including his company’s own Big Kid seats, which claimed to be safe for 1-year-olds at the time.

However, the company was warned long before that by its own employees, the lawsuit notes. In February 2012, a safety engineer issued an internal warning in Evenflo, calling for the company to stop selling the seats for children weighing less than 40 pounds after reviewing crash data which showed children four and younger faced reduced injury risks if they were placed in a full child’s car seat with five-point harness restraints.

Brinkerhoff’s claim is one of a dozen filed in federal courts nationwide. On April 24, the U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation (JPML) issued a hearing session order (PDF) which scheduled oral arguments over whether to consolidate all of the claims before one judge for pretrial proceedings for May 28.

The oral arguments will be held via videoconference or teleconference due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

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