Gator Combo Axe Problems Result in $2.6M Penalty from U.S. CPSC

The Department of Justice has reached an agreement with Gerber Legendary Blades, a division of Fiskars Brand Inc., to pay a $2.6 million civil penalty and abide by a permanent injunction for failing to comply with federal law and report consumer injuries associated with their Gator Combo axes. 

The penalties were announced in a press release issued by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) on January 5, indicating that the manufacturer failed to disclose Gator Combo axe laceration injuries for years before the product was recalled.

The Gator Combo Axe was a light weight axe that measures roughly 9 inches long and contains a 7-inch knife within the hollow axe handle. The product poses an injury hazard for consumers because the knife may come out of the axe handle while it is being used to chop or hammer.

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A Gator Combo Axe recall was issued in March 2011, impacting roughly 103,000 units. The U.S. CPSC announced the action after learning of at least five consumer complaints that indicated users suffered laceration injuries due to the knife detaching from the axe handle during use. According the CPSC, all of the laceration injuries required stitches or surgery.

After investigating the injury reports, the CPSC discovered that the manufacturer had received laceration injuries requiring surgery as early as 2005. Under federal law, manufacturers, distributors, and retailers are required to report to the CPSC immediately after obtaining information reasonably supporting the conclusion that a product contains a defect which could create a substantial product hazard, creates an unreasonable of serious injury or death, or fails to comply with any consumer product safety rule, regulation, or standard set by the CPSC.

After recognizing the company’s failure to comply with federal laws, the Department of Justice filed a complaint against Gerber Legendary Blades on behalf of the Consumer Product Safety Commission in the U.S. District Court for the District of Oregon on December 30, 2014, claiming the company failed to report consumer laceration injuries caused by the use of the Gator Combo Axe.

The complaint (PDF) indicates that Gerber knowingly withheld reports of lacerations to consumers who required stitches or surgery due to the use of the Gator Combo Axe. The complaints also alleges that Gerber’s failure to report the injuries to the CPSC in a timely manner as required by federal law further endangered and caused preventable injuries to consumers.

The settlement requires that Gerber Legendary Blades, a division of Friskars Brands Inc., of Madison, Wisconsin, to pay a $2.6 million civil penalty and abide by a permanent injunction. The injunction, as set forth by the court, will require the company to implement and maintain a compliance program containing written standards and policies, procedures for reviewing claims and recognizing safety concerns, records retention requirements, reporting incidents to the CPSC in a timely manner, and other safety oriented procedure policies.

“In this case, Fiskar’s failure to report to the CPSC not only put consumers at risk, it contributed to people being injured as a result of the unsafe product design,” U.S. Attorney S. Amanda Marshall, for the District of Oregon, said in the press release. “The settlement not only addresses the product safety issue, but also holds the company accountable and sends a message to others that these violations will be taken seriously.”

Customers who may still possess the Gerber Gator Combo Axe should immediately remove the knife from the axe handle and contact Gerber at 877-314-9130 or visit them online at www.gerbergear.com to receive a free handle cap, which will hold the knife in the axe handle during transport, storage, and usage.

Tags: Laceration

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