Following a recall of more than 40 million Kiddie fire extinguishers issued in 2017, due to problems with nozzle detachment and a risk that the fire extinguishers may fail to operate when needed, the U.S. Department has announced a $12 million civil penalty that will settle claims that federal regulators were not properly told about the safety defects.
The consent decree was entered by U.S. District Judge Loretta C. Biggs of the Middle District of North Carolina on Monday, which will result in Walter Kidde Portable Equipment Inc. (Kidde) paying $12 million to resolve allegations it concealed information about the fire extinguisher problems, which resulted in a number of reports involving property damage and consumer injuries.
Kidde fire extinguisher issues were first raised in 2015, after the manufacturer received several consumer reports indicating certain disposable extinguishers failed to discharge, which was linked to a faulty valve component. Following an internal investigation, the manufacturer issued the first disposable fire extinguisher recall on February 12, 2015, impacting an estimated 4.6 million units.
By November 2017, Kiddie had received more than 400 reports of similar disposable fire extinguishers failing to work in a fire emergency which resulted in at least 16 injuries and one vehicle fire fatality.
Among the problems with Kidde fire extinguishers were at least 91 incidents resulting in property damage, and 16 injuries from smoke inhalation or burns which occurred when consumers could not activate the extinguishers. The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission was also alerted of one death which occurred in 2014, following a car fire where the extinguisher failed to operate.
Following the influx in consumer reports, a second Kiddie fire extinguisher recall was issued in November 2017, which the manufacturer indicated involved problems with a plastic handle that could become clogged or require excessive force to discharge, causing the fire extinguisher to fail to activate during an emergency. Kidde also announced the extinguishers’ nozzles may also detach with enough force to pose an impact hazard to users.
The recall impacted an estimated 37.8 million units distributed for sale throughout the United States and another 2.7 million sold in Canada.
Despite the recall, an independent investigation by the CPSC alleged Kidde of violating the Consumer Product Safety Act by failing to report defective safety information concerning the fire extinguishers, significantly underreporting the scope and nature of the defect and risks, as well as misusing a registered safety certification mark.
Following the CPSC’s discoveries, the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) filed a lawsuit against Walter Kidde Portable Equipment Inc. on December 30, raising the allegations found in the CPSC’s report.
On Monday, Kidde agreed to the DOJ’s consent decree, and to paying a civil penalty of $12 million as well as establishing and maintaining a compliance program to ensure the company complies with Consumer Product Safety Act regulations to ensure timely, complete and accurate reporting to the CPSC.
Under the terms of the consent decree, Kidde faces a series of additional damages if found to be in violation of the agreement.