Black and Decker SpaceMaker Coffee Makers Problems Lead To Government Lawsuit

The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) and the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) have filed a lawsuit against the manufacturer of previously recalled Black & Decker brand SpaceMaker coffee pots, alleging the company failed to report over 1,600 consumer complaints involving problems where the handles detached and shattered, resulting in dozens of injury reports involving cuts and burns. 

The jointly filed complaint (PDF) was brought against Spectrum Brands Inc. and the its former subsidiary, Applica Consumer Products, in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Wisconsin on June 17, 2015.

According to allegations raised by the DOJ and CPSC, the company knowingly violated the reporting requirements detailed in the Consumer Product Safety Act, which mandates that safety hazards and injury reports be reported to federal safety regulators immediately. The complaint seeks civil penalties and permanent injunctive relief.

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A Black & Decker Spacemaker recall was issued on June 1, 2012, after Applica Consumer Products had reportedly received at least 1,276 reports of the handles breaking and causing 68 customer burn and laceration injuries. The recall included the Black & Decker Spacemaker 12-Cup Programmable Under-the-Cabinet Coffeemakers with model numbers SDC740, SDC740B, SDC740BR, SDC740C, SDC740DIS, SDC740R, SDC750, SDC750C and SDC750DIS. The models posed a burn and laceration hazard due to the cabinet mounted coffeemaker’s glass coffee pot detaching from the handle which allowed the glass coffee pot, in some scenarios full of hot coffee, to fall and shatter.

In August 2013, Applica Consumer Products announced a recall expansion, adding indicating that additional Black and Decker SpacemMaker Coffee Makers may experience problems. At that time, the number of consumer complaints had increased to 1,607 and 83 reported burns and lacerations caused by shattering pots.

The DOJ and CPSC allege in the complaint that the company failed to report an estimated 1,600 consumer complaints and nearly 100 burn and laceration injuries caused by shattering coffee pots from early 2009 until April 2012, before notifying the agency about the defect and agreeing to recall the products.

The complaint also alleges that Applica continued to sell a small number of the recalled coffeemakers after the June 2012 recall announcement. It is illegal for manufacturers to distribute or sell any product that contains a known safety hazard and that has been recalled by the CPSC.

Chairman of the CPSC, Elliot F. Kayne, stated the agency believes Spectrum Brands and Applica Consumer Products knew about the hazards associated with the coffeemakers for years but chose to blatantly disregard the federally mandates reporting requirements and continue selling the hazardous products to increase profit, resulting in dozens of preventable injuries to unsuspecting customers.

In a CPSC press release announcing the enforcement lawsuit, Benjamin C. Mizer, Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General for the Justice Department stated that their investigation suggests that hundreds of consumer complaints detailing the shatter and burn hazards were reported to the manufacturer over the years. Mizer added the DOJ and the CPSC rely on companies to report these safety issues immediately as the law requires.

The matter is being handled by the DOJ’s Civil Division’s Consumer Protection Branch and the CPSC’s Office of the General Counsel. The agencies complaint seeks civil penalties and permanent injunctive relief against Applica Consumer Products and Spectrum Brans Inc. If the allegations are proven, the manufacturers could face severe penalties from disregarding reporting procedures and from continued sales of publicly recalled products.

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