Recent Notable Recalls

By now most subrogation professionals understand the importance of keeping current with the frequent Consumer Product Safety Commission recall notices.  For this blog post we note the following recent notable recalls for the subrogation professional: 

Bosch Security Systems Recalls Fire Control Panels Due to Fire Alarm Failure
A recall was issued by the United States Consumer Product Safety Commission for the Bosch GV4 Fire Alarm Control Panel. The recall relates to the hazard of the notification appliance circuit module which can cause the panels to fail to activate an audible or visual alarm in the event of a fire. More specifically, the recall involves the G-series Fire Alarm Control Panels that are professionally installed and have model numbers that end in GV4 and use D192G Notification Appliance Circuit (NAC) modules. The NAC module monitors the circuit connections and signals when alarms are not operational. The Bosch name, logo and model number D9412GV4, D7412GV4 or D7212GV4 are on the board of recalled GV4 fire alarm control panels. The control panels and modules are used in residences and commercial facilities and can be mounted inside a variety of enclosures with a minimum size of 16 inches x 16 inches x 3.5 inches, which may or may not be labeled with the Bosch name or logo.


Most of the subject models were sold nationwide from January 2012 to December 2012. Consumers who have a recalled GV4 control panel with a D192G NAC module should contact Bosch or their certified professional installer for a free repair. Bosch Security Systems Inc. may be contacted at (800) 289-0096, from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. ET Monday through Friday or online at www.boschsecurity.us and click on Customer Care for more information. To date, there have been no reports of any injuries. Bosch has contacted their distributors and installers and sent installers a service bulletin telling them how to correct the problem.


GE Brand Dehumidifiers are Recalled Due to Serious Fire and Burn Hazards

This recall involves 30, 40, 50, 65-pint dehumidifiers with the GE brand name. The brand name, model number, pint capacity and manufacture date are printed on the nameplate sticker on the back of the dehumidifier. The chart below indicates those that are recalled. The dehumidifiers are light gray plastic and measure between 19 and 23 inches tall, 13 and 15 inches wide, and 9 and 11 inches deep.


There have been 16 reports of incidents with the recalled GE-brand dehumidifiers, including 11 reports of overheating with no property damage beyond the units, and 5 reports of fires beyond the units which were associated with about $430,000 reported in property damage. No injuries have been reported. These items were sold at Sam’s Club, Walmart and other stores nationwide and in Canada, and online at Amazon.com and Ebay.com, from April 2008 through December 2011 for between $180 and $270. The manufacturer is Gree Electric Appliances, of China and may be contacted at Gree toll-free at (866) 853-2802 from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. ET Monday through Friday, and on Saturday from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. ET, or online at www.greeusa.com and click on Recall for more information.


System Sensor Recalls Reflected Beam Smoke Detectors Due To Failure to Alert Consumers in a Fire
Sensor reflected beam smoke detectors were recalled due to hazard when used with certain power supplies. Apparently, when used in this manner, the reflected beam smoke detectors can fail to send a signal to the fire alarm control panel that sounds the alarm and fail to alert occupants of a fire. The recall involves about 610 units with model number BEAM1224S and date codes 2111 through 3053. The YMMW format date codes stand for (2111) 2012-November-1st week of Nov. through (3053) 2013-May-3rd week of May. The detectors are ivory and black and measure 10 inches high by 7½ inches wide. The model number and date code are printed on a label on the back of the detector’s cover and on the product’s packaging. The reflected beam smoke detectors were used primarily in commercial buildings as part of the fire alarm system. Detectors used with acceptable power supplies, as listed on the company website, do not need to be replaced.
If you own such item you may report it to System Sensor at (800) 736-7672 from 7:30 a.m. through 5 p.m. CT Monday through Friday, or online at www.systemsensor.com and click on Resources, then Product Info Library/Technical Field Bulletins, then Safety Bulletins for more information and a list of acceptable power supplies. No Incidents/Injuries have been reported. Owners with the affected smoke detectors powered by a power supply that is not on the company’s acceptable list available online, should contact System Sensor to receive free replacement smoke detectors.
It is important to note these recalls especially when handling product defect matters. In those types of matters, it is beneficial to search the products company website, as well as, the United States Consumer Product Safety Commission website to see if your product is the subject of a recall.

 

 

 

 

 

VIKING RECALL FOR BUILT-IN SIDE-BY-SIDE REFRIGERATOR FREEZERS

Last month, Viking Range, LLC recalled approximately 750 42-inch and 48-inch built-in side-by-side refrigerator freezers with in-door water and ice dispensers that were manufactured between October 2012 and May 2013. Electrical connectors in the refrigerator freezer wiring harness can overheat which poses a fire hazard. According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission recall, Viking has received 27 reports of electrical shorts and 4 reports of fires.


The recall advises owners to immediately turn off and unplug the recalled refrigerator freezers and contact Viking to schedule a free, in-home repair. Click here for a list of all model numbers included in the recall. The model number can be found on the ceiling of the interior of the refrigerator.
 

Dehumidifiers Recalled for Fire and Burn Hazard

On September 12, 2013, Gree Electric Appliances, Inc. of Zhuhai, China announced the recall of 2.2 million dehumidifiers sold in the United States under ten different brand names. The recall was instituted after the manufacturer received notice of 165 incidents involving their products, including 46 fires, and causing more than $2,000,000 in property damage. The units can overheat, smoke and catch fire, posing fire and burn hazards to owners. The manufacturer has reportedly launched investigations into each of the fires. Gree Electric Appliances reported to BusinessWire.com that their internal investigation indicates that the dehumidifiers overheat as a result of low levels of refrigerant. In some instances, Gree suspects that a compressor overload protector emits sparks inside its plastic cover, potentially causing a fire inside the unit.

Gree manufactured the dehumidifiers under brand names, Danby, De’Longhi, Fedders, Fellini, Fridgerdaire, Gree, Kenmore, Norpole, Premier, SeaBreeze, Soleus Air, and SuperClima. The units were sold at appliance and major retailers throughout the United States and online at Amazon and E-Bay, between January, 2005 and August, 2013. The units are white, beige, gray or black plastic and measure between 19 and 24 inches tall, 13 and 15 inches wide, and 9 and 11 inches deep.

Consumers typically use dehumidifiers in their basements and additional inquiry should be made in basement fire claims about your insured’s use of a dehumidifier. If you have a fire loss involving a dehumidifier, you should consult the CPSC Recall Notice for a complete list of make and model numbers to determine if your model is listed on the recall.

 

Long, Hot Summer: Two Auto Manufacturers Announce Major Recalls to Address Fire Risk

It has been a long, hot summer for Honda and General Motors. In June, Honda recalled roughly 686,000 vehicles sold worldwide. Of the 686,000 vehicles recalled, 143,000 were sold in the United States under the Fit name. The problem with the vehicles, from the 2007-08 model years, involves the master power window switch on the driver’s door. According to Honda, “exposure to water and other fluids can cause electrical resistance in the switch, which ultimately can cause the switch to overheat and melt,” resulting in a fire. Honda has advised all Fit owners to park their vehicles outside until the window switch can be inspected.  Click here for a link to the Honda recall website. 


General Motors, which owns a controlling stake in Honda, expanded an existing recall this summer as well. Last August, GM recalled 249,000 various model sport utility vehicles to address a problem with a circuit board in the driver’s side door. This summer, GM added 231,000 more SUVs to the recall. Of the 480,000 vehicles recalled, approximately 443,000 were sold in the United States. The recall indicates “road salt, rain water, and other liquids can get inside the driver’s door module,” potentially causing a short circuit in a circuit board in the door. The short circuit “may cause overheating,” which can melt parts of the door and ignite a fire. The recall applies to the Chevrolet Trailblazer EXT and GMC Envoy XL from the 2006 model year, as well as the Chevrolet Trailblazer, GMC Envoy, Buick Rainier, Saab 9-7X and Isuzu Ascender from the 2006-07 model years. To date, GM has received reports of eleven fires related to the problem with the circuit board.
 

While summer is coming to a close, subrogation professionals should keep these substantial recalls in mind as they investigate vehicle fires in the coming months.
 

7.4 Million Toyota Vehicles Recalled for Power Window Control Fire Hazard

On October 10, 2012, Toyota Motor Corp. announced a worldwide safety recall of over 7.4 million vehicles, including approximately 2.5 million vehicles sold in the U.S., for a fire hazard associated with the power window controls. The recall is the result of an investigation launched in June 2012 by the United States National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (“NHTSA”).  Furthermore, this action by Toyota, which follows shortly after its 2009-2010 recall of several million vehicles concerning unintended acceleration issues, represents one of the largest recalls in the company’s history.

Approximately a dozen of Toyota’s models are impacted by the recall, affecting model years ranging from 2007 to 2009. According to Toyota, the driver’s side power window controls in the recalled vehicles may experience a “notchy” or sticky feel during operation. Furthermore, Toyota advises that this condition “may be caused by an uneven application of the grease” used to lubricate the window controls during the supplier’s switch assembly process. Attempts by individuals to alleviate the issue by applying commercially available lubricants can cause smoke and/or fire due to the overheating and/or melting of the switch assembly.

Toyota models affected by the recall include noted brands such as the RAV4, Camry, Camry Hybrid, Highlander, Highlander Hybrid and the Corolla. Additionally, between 2006 and 2009, Toyota produced a number of Pontiac Vibes for General Motors (“GM”) under a production agreement. Given the fact that the Pontiac Vibe shares the same body and component parts manufactured for the Toyota Matrix, it is expected that additional action will be taken by GM with respect to this vehicle.  Yesterday, it was reported that GM will be sending notifications to the owners of over 47,000 Pontiac Vibes affected by this issue. If you have a vehicle fire case involving a Toyota or Pontiac Vibe, you should consult Toyota’s recall notice or contact Pontiac Customer Care at: 1-800-762-2737.

 

Aquarium Heaters Recalled for Fire Hazard

On April 21, 2011, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (“CPSC”) announced a recall of about 1.2 million Marineland “Stealth” and “Stealth Pro” aquarium heaters. The subject aquarium heaters are Marineland “Stealth” brand heaters of various model numbers and wattages, sold through their parent company, United Pet Group. The heaters were sold at pet stores and on websites from January 2004 through February 2011.

The “hazard” identified in the recall notice is a wiring problem that can cause the heaters to overheat during normal use, which in turn can lead to a fire hazard. The overheating can also cause the heater to shatter or the glass of the aquarium to break, resulting in a laceration hazard. The recall states that United Pet Group has received reports of 38 fires resulting in property damage and 45 reports of broken aquarium glass.

If you have a case where a Marineland Stealth or Stealth Pro aquarium heater is associated with a fire, you should consult the CPSC’s recall notice to determine if your model is one listed on the recall. The heaters associated with this recall are black plastic tubes and have a temperature adjustment knob at the top. They have also been sold as part of aquarium starter kits.
 

MOVING UNINTENDED ACCELERATION CLAIMS FORWARD: SUBROGATION POTENTIAL FOR TOYOTA'S 8.1 MILLION RECALLED VEHICLES

Toyota’s unprecedented recall of some 8.1 million vehicles will impact consumers, businesses, and their insurance carriers all over the country.  Since 1999, an estimated 2,000 complaints of sudden unintended acceleration in Toyota and Lexus vehicles have been reported to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration ["NHTSA"].  On February 9, 2010, Toyota issued a global recall of its 2010 Prius hybrid after over 100 complaints of “delayed brake performance” were filed with the NHTSA.   [See, timeline of recalls.]

Damages to persons and property as a result of these apparent defects will result in numerous insurance claims scattered throughout the fifty states.  The breadth of this recall presents significant subrogation and recovery potential.  But the potential complexity and fragmentation of claims raises obstacles to efficiently and effectively prosecuting many separate cases. 

Mutual cooperation agreements allow carriers to maximize recovery while minimizing and sharing expenses.  Cooperation allows for the appointment of review masters and experts to determine liability and damages related to prior, existing, and future claims.  These claims may include payments to insureds for property damage, personal injury, worker’s compensation benefits, business interruption, and loss of goodwill.

It is anticipated that the insurance industry will act quickly and expediently to review past and existing claims related to matters that involve Toyota vehicles.  Given the expanse of the recall effort by the automaker and the efforts directed by Toyota to rectify manufacturing and design defects, it is possible that the automaker will also seek a forum for cost effective and expedient resolution of claims related to the defective vehicles. 

The availability of multi-district litigation modules and mutual cooperation agreements combined with the efforts of the automaker will effectively endow both the insurance industry and the automaker with a viable alternative to multiple forum litigation.

Product Recalls: Bolstering Your Subrogation Case

Junk appliancesOne of the first things to do upon receipt of a new subrogation loss involving a product is to check to see if there are any recalls of that product.  Ultimately, if your cause and origin investigator determines the product is the cause of the loss, the recall can greatly strengthen your subrogation case.  It provides effective cross-examination of the manufacturer’s employees and experts, as well as substantial leverage in settlement discussions. 

The United States Consumer Product Safety Commission (“CPSC”) regularly advises the public of product recalls and is an excellent resource.  Recently, the CPSC issued the following product recalls which may be relevant to future subrogation claims:

On July 30, 2008, Frigidaire announced a voluntary recall of clothes washers due to a fire hazard.  An internal defect in the washers’ drain pump case overheats and presents a fire hazard.  This recall involves several models within the six brands manufactured by Frigidaire which were sold nationwide between February 2009 and May 2009.  The Frigidaire brands subject to this recall include Crosley, Frigidaire, Kelvinator, Kenmore, Wascomat and White-Westinghouse

On July 21, 2009, Fiesta Gas Grills announced a voluntary recall of its Blue Ember grills, which are fueled by propane.  These gas grills are manufactured by Unisplendor Corporation and Keesung Corporation, both in China. Fiesta is the national importer.  The hose of the gas tank can get too close to the firebox, exposing it to heat and creating a fire hazard. The grills were sold nationwide between November 2006 and June 2007 and in Canada between November 2006 and May 2009. 

On August 11, 2009, Griffin International issued a voluntary recall on Wii battery recharge stations.  Psyclone Essentials and React Wii 4-dock battery recharge stations are recalled due to a fire hazard. The battery pack can overheat, creating a fire hazard. The battery packs subject to this recall were sold at Target, Toys R Us and on amazon.com from January 2008 to July 2009.