LG Dehumidifiers Recalled after Reports of Thirteen Fires

Thirteen fires and more than one million dollars in property damage have been caused by LG Dehumidifiers, prompting a recall. The Goldstar GHD30Y7, Goldstar DH305Y7 and Comfort-Aire BHD-301-C dehumidifiers are all included in the recall. The recalled units are distributed through The Home Depot, Walmart, Ace Hardware, Do It Best, Orgill and other nationwide retailers from January 2007 through June 2008.

The failure mode is identified by the CPSC as a short in the power connector for the dehumidifier's compressor. Consumers are warned to immediately stop using the dehumidifiers and unplug them. Goldstar and Comfort-Aire deny any responsibility.

If you learn of dehumidifiers in the area of origin, it's recommended to hire an electrical engineer to perform a site inspection so as to rule the unit in or out, along with any other electrical sources, including the structural electrical system. The dehumidifier should be preserved if there is any possibility it may have been involved in the fire, along with the receptacle to which it is connected, and any associated cords, including extension cords.
 

Honeywell Thermostats Recalled

 On July 28, 2011, the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) and Honeywell International Inc. collectively issued a voluntary recall of 77,000 Honeywell baseboard and fan heater thermostats sold between January 2000 and December 2007. There have been 16 reported incidents of the thermostats melting and smoking as a result of overheating. While there have been no reported injuries thus far, the product is considered to be a fire and burn hazard to consumers. This is not the first recall of its kind, nor the first recall for Honeywell. Just last October, CPSC recalled control panel fire alarms manufactured by a Honeywell subsidiary, Fire-Lite Alarms. Honeywell, however, is not the only company haunted by such issues with these devices. The Consumer Product Safety Commission announced a recall of Comverge, Inc. brand thermostats back in June 2010 when 13 reported incidents of overheating prompted CPSC to deem the product a safety and fire hazard to consumers. Due to such dangerous potential results of usage, CPSC is taking the necessary precautions to ensure the safety of consumers.

The recently recalled thermostats vary in size, but all feature “Honeywell” or “Cadet” written on the outside of the white, rectangular base. Inside the base, each thermostat has an identifiable model number and 4-digit date code, with the recalled thermostats containing the model numbers listed below as well as date codes beginning with 00, 01, 02, 03, 04, 05 and 06. Consumers with a recalled thermostat should immediately set the thermostat to 45 degrees or switch to “off”, a feature only available on thermostats with a letter “B” featured in the model number. 

Hamilton Beach Recalls Toaster

On June 30, 2011, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), in partnership with Hamilton Beach Brands Inc., issued a recall of about 300,000 model 22600 Hamilton Beach classic chrome 2-slice toasters. Due to a defect within the heating element of the toaster, the appliance is reported to be hazardous should it come into contact with flammable materials. Fifteen incidents of malfunction have been brought to the company’s attention, with three reports of property damage. The Hamilton Beach toasters were available for sale between February 2008 and June 2011, and may still be on shelves. The defective toasters have a distinct series code on the bottom of the toaster, beginning with the letters C or D, and specific four digit numbers that follow, ranging from 0190 to 5290. The letters “BI” follow this number code, so that the format appears as CXXXXBI or DXXXXBI, with the Xs representing the unique four digit number code.

Using Freedom of Information Act Requests to your Advantage in Prosecuting Subrogation Claims

Freedom Key on KeyboardThe Freedom of Information Act (“FOIA”) can be a useful tool that subrogation professionals can employ to effectively gather information to build a successful products liability claim. In cases where a loss is caused by a defective product, a simple FOIA request to the Consumer Products Safety Commission (“CPSC”) can produce a veritable treasure trove of documents of reported incidents involving a particular product. 

The CPSC tracks all complaints it receives about safety issues involving products sold in the United States. The complaints can come from a variety of sources, including local, state, or federal government agencies, as well as from consumers who contact the CPSC’s hotline. Depending on the number of incidents and the magnitude of the risk to consumers, the CPSC may launch an in-depth investigation (“IDI”) of a particular product.

Subrogation professionals investigating a potential products liability claim can utilize the CPSC’s website and FOIA requests to assist in determining whether there have been issues with a particular product. A FOIA request can produce incident reports and IDI reports relating to the product in question. To find out whether a product has been recalled, you can conduct a search at the CPSC website at http://www.cpsc.gov/cpscpub/prerel/prerel.html

There are several ways to submit a FOIA request to the CPSC. The CPSC accepts submissions via mail, facsimile, and even by email. Here is the CPSC’s contact information for FOIA requests:

FOIA Requester Service Center
US Consumer Product Safety Commission
4330 East West Highway, Room 502
Bethesda, MD 20814
Tel. (301) 504-7923
Fax. (301) 504-0127
cpsc-foia@cpsc.gov

FilesIt is important to note that the individual making the request is responsible for the cost of reproducing the documents, although there are times when the CPSC will waive the fee. In any event, the cost pales in comparison to the cost of filing suit and obtaining the documents through discovery.  Additionally, the manufacturer of the product is afforded an opportunity to correct or challenge any of the requested information, and the manufacturer can block disclosure of incident reports where they can prove inaccuracies with supporting documentation.  There are also other rare instances where manufacturers can prevent disclose if the requested information contains trade secrets and confidential commercial or financial information. To read more about FOIA requests and about what information is available, go to the CPSC’s Guide to Public Information at http://www.cpsc.gov/about/guide.html#Introduction

Finally, be on the lookout for a searchable database, which the CPSC is in the process of developing. The database was mandated by Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act  of 2008. It is anticipated that the database will be online at www.saferproducts.gov in March 2011.