Middleton Wisconsin-based Spectrum Brands has been ordered to pay $1.9 million in civil penalties for the company’s failure to report a defect in Black & Decker Space Maker coffee carafes that resulted in injuries to about 70 people, and for continuing to sell the carafes even after they were recalled.
The company sells a wide array of consumer products including Rayovac batteries, George Foreman grills and Remington shavers. Spectrum said it has not decided yet if it will appeal.
Company spokesman David Pritchard said Spectrum is “considering its options in the matter.”
The order issued on October 8, by U.S. District Judge William Conley in Madison, is based on a previous court ruling in a case filed by the Department of Justice in 2015 on behalf of the CPSC that alleges Spectrum Brands violated the Consumer Product Safety Act by waiting years before telling the Consumer Product Safety Commission about complaints that the carafe handles were breaking.
Spectrum Brands estimates it sold 159,000 of the Space Maker coffee makers between July 2008 and April 2012 and was notified about approximately 1,600 cases of broken carafe handles from November 2008 through April 2012. According to the complaints, 66 consumers claimed they were burned from hot coffee spills that resulted and another three consumers said they were cut by broken glass.
Spectrum Brands first reported the carafe defective carafes to the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) in April 2012 but it sold approximately 600 more of the questionable carafes even after that, the court said.
A Spectrum Brands official said the company did not have “defined procedures for executing the recall,” Judge Conley’s 23-page ruling said.
Judge Conley said, although Spectrum Brands provided injury data, the government failed to show admissible evidence regarding any actual injuries that a consumer sustained from a failed defective handle.
He also observed that it’s not clear how often the handle broke off partially or entirely, “leaving uncertain the risk of a catastrophic failure with multiple shards of sharp glass and most or all of the hot coffee being spilled on a consumer.”
Judge Conley imposed higher penalties for sales made after the defective carafes were reported to the CPSC, noting the “egregious nature” of the post-recall sales. Those sales account for $1.1Million of the total penalty.
He also issued a permanent injunction ordering the company to make improvements to its compliance program.