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From Products Liability Law Daily, February 9, 2015

California manufacturer fined $1.75M for selling defective wheel chair lifts

By Pamela C. Maloney, J.D.

Ricon Corp. has agreed to pay a civil penalty of $1.75 million dollars to settle allegations that it continued to sell defective wheelchair lifts even as it conducted a recall of the lifts to remedy a potential fire hazard (In re: Ricon Corp., EQ 13-003, February 6, 2015).

Beginning in September 2012, Ricon recalled more than 4,000 wheelchair lifts that it had sold to manufacturers of vans and buses. The purpose of the recall was to remedy a defective cable that could spark a fire. In June 2013, the company began contacting bus and van manufacturers that used Ricon wheelchair lifts to make sure they were aware of the recall. As part of that effort, NHTSA asked Ricon when the company had stopped producing the defective lifts. Ricon failed to respond to the agency’s repeated requests for this information. In addition to Ricon’s recall efforts, a number of bus and van manufacturers conducted their own recalls.

In January 2014, Ricon reported to NHTSA that the company mistakenly had continued to produce and sell the wheelchair lifts which contained the defect. According to Ricon, 356 defective lifts had been sold after the recall. As a result of the agency’s investigation, a new recall to address those lifts was conducted in March of last year.

In a press release announcing the penalty, Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx stated, “This company’s failure to protect the public from a product known to be a safety risk is absolutely unacceptable.... Manufacturers must meet their safety obligations, and when they don’t, we will be there with strong enforcement action.”

In addition to paying the civil penalty, Ricon admitted to violating the Traffic and Motor Vehicle Safety Act and federal vehicle safety regulations. The company agreed to increased oversight by NHTSA and committed to developing internal written procedures to prevent future manufacture and sale of products already under recall for safety defects. The company also agreed to report to NHTSA every 90 days on its implementation of those procedures.

Companies: Ricon Corp.

MainStory: TopStory SettlementAgreementsNews NHTSANewsStory

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