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From Products Liability Law Daily, May 9, 2014

Company name in case challenging inclusion of report of harm in CPSC database made public

By Joe Bichl

The company in the case, Company Doe v. Public Citizen (4th Cir.), has revealed itself in a company news release as the juvenile product company, Ergobaby, after the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit found that the case must be unsealed and the company publicly disclosed. Ergobaby had anonymously sued the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) to prevent a report naming its product from being included in the website.

In 2011, Ergobaby challenged a safety complaint about one of its products, and a district court agreed to protect the identity of the company, try the case in secret, and seal most of the relevant documents. The sealed information included a government report on an Ergobaby product that caused the death of an infant.

In April, 2014, the Fourth Circuit ruled that the record must be unsealed, finding that injury to corporate reputation is not enough to justify sealing court records under the First Amendment, and that permitting a company to use a pseudonym to challenge the inclusion of a report in the CPSC database was an abuse of discretion in light of the public interest of the database. The court also found that the district court lacked jurisdiction to deny three consumer groups’ motion to intervene and that the groups had satisfied the requirements for standing even though they were not parties to, or intervenors in, the underlying litigation. The three groups were the Consumer Federation of America, Public Citizen, and Consumers Union.

The website is a database where consumers can submit reports of harm or risks of harm, and search for safety information on products they own or may be considering buying. The database went live in March 2011. Called, the database was considered necessary because while CPSC had historically collected consumer complaints, most were hidden from the public unless and until a recall was announced. This meant that consumers unwittingly were using products that CPSC and manufacturers knew posed safety hazards.

Companies: Ergobaby

MainStory: TopStory CPSCNewsStory BabyProductsNews

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