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From Products Liability Law Daily, January 14, 2016

NHTSA denies Graco’s petition for inconsequential noncompliance on child restraints

By John Dumoulin

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has denied a petition from Graco Children’s Products, Inc., for a decision of inconsequential noncompliance regarding approximately 31,838 Graco ComfortSport, Graco Classic Ride, and Graco Ready Ride child restraints manufactured between March 1, 2014, and February 28, 2015. Graco had determined that these child restraints did not fully comply with Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard (FMVSS) No. 213, Child Restraint Systems (NHTSA Notice81 FR 1993, January 14, 2016).

Petition. Graco explained in its petition that the labels on the child restraints do not contain the instructional statement required by paragraph S5.5.2(g)(1)(iii) of FMVSS No. 213. The instructional statement directs consumers to follow all instructions on the child restraint and in the written instructions, specifying that a storage location on the restraint for the manufacturer’s installation instruction booklet or sheet be inserted in the statement at this point.

NHTSA published notice of receipt of Graco’s petition in the Federal Register (80 FR 31968) on June 4, 2015, with a 30-day public comment period. No comments were received.

NHTSA’s decision. NHTSA determined that Graco had not met its burden of persuasion that its noncompliance with FMVSS No. 213 was inconsequential to motor vehicle safety. NHTSA denied Graco’s petition, stating that Graco is obligated to provide notification of, and a remedy for, the noncompliance.

NHTSA noted that the importance of the statement omitted by Graco is underscored by the requirement that it be located under a warning heading stating, “WARNING! DEATH or SERIOUS INJURY can occur.” NHTSA contended that even though the child restraints are sold new with the owner’s manual in a plastic pouch on the child restraint’s harness strap, the original consumer may not necessarily know that the manual has important installation instructions and other safety information. In addition, without the label, the owner is not informed about the existence of a storage location for the instructions. The agency said it required a storage location to better ensure that the manual is stored with the child seat so that the document will be easily available for reference and will be passed on to subsequent owners of the restraint.

NHTSA added that with the required statement, the consumer understands there is a place to store the instruction manual and that the statement increases the likelihood that the user will store the manual with the restraint. Without the statement, according to the agency, the consumer is made to find the storage location on his or her own and has to surmise that the manual should be kept there.

NHTSA also said it was concerned about how subsequent owners could be affected by the missing label because child safety seats are often used secondhand. Without the label, the agency said, these owners would not be informed to locate and review the instruction manual for important information and may not even be aware of the existence of an owner’s instruction manual.

Regarding Graco’s contention that installation instructions are also readily available on its website or by calling its customer hotline, NHTSA stated that it believed omitting the statement directing the user to the instruction manual may result in the original owner forgetting there is a manual and/or subsequent owners not even being aware of the existence of an instruction manual, so the owner would not know to check Graco’s website or call its customer hotline.

Companies: Graco Children’s Products, Inc.

MainStory: TopStory NoticesFR MotorEquipmentNews

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