Walter Kidde Portable Equipment Inc. was ordered to pay $12 million in civil penalties. Regulators fined the company for not informing the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) in a timely manner about problems with millions of its fire extinguishers. The faulty extinguishers caused property damage and contributed to more than a dozen injuries and at least one death.
The Original Complaint
The complaint concerns fire extinguishers with plastic handles manufactured by Mebane, North Carolina-based Kidde that were recalled in 2017 for failing to discharge during a fire emergency and for their nozzles detaching. A subset of affected fire extinguishers was involved in an earlier recall in February 2015.
According to the complaint, Kidde underreported the scope and nature of the defect and the risk, as well as the number of products and models affected. Kidde also was accused of failing to immediately report the issue to CPSC.
“Companies must immediately report to the CPSC information about unreasonable risks and defects that create substantial hazards,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Jeffrey Bossert Clark of the Justice Department’s Civil Division.
Where were the defective fire extinguishers sold?
The recall involved about 37.8 million of various models of Kidde fire extinguishers produced as early as 1973. They were sold at Menards, Montgomery Ward, Sears, The Home Depot, Walmart and other department, home and hardware stores nationwide. Online, they were sold at Amazon.com, ShopKidde.com and other online retailers for between $12 and $50 and for about $200 for model XL 5MR. These fire extinguishers were also sold with commercial trucks, recreational vehicles, personal watercraft and boats.
Injuries, Property Damage, and One Fatality
According to the CPSC website, the fire extinguishers can become clogged or require excessive force to discharge and fail to activate during a fire emergency. In addition, the nozzle can detach with enough force to cause injury. The company has received approximately 391 reports of failed or limited activation or nozzle detachment, including 16 injuries such as smoke inhalation and minor burns, and approximately 91 reports of property damage.
In 2014, a fatality occurred when emergency responders reported to a car fire following a crash but could not get a recalled Kidde fire extinguisher to work.
A full list of recalled Kidde fire extinguishers can be found on the CPSC website. Consumers with questions can call Kidde toll-free at 855-271-0773 from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. ET Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. ET Saturday and Sunday, or online at www.kidde.com and click on “Product Safety Recall” for more information.
Recalls issued by federal agencies such as the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) inform the public about potentially dangerous and defective products in the marketplace.
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