Over the course of five years, electronics retail giant Best Buy sold hundreds of recalled products to customers off store shelves and online – a violation of federal law, as well as a serious risk to unwitting customers.
Now, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission has announced the imposition of a $3.8 million penalty to settle those charges. The recalled products sold – approximately 600 in all between September 2010 and October 2015 – included cameras, computers and washing machines.
Officials say it appeared there was some type of break down in communication and procedure at the firm, which failed in its duty to implement policies and procedures that would allow staffers to quickly and accurately identify recalled products, quarantine them and then prevent sales. Although the settlement is not an admission of guilt, a representative from the company released an e-mail statement expressing regret that any of products it sold were under recall. He conceded that there were a number of recalled items sold, but insisted it was a “small number.” Still, he added, selling even one recalled product is one too many.
In total, 16 different recalled products were sold to customers. putting them at risk of personal injury. The Minnesota-based chain store reportedly did not permanently block certain product codes, apparently because of inaccurate digital information that indicated none of the recalled products were in stock, when in fact they were. In some cases, the blocked codes were re-activated (so they could be used again on other products) before the actual recalled items could be physically removed from distribution centers. In a few cases, the code blocks were overridden.
Among the recalled items sold:
- Computers that overheat and are a burn hazard risk;
- Gas dryers that fail to shut off properly, posing risk of burn, fire and smoke inhalation;
- Electric ranges that can fail to switch off or increase the temperature unexpectedly during use, posing a burn and fire hazard;
- Office chairs prone to seat plate breakage, posing a fall hazard;
- Blenders that can break during use, posing laceration hazards;
- Televisions with failing electronic components that catch fire and ignite nearby items;
- Travel converters at risk of overheating, posing a fire and burn hazard.
It’s not clear whether anyone was injured after purchasing these products from Best Buy. If there are any cases, plaintiffs would be allowed to sue not just the manufacturer, but also the distributor. In a case like this, where a sale of a recalled product is banned by the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act of 2008, plaintiff might have ample grounds to make a strong case for punitive damages. The purpose of punitive damages – which can substantially bolster the damage award received by plaintiff – is to punish wrongdoing and prevent such misconduct in the future by either defendant or others. In order to be granted the right to pursue punitive damages, one need not prove there was actual intent to harm. Rather, plaintiff needs to show a conscious disregard for the safety of another where defendant is aware – or should be aware – of probable dangerous consequences.
The company has reportedly taken a number of measures in an effort to prevent such an issue from happening again.
If you have been injured in an accident, contact the Hollander Law Firm at (888) 751-7770 for a free and confidential consultation. There is no fee unless we win.
Best Buy to Pay Penalty to Settle Charges Over Recalled Items, Oct. 4, 2016, By Josh Beckerman, The Wall Street Journal
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