Six plaintiffs from six states have put their names on a proposed class action lawsuit in which they allege Britax Child Safety’s BOB line of jogging strollers suffers from a defect that can allow the front wheel of a stroller to detach unexpectedly during the course of normal use and cause serious injury.
The lawsuit comes roughly a year and four months after the Consumer Product Safety Commission sued Britax over the strollers in an attempt to get the company to initiate a recall after a months-long investigation found the product was unsafe. That lawsuit was ultimately settled in November 2018—without a recall or admission from Britax that nearly 500,000 strollers were defectively designed.
About the defendant
The lawsuit states that Britax positions itself and its car seat and stroller products as “high-quality,” “innovative,” “beyond ‘good enough,’” and forward-thinking in terms of ensuring children are protected when on the move. The company’s BOB strollers, which the case says Britax began selling after it acquired BOB Gear in 2011, are designed to be suitable for jogging and for use on rough terrain, and feature a front fork with a quick-release mechanism that holds the front wheel to the stroller with an axle, much like that of a bicycle.
As the plaintiffs tell it, however, a design defect in certain strollers undercuts the defendant’s assurances of product safety and quality.
What does the lawsuit say?
Filed in South Carolina district court, the 29-page case centers on BOB Strollers manufactured and imported into the United States between 1997 and September 2015. At specific issue are 493,000 strollers manufactured and imported between December 2011 and September 2015 that the lawsuit says come with a defectively designed front wheel assembly—axle, axle fork, and/or axle quick release—that allows the strollers to be used without the front wheel being properly secured. According to the lawsuit, the defect can cause the front wheel to detach during ordinary use without warning. From the case:
When the front wheel detaches, the stroller may tip over or the fork may dig into the ground in front of the stroller, causing injuries to children in the stroller and/or the person pushing the stroller. At high speeds or in rough terrain—conditions in which the stroller is designed and marketed to be used—injuries may be more serious.”
Britax, the complaint goes on, has issued and continues to issue “misleading and false” statements concerning the quality, safety and reliability of its BOB strollers. For instance, the company apparently claims a benefit of the quick-release mechanism in its front wheel assembly is that it makes for easy installation and removal of the wheel without the need for tools. Further, Britax, the suit says, boasts that “easy-remove wheels allow the stroller to become more compact for easy storage in tight spaces,” and that the design of its front wheel assembly allows for quick alignment adjustments, smoother riding, and increased stability.
Such statements from the defendant, the case says, “are intended to and do induce customers into believing” the BOB strollers are safe, reliable and free of defects.
Which model strollers are mentioned in the lawsuit?
The specific model BOB strollers that may have been designed with a defective front wheel assembly include, but are not limited to:
IRONMAN Sport Utility Stroller
Revolution 12” AW
Revolution Duallie 12” AW
Revolution FLEX Duallie
Revolution PRO Duallie
Revolution SE Duallie
Sport Utility Stroller
Sport Utility Stroller D’Lux
Sport Utility Stroller Duallie
Stroller Strides Duallie
Stroller Strides Fitness Stroller
Stroller Strides Fitness Stroller Duallie
The above models include single- and double-occupancy strollers.
2018 Consumer Product Safety Commission complaint and consent agreement
The federal Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) filed an administrative complaint against Britax in February 2018 after it became aware of injuries reportedly linked to the company’s BOB strollers equipped with a quick-release front wheel assembly, the lawsuit says. The CPSC’s lawsuit was filed after Britax “declined to recall or repair the strollers that pose a substantial risk of injury to children and adults,” arguing that the strollers were safe as long as they were used as instructed. The CPSC said that since January 2012, roughly 200 consumers had reported front wheel detachment episodes while using the stroller, and at least 50 children and 47 adults had been injured.
According to the Washington Post, Britax pushed back against the CPSC’s demand for a recall, and the lawsuit was settled after a consent agreement was approved by a 3-2 commission vote in November 2018, a resolution the Post indicates stems from a changing of the guard among the party at the helm of the commission.
In addition to resolving the CPSC’s charges against Britax, the consent agreement stipulated that Britax would undertake a “robust, intensive campaign” to instruct consumers on how to safely and correctly operate the quick-release mechanism on its BOB strollers. Moreover, the campaign, according to the agreement, was to include an instructional video created by Britax demonstrating proper use of the quick-release mechanism, with the campaign to be announced “no later than January 10, 2019.” At that time, the consent agreement says, Britax “shall begin to take orders for the free parts, accessories, discounts, or other incentives … from consumers who elect to participate in the campaign.”
Britax was also mandated through the consent agreement to send direct notice of the information campaign to eBay, Craigslist, OfferUp, Goodwill Industries, the Salvation Army and the Association of Resale Professionals, i.e., the operators of secondary resale markets. This, too, was to be accomplished by January 10, 2019, according to the consent agreement.
According to the proposed class action at hand, however, January 10 came and went without Britax fulfilling the entirety of its responsibilities outlined in its compromise with the CPSC.
A missed deadline and resale market concerns
The lawsuit, citing a Washington Post report, says Britax “was approximately three months late” in warning the aforementioned resellers of the information campaign it had rolled out as part of its deal with the CPSC. As a result, the lawsuit stresses, “hundreds of thousands” of defective BOB strollers are available for use by consumers who may not be aware of the information campaign, nor of the alleged front wheel assembly issue.
Who’s covered by the lawsuit?
The case looks to certify a proposed class of consumers in the United States, as well as proposed subclasses of consumers in California, Michigan, New Jersey, New Hampshire, and Nevada, who bought a BOB stroller manufactured on or before September 30, 2015.