‘Life-Threatening’: Lawsuit Claims Kidde Fire Extinguishers Fail to Activate Due to Design Defect
by Erin Shaak
A proposed class action filed this week claims defendants Carrier Global Corporation and Walter Kidde Portable Equipment, Inc. have sold millions of fire extinguishers plagued by a defect that prevents them from activating during a fire emergency.
Alleging violations of several California state laws and the federal Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act, the 36-page lawsuit alleges the defendants have put consumers in danger by failing to warn them that certain fire extinguishers with plastic handles and push-button Pindicator fire extinguishers are prone to failure. Per the case, a defect in the products tends to cause the nozzles to become clogged, detach or require “excessive force” to discharge—which the lawsuit notes is particularly concerning given the devices’ intended purpose.
“A fire extinguisher that fails to function properly during an emergency poses a threat to the life, safety, and property of the user and those in their immediate surroundings,” the complaint states. “This Defect rendered the Products unsuitable for their principal and intended purpose.”
At particular issue in the lawsuit is the allegation that Mebane, North Carolina-based Walter Kidde and parent company Carrier Global have known of the fire extinguishers’ apparent defect for years due to a vast collection of consumer complaints and, despite issuing two recalls covering millions of fire extinguishers, have failed to inform possibly thousands of consumers that the devices they depend on in the event of a fire emergency may not perform as expected.
“Tens of thousands, if not hundreds of thousands of consumers, have not been informed of Defendants’ recalls and are still at risk,” the complaint scathes.
Which Fire Extinguishers Are Allegedly Defective?
The lawsuit claims the following Kidde fire extinguisher models are defective, though the plaintiff reserves the right to add more models that haven’t been recalled yet.
Models Manufactured July 23, 2013 – October 15, 2014:
Models Manufactured July 2, 2012 – August 15, 2017:
Additional Recent Models:
Lawsuit Claims Defendants Hid Alleged Defect from Consumers
The lawsuit alleges that despite the defendants’ purported commitment to safety and quality, Carrier Global and Kidde have “profited enormously” from the sale of “tens of millions” of allegedly defective fire extinguishers while failing to disclose to unsuspecting consumers that the products may not function as intended.
Per the case, while Kidde claims quality, performance and responsibility are among “the pillars of [its] business,” the manufacturer “neglects to mention” that it has received hundreds of complaints related to its fire extinguishers’ apparent failure to discharge, not to mention 16 reports of personal injury, including one fatality, and 91 reports of property damage.
The lawsuit says the alleged defect in the devices—which manifests in the form of clogged nozzles, nozzles that become detached from the fire extinguisher, and the need to use excessive force to discharge the devices—stems from the defendants’ decision to use “cheaper and less reliable plastic handles or plastic push buttons” in place of metal components, which can pose a problem should the fire extinguishers need to be used.
According to the case, many consumers remain unaware that their fire extinguishers can malfunction – and will only learn of the issue should they attempt to use them during an emergency. As stated in the complaint:
Consumers who put their faith in Kidde’s ability to manufacture high-quality firefighting products were led to believe that the equipment they purchased could keep them safe in life-threatening fires. Instead, consumers had to learn the hard way and in times of crisis that the fire extinguishers they purchased were defective.”
Per the case, the defendants’ response to mounting consumer complaints, many of which are cited in the lawsuit, was to issue two “ineffective, sham recalls that left consumers uninformed and vulnerable.”
The lawsuit alleges that even though the defendants have been aware for years that some of their Kidde fire extinguishers are defective, they “dragged their feet” in issuing recalls and notifying customers.
The initial recall of the products discussed in the lawsuit came in February 2015 and involved 31 models of Kidde fire extinguishers manufactured between July 23, 2013 and October 15, 2014, which amounted to roughly 4.6 million units, the case says. This recall, however, was “woefully inadequate” and left approximately 32 million defective fire extinguishers still on the market to be purchased by unsuspecting consumers, according to the suit.
It wasn’t until two and a half years later, in November 2017, that Kidde issued an additional recall affecting more than 40 million fire extinguishers spanning 134 models produced as early as 1973, the lawsuit relays.
In a complaint filed against Kidde by the U.S. Department of Justice and Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) in December 2020, the government accused the company of “significantly underreporting” the scope and nature of the defect prior to the February 2015 recall. Moreover, the government complaint claims Kidde failed to “immediately report” to the CPSC information concerning nozzles detaching from fire extinguishers, made “misrepresentations” to the agency, and misused a safety certification mark. Kidde was ordered in January 2021 to pay a $12 million penalty in connection with the government action.
Lawsuit Claims Recalls Were Insufficient
According to the case, the recalls were insufficient to properly compensate consumers for the defective products given “thousands” of consumers never found out that their fire extinguishers had been recalled. Countless others, the suit says, experienced difficulties getting their devices replaced or received inferior, damaged or recalled products in exchange.
The case claims that a number of customers who did learn of the recall were unable to contact Kidde despite “repeated attempts” or experienced difficulties using the company’s website. Others, according to the suit, waited months to receive replacement fire extinguishers and, in the meantime, either couldn’t contact Kidde’s customer service or received no help from the company.
When consumers did receive replacements from Kidde, many of the fire extinguishers arrived empty or damaged while in other cases, consumers received inferior products or fire extinguishers that were also on the company’s recall list, the lawsuit alleges.
All told, the case claims the recalls were insufficient to compensate consumers for their losses, prompting the filing of this lawsuit.
Who Does the Lawsuit Look to Cover?
The case looks to represent anyone who purchased, not for resale, a defective plastic handle Kidde fire extinguisher or push-button Pindicator fire extinguisher, with a proposed subclass of those who did so in California.
How Do I Join the Lawsuit?
At this time, there is nothing you need to do to join the lawsuit. If the case moves forward and settles, that’s when those who meet the above criteria, i.e., the “class members,” should receive notice of the settlement with instructions on how to claim their share.
Keep in mind that it could take months or even years for the case to be resolved – and that the suit could be dismissed at any point along the way.
In the meantime, you can keep up with class action news, including recent settlements, by signing up for ClassAction.org’s newsletter here.
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Read more here: Camp Lejeune Lawsuit Claims
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