A proposed class action claims Graco Children’s Products, Inc. and Newell Brands DTC, Inc. have falsely touted their car booster seats as safe for use by children weighing as little as 30 pounds and able to provide protection in the event of a side-impact collision.
In truth, the case out of New York alleges, the defendants have known since at least 2002 that Graco’s TurboBooster and “almost identical” Affix booster seats can expose children under 40 pounds to serious injury and even death. Moreover, the defendants’ representations that the booster seats provide side impact protection are “virtually meaningless” as there are no regulations in place for side impact testing on child safety-seats, the suit says.
As the complaint tells it, Graco’s safety claims are based on nothing more than tests of its own creation:
“Graco is basically making up their own ‘test’ and then telling the consuming public that their Booster Seats passed when they, in fact, do not pass any test that establishes the safety of the seat for children in a side-impact collision.”
According to the lawsuit, Graco began selling its TurboBooster product in 2002 with the representation that the booster seat was safe for children as young as three years old and weighing as little as 30 pounds. The lawsuit alleges, however, that Graco was aware the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) had reported to Congress since at least 2002 that booster seats are recommended for use by children weighing at least 40 pounds.
The lawsuit claims the defendants’ awareness of the recommended weight limit is evidenced by the fact that the same products for sale in the U.S. had a weight minimum of 40 pounds in Canada.
“In fact,” the complaint says, “while Graco aggressively marketed the Booster Seats to U.S. consumers as safe for children who weigh as little as 30 pounds, they simultaneously represented to consumers in Canada that a child weighing less than 40 pounds risked ‘SERIOUS INJURY or DEATH’ using the same Booster Seats.”
The Canadian government has prohibited the sale of booster seats for children weighing under 40 pounds since 1987, the suit adds.
The lawsuit alleges that Graco only recently changed the weight limit on its TurboBooster and Affix products to 40 pounds in light of an investigation into booster seat safety conducted by non-profit investigative journalism outlet ProPublica. Despite the weight limit change, Graco still continues to advertise in online descriptions that its booster seats are safe for children who weigh at least 30 pounds, according to the suit.
The case goes on to challenge Graco’s representations that its booster seats have been “side-impact tested,” alleging that not only are there no federal standards for such testing but that Graco’s own “made up” tests fail to prove that the seats can provide the advertised level of protection in the event of a side-impact collision.
According to the suit, Graco has misled consumers by purporting that its booster seats have met what is actually a “non-existent standard.” The lawsuit notes that the federal government has no rules in place for side-impact collisions and only sets crash test standards for head-on collisions, making Graco’s representations that its booster seats have been side-impact tested “wholly misleading.”
“Graco took advantage of this regulatory gap and seized the opportunity to concoct their own side impact testing, the specifics of which have never been voluntarily disclosed to consumers,” the suit alleges.
In truth, Graco’s side-impact tests are based on “no reasonable standard whatsoever” and are “insufficient” to establish whether the company’s booster seats can provide meaningful protection to children, the case alleges.
The lawsuit cites a crash test conducted as part of case filed against Graco by a family whose child was severely injured while riding in a TurboBooster seat. The test results, obtained by ProPublica, reportedly show a child-sized test dummy being “violently thrown” from its TurboBooster seat in a way that an expert claimed would cause “severe head and torso excursion” in a real child.
When questioned by ProPublica about the results of the test, Graco apparently refused to respond.
The case claims that while the headrest on Graco’s TurboBooster and Affix booster seats “gives the impression of increased protection,” the defendant knew all along and hid from consumers that the seat provides “no actual security against side-impacts.”
The lawsuit comes amid a flurry of litigation volleyed at the makers of child booster seats, including against Graco rival Evenflo. According to the complaint, the defendants have been hit with at least four other suits filed by families whose children were injured or killed while riding in a TurboBooster seat.
The full complaint can be read below.
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