Black & Decker To Pay $1.57M Penalty For Failing To Report Defects Of Lawnmower That Started On Its Own

Black & Decker has agreed to pay a $1.57 million fine for failing to report issues with two of its electric lawnmowers to the CPSC.

Black & Decker has agreed to pay a $1.57 million fine for failing to report issues with two of its electric lawnmowers to the CPSC.

Under federal law, manufacturers, distributors and retailers are required to immediately report information regarding possible safety defects to the Consumer Product Safety Commission within 24 hours of obtaining reasonable supporting evidence. That 24-hour window allegedly turned into 11 years for Black & Decker and now the company must pay a nearly $1.6 million fine for failing report safety issues related to an electric lawnmower that started spontaneously, injuring at least two consumers.

The Consumer Product Safety Commission and the Department of Justice announced this week that they had reached a $1.575 million deal with Black & Decker to settle allegations that the company purposefully didn’t report safety issues with its cordless electric lawnmowers for nearly eleven years.

Black & Decker’s agreement to a settlement with the CPSC and DOJ – which doesn’t include an admission of violating the law – marks the fifth time since 1986 that the company has been required to pay a civil penalty for failing to report safety defects. The most recent case represents the largest penalty the Black & Decker has faced.

According to the CPSC, the company began receiving consumer complaints about the Black & Decker and Craftsman brand lawnmowers, which were sold from 1995 to 2006, as early as 1998.

Most of the early complaints concerned an issue in which the lawnmower would not turn on even after consumers released the handle and removed the safety key – which is actually a violation of laws that require the blades on walk-behind mowers to stop when the safety handle is released.

Then, starting in 2003, the company began receiving complaints that the lawnmowers would restart spontaneously after the handle was released and the safety key removed.

In all, more than 100 consumers reported safety issues to Black & Decker, two of which resulted in injuries.

In one incident, a man cleaning the blades of a lawnmower with the safety key removed reported that the mower started on its own and cut his hand.

A similar accident occurred three years later in 2006, when a man reportedly received injuries to his hand after the lawnmower started unexpectedly while he was also cleaning the blades. That complaint alleges that the lawnmower continued to run for several hours, even after fire department officials arrived and removed the blade.

The CPSC reports that in 2004, Black & Decker hired an outside expert who eventually identified the defect that caused the lawnmowers to continue to run after being disengaged by users.

Even after pinpointing the issue, Black & Decker failed to report any hazard associated with the lawnmowers to the CPSC until 2009. The company agreed to a recall of the machines in 2010.

In addition to paying the $1.57 million fine, Black & Decker must maintain an internal compliance program to ensure that the firm complies with CPSC’s safety statutes and regulations and also agreed to a system of internal controls and procedures including creating written standards and policies, allowing confidential employee reporting of compliance, and implementing corrective and preventive actions when compliance deficiencies or violations are identified.

The company will also pay $1,000 in liquidated damages for each day it fails to comply with any provision of the agreement, the CPSC reports.

Black & Decker Agrees to $1.575 Million Civil Penalty, Internal Compliance Program, for Failure to Report Defective Lawnmowers [CPSC]