There is nothing more important to parents than the safety of their children. Many parents understand the importance of placing infants and young children in car seats while driving to reduce the chances of injury to their child.
All car seats are not made equal. Even more troubling is that longtime car seat manufacturers — including Graco — have put unreasonably dangerous car seats on the market.
The story of Leiana Marie Ramirez illustrates the danger of defective car seats. In 2011, her mother, Samika Ramirez, was running errands for an upcoming birthday party. On the way home, the mother felt the car swerve and she believed that she had a flat tire. Since the divided highway was not equipped with a breakdown lane, she stopped on the left lane and put her flashers on.
Samika was just preparing to call AAA for help when another driver slammed into the rear end of the car. The vehicle caught fire instantly, and Samika raced to the car to unbuckle her daughter from the car seat.
Despite her frantic attempts to save her daughter, the harness on the Grace car seat refused to release. The flames around the car grew, becoming more dangerous. Soon, onlookers pulled Samika away from the car in an effort to save her life. Unfortunately, Leiana was left behind and passed away.
A year after this accident, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) opened an investigation on that car seat and 17 other models created by Graco. Many parents had submitted complaints to NHTSA on the very same complaint that Samika had. Some parents had even been forced to cut the harness off their children in order to release them from the car seat. What is most unfortunate about the situation is that manufacturer was aware of the problem. Graco had received 6,100 complaints about this particular problem from parents all over the country.
The company admitted that they had received complaints, but argued that it was simply a matter of customer frustration. The company has yet to acknowledge that the defective harness in the car seat has contributed to any deaths, but Samika Ramirez believes differently. In 2005, Graco paid a tremendous fine to the Consumer Product Safety Commission as a result of failing to report numerous issues with their products. They stated in a report following that incident that, “There have been no reported injuries as a result of the harness buckles used.”
When a company argues that their defective product is not dangerous, consumers might be led to believe that the issue is simply a matter of convenience. In fact, parents using the Graco car seat models with a defective buckle may believe that it’s just something they will have to live with. Failing to share adequate information about the dangers involved puts parents and children in a very dangerous situation. Parents might not believe the issue is serious enough to send them out for a new buckle or a new car seat when perhaps that is exactly what parents should do until Graco fixes the problem with their products.
For Samika Ramirez, the situation went well beyond frustration. Even though the car seat was charred after her accident, the metal components of the buckle made it through the figure. The buckle still has one metal tongue side stuck on the apparatus, which spurred the family to file suit against Graco. Graco has been using this kind of buckle design for nearly 10 years. It was designed by AmSafe, and features a Signature Buckle Design and QT Buckle Design. Each of these has a 5-point buckle with two tongues and one release button.
Graco Car Seat Recall
In response to the investigation and numerous complaints, Graco actually blamed consumers for the problem with the buckles. The company argued that it was the fault of parents who led food and bodily fluids get into the buckles. Allegedly, particles inside the buckle make it difficult for the buckle to fully release. Alongside AmSafe, Graco created a procedure to clean the buckle that would ultimately be incorporated inside the manual of the car seats.
Graco has recently announced a recall of approximately 3.8 million car seat buckles. Those who own Graco car seats and are unclear whether the seat is impacted by the website should go to the Graco recall website for more information. Graco will replace the defective buckles with “new and improved” buckles:
Unreasonably dangerous and defective products are unacceptable — especially when they are likely to cause serious injury or death to children. If you or your child has been affected by a defective car seat or other product intended for children, call Passen & Powell at 312-527-4500 to speak with one of their experienced child injury and defective products lawyers.