- August 30, 2021
- Attorney Matt Stoddard
- Product Liability
Fire extinguishers perform a near-invisible but vital function in most people’s lives. We use them rarely, if at all, but we’re always counting on them to be there for us if we ever need them. That’s what they’re for. When a fire breaks out, a working fire extinguisher can make the difference between a harmless scare and death, serious injury, or millions of dollars in property damage.
Recently, it’s come to light that Kidde brand fire extinguishers have been failing on a grand scale to perform this life-saving function in the critical moments when they’re needed. Injured survivors and the families of the dead deserve compensation for the consequences of these product defects.
Three Recalls, Millions of Defective Units, Untold Deaths, Injuries, and Losses
In late 2017, Kidde issued a recall for over 40 million of its fire extinguishers, including models dating back as far as 1973, due to their tendency to clog and fail, and the possibility of their nozzles detaching and acting as projectiles. The recall was an expansion on two previous ones, in 2009 and 2015, which covered only a fraction of the models now known to be defective.
While many product recalls are issued preemptively before any actual accidents or burn injuries occur, that was not the case here. At the time of the 2017 recall, Kidde was already aware of at least 400 reported product failures, 91 of them involving property damage, 16 involving injuries, and one involving a death.
Customers, Employees, and the DOJ Have Called Out Kidde’s Mishandling of Safety
Following the 2017 recall, the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) and the Department of Justice (DOJ) began looking at Kidd more closely, and this year, Consumer Reports performed an investigation, turning up horrifying results.
Kidde had not only put millions of potentially defective fire extinguishers into people’s homes and businesses; it had seemingly known about and systematically hidden the problem for approximately 15 years.
Among other serious allegations, customers, employees, and government agencies reported that Kidde had:
- Replaced customers’ recalled extinguishers with other recalled extinguishers, or empty extinguishers.
- Made deliberately misleading reports to the CPSC that downplayed dangers.
- “Buried” complaints without even reporting them to their own quality control manager.
- Ignored repeated pleas from fire departments to recall faulty extinguishers.
During a product liability case in 2015, Kidde even tried to argue that the failure of one of its fire extinguishers was due to user error, in spite of having received over 1,000 complaints for that model alone. A judge stated that the company could reasonably be considered “recklessly indifferent as to the safety of its customers.”
Ultimately, in early 2021, the DOJ fined the company $12 million, but it’s a small amount compared with the company’s yearly income, and is not a settlement intended to help the survivors.
Individual Survivors Can Help Hold Kidde Accountable
That $12 million fine isn’t the end of the justice that’s possible or owed. Every single person who has been left without a working fire extinguisher right when they needed one due to Kidde’s design and manufacturing errors should be compensated for what they’ve lost.
Obviously, there are many things a fire can take away that can never be restored, most importantly a person’s life. Many of the families affected by faulty Kidde extinguishers have probably already worked for years on rebuilding and moving forward, and may not think there’s anything left the company could do to help. However, collecting compensation doesn’t just help you and your family; it takes the profit out of negligence and forces companies like Kidde to change the habits that continue to hurt others.
If you have been injured or lost a loved one to a fire that could have been prevented or minimized if a Kidde product had worked correctly, reach out to The Stoddard Firm right away to learn about how we can help.