The Justice Department and the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) yesterday announced a new complaint filed against SunSetter Products, alleging that the company delayed reporting a hazardous defect involving protective vinyl covers for its retractable awnings.
Based in Malden, Massachusetts, SunSetter manufactures motorized, retractable awnings for outdoor use. The complaint alleges that SunSetter knowingly failed to immediately report to the CPSC that when bungee tie-downs securing its protective awning covers were removed, the retractable awnings could spring open unexpectedly with enough force to strike consumers and cause them to fall and suffer death or serious injury.
The complaint alleges that between 2012 and 2017, SunSetter received 14 reports of its motorized awnings springing open, which resulted in several injuries and one death. Despite notice of these incidents, the company did not report the problems with its awning covers to the CPSC until October 2017.
According to the complaint, the protective covers at issue were sold separately or given away as a promotional item with the company’s motorized awnings between June 1999 and January 2019. The covers were recalled in August 2019.
“Prompt reporting of potentially dangerous defects in or problems with products is vital to impactful and immediate consumer protection. CPSC cannot do its job without strict compliance by industry. The defect in this matter, as alleged, can cause serious injury up to and including death,” said U.S. Attorney Rachael S. Rollins for the District of Massachusetts. “Manufacturers must be held accountable for failing to comply with this important obligation which jeopardizes the safety of consumers.”
The Consumer Product Safety Act requires manufacturers, distributors and retailers of consumer products to report “immediately” to the CPSC information that reasonably supports the conclusion that a product contains a defect which could create a substantial product hazard or creates an unreasonable risk of serious injury or death.
“SunSetter knew for years that its product was hazardous, yet failed to tell CPSC as required by federal law,” said Chair Alex Hoehn-Saric of the CPSC. “It took a tragic death and numerous other injuries before they finally took action – which is unacceptable. When a company continues to sell dangerous products – knowing they can cause injuries and death – it must be held accountable.”