When you make the decision about which car seat to purchase for your child, you are literally putting their life into the hands of the manufacturer. You’re trusting that the manufacturer wouldn’t put a faulty product on the market and that your child will be safe. Unfortunately for 3.7 million consumers of the Graco brand of car seats, this may not be the case. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) recently announced that Graco is voluntarily recalling 11 of 18 model seats that the government agency had asked it to recall.
The issue with these car seat models is that the red release button in the center of the harness can become difficult to unlatch and can even become stuck. This voluntary recall affects “harness buckles used on all toddler convertible car seats and harnessed booster seats manufactured from 2009 to July 2013”, as noted by Graco spokeswoman Ashley Mowrey.
Interestingly enough, this isn’t the first time that Graco has been asked to issue a recall on their car seats. Back in 2002, more than 900,000 seats were recalled due to missing hooks, pins, or “U” bars, which could cause the carrier to not securely attach to its base.
While Graco has only acknowledged 11 of the 18 models that the government is currently asking to be recalled, this recall still tops the charts as the number four largest recall ever for car seats. If all 18 models are recalled, adding 1.8 million more seats to the mix, this would be the number one largest recall. The other 7 models that are not currently being recalled include rear-facing infant seats that use the same buckle mechanism. The reason these seats not being included in the recall, according to Graco, is because food or beverages can be the culprits for the stuck harnesses, however, infants typically don’t get food or drinks on their seats.
This statement hasn’t deterred NHTSA from continuing to investigate and pursue further recalls. In a stern letter to Graco’s Vice President of Legal Affairs, Mr. Sean Beckstrom, NHTSA summarizes 135 Vehicle Owner Questionnaire (VOQ) reports from consumers regarding these sticking or stuck buckles. 53 of these VOQ reports reveal that the buckle would not unlatch at all, and the consumer had to resort to other methods of removing their child from the seat – including cutting the harness, and even calling emergency responders for help.
In addition to the 135 VOQ reports, Graco has received over 6,100 consumer reports complaining of this same issue – 74 of which also report cutting the straps to remove their child from the car seat. One report states that it took 45 minutes to free her toddler and that worked only after the straps were loosened and the girl was squeezed between them.
“It is extremely unnerving to have this happen to your child,” she wrote. “What if we had a car fire or a car accident?”
While Graco believes that parents should continue to use their car seats until they are able to receive a replacement, NHTSA is urging consumers to call for a replacement and to absolutely not use their Graco seat until such replacements are available. In their letter to Graco, NHTSA has also accused the company of downplaying the seriousness of this recall with “incomplete and misleading” documents, and has threatened civil penalties saying that Graco should delete from its documents “any statements that may lead the public to discount the seriousness of the safety risk presented by this defect.”
What could be even more alarming is that Graco claims to have no reported injuries as a result of their defective product; however, the company has been named a defendant in the recent case of Ramirez v. State of California. In this wrongful death case, two-year-old Leiana Ramirez was unable to be removed from her Nautilus car seat (included in the current Graco recall) during a car fire that followed a motor vehicle accident.
In addition to the investigations into Graco’s car seats, NHTSA has announced that it will be investigating four models of Evenflo child safety seats, which have a similar design to the recalled Graco seats, and may use buckles made by the same manufacturer, AmSafe Commercial Products Inc. NHTSA has also been in contact with AmSafe to identify any additional child seat manufacturers that use similarly designed harness buckles.
Consumers can contact Graco toll-free at 800-345-4109 or at or firstname.lastname@example.org.
SaferCar.gov, a division of NHTSA, has put together a Child Car Safety Guide for parents who are seeking information on the best car seat style for their child.
If you have received an official notice describing a recall on a product you own, follow the instructions to receive the remedy. If you have sustained an injury resulting from defective motor vehicle equipment, the Denver product liability attorneys at The Bendinelli Law Firm have the understanding, knowledge, and experience necessary for these complex cases. Contact us today for a free and confidential consultation – we’ll help you get the help you need.