Williams-Sonoma Inc pays $987,500 civil penalty

Home goods retailer Williams-Sonoma Inc. has agreed to pay a $987,500 civil penalty to settle charges that it failed to immediately report a defect in Pottery Barn wooden hammock stands.

The Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), which made the announcement Monday, said Williams-Sonoma already was aware of 45 incidents involving the hammock stands when it filed a report to the agency on Sept. 11, 2008, explaining the defects. The San Francisco, Calif.-based company and the government announced a recall of 30,000 of the stands about three weeks later.

Williams-Sonoma has also agreed to maintain and enforce a system of internal controls and procedures designed to ensure that:

  • Information required to be disclosed by the firm to the Commission is recorded, processed, and reported, in accordance with applicable law;
  • All reporting made to the Commission is timely, truthful, complete, and accurate; and
    prompt disclosure is made to Williams-Sonoma’s management of any significant deficiencies or material weaknesses in the design or operation of such internal controls that are reasonably likely to adversely affect, in any material respect, the company’s ability to report to the Commission.
  • Provide written documentation of such improvements, processes, and controls, upon request of CPSC staff; to cooperate fully and truthfully with CPSC staff; and to make available all information, materials, and personnel deemed necessary to staff to evaluate the company’s compliance with the terms of the agreement.

The settlement resolves CPSC staff’s charges that the firm knowingly failed to report to CPSC immediately, as required by federal law, a defect involving Pottery Barn wooden hammock stands. Williams-Sonoma imported the wooden hammock stands between March 2003 and July 2008, and distributed them exclusively through Pottery Barn and PBteen catalogs and websites, and Pottery Barn Outlet stores. The hammock stands were sold nationwide for approximately $300.

The government alleged that when used outdoors, the wood in the hammock stands could deteriorate over time and break when a customer sat in the hammock. There were 12 reports of injuries requiring medical attention.

At any point during the design and manufacturing process, failure to report safety issues associated with children’s products may contribute to a product’s hazards. If you or a family member have suffered significant personal injuries  result from the use of a defective play yard, contact the law office of Swartz & Swartz, P.C. Call (617) 742-1900 in the Boston area, or for clients in greater Massachusetts, New England, or other states across the U.S., call toll-free at 1-800-545-3732.

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