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Evenflo Booster Seat Unsafe?

Report Calls Evenflo Booster Seat Unsafe

A frightening report this week released by ProPublica, a nonprofit news organization known for investigative journalism, calls a popular Evenflo booster seat unsafe in certain types of collisions.  The report also asserts that Evenflo has marketed the Big Kid booster seat for occupants that may be too small to be safely protected in a side-impact accident.  Specifically, the report claims that the company ignored recommendations to stop marketing the booster seat for use for children that weigh less than 40 pounds. ProPublica’s year-long investigation involved analysis of extensive documents, including internal corporate papers, legal filings and depositions, and hours and hours of interviews with customers, victims, and car safety experts.

Federal child safety test laws have been in place for nearly 20 years. However, those regulations apply to frontal crash tests only, and not side-impact collisions. Because of this lack of oversight, car/booster-seat manufacturers have created their own, some would say subjective and subpar, safety tests.  The ProPublica report asserts precisely this concerning the side-impact testing done by Evenflo.  Ultimately, Evenflo essentially passed itself, even though the company’s own lead engineer expressed that if actual children had been subjected to the forces involved in the tests, they could have been killed or catastrophically injured.

Injuries Reported

Consumers cannot predict the type of impact they could become involved with when transporting a child.  A car seat must be designed to protect the child in the event of all kinds of accidents with children of varied weights and heights.  There is litigation pending against Evenflo involving a five-year-old child who suffered a paralyzing injury, which medical experts labeled an “internal decapitation” while riding in the Evenflo Big Kid seat.   The devastating injury left the child paralyzed from the neck down and in need of round-the-clock care.  The T-bone impact occurred on the driver’s side of the vehicle.  The injured child was just under 37 pounds at the time of the crash, which was within the weight limits stated on the booster seat’s label.

General counsel for Evenflo responded to the ProPublica report by pointing to “hundreds of accidents” in which Bid Kid booster seats were used, and in which the children emerged unharmed or with minor injuries. Evenflo’s legal department goes on to say that injuries sustained by a 40-pound child would not be different from those suffered by a child who weighed more if each child was restrained and positioned correctly within the booster seat.

The pending litigation is not the first time the Evenflo Big Kid booster has been the subject of a lawsuit.  Years before, they were sued by two other families.  One child suffered internal decapitation, such as in the pending suit, and the second child sustained a traumatic brain injury.  Both prior cases involved side-impact collisions, and afterward, Evenflo continued to sell the boosters without updating its size recommendations.  The defense to those lawsuits was, again, that negligent driving had been the cause of the children’s injuries.

Weight Limit Recommendations

It should be noted that in Canada, the regulation for children in a booster seat is a minimum of 40 pounds.  The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends the use of a five-point harness seat until the child outgrows the restraint.  In 1916 Evenflo changed the limits to 40 pounds on some of its Big Kid booster seats, but not all – according to Evenflo, that change was to accommodate Canadian regulations.  ProPublica states the Big Kid boosters citing 30-pound minimum weight are still on the market, and in fact, they claim to have purchased two of the Big Kid boosters directly from Evenflo’s website last month.

Following inquiries by ProPublica, Evenflo changed its website to reflect a weight minimum of 40 pounds, but the boxes, label, and manual continued to advise of a 30-pound minimum.

Watch the YouTube Video Test Videos Reveal how Evenflo Booster Seats put Children at Risk. These videos showed never-before-seen testimonies of Evenflo’s key safety engineers admitting that children could suffer catastrophic injuries or death if they moved the way the test dummies did.

Sacramento Products Liability Lawyer

I’m Ed Smith, a Sacramento Products Liability Lawyer.  I have been helping Sacramento residents with personal injury matters for over 38 years.  If you or a member of your family has been injured as a result of a defective product, our office may be able to help. Please reach out to us for free and friendly advice at (916) 921-6400 or toll-free at (800) 404-5400. 

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