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Federal judge orders Spectrum Brands to pay $1.9 million fine

Middleton-based Spectrum Brands has been ordered to pay $1.9 million in civil penalties for waiting too long to report a defect in Black &Decker SpaceMaker coffee carafes that resulted in injuries to nearly 70 people, and for continuing to sell the carafes even after they were recalled.

Spectrum Brands — a consumer products company whose products include Rayovac batteries, Remington shavers and George Foreman grills — said it has not decided yet if it will appeal.

” Spectrum Brands appreciates the court’s time and consideration of the evidence in this matter. We will take the court’s ruling into account as we consider our options in this matter,” spokesman David Prichard said.

The order, issued last Friday by U.S. District Judge William Conley in Madison, is based on a 2016 court ruling in a case filed in 2015 alleging Spectrum Brands violated the Consumer Product Safety Act by waiting years before telling the Consumer Product Safety Commission about complaints that the carafe handles were breaking.

Spectrum Brands said it sold 159,000 of the SpaceMaker coffeemakers between July 2008 and April 2012 and fielded about 1,600 reports of broken carafe handles from November 2008 through April 2012.

Of those, 66 people said they were burned from hot coffee spills that resulted and three said they were cut by broken glass. Only two people said they received or planned to receive medical attention, the judge noted.

The company reported the carafe problem to the Consumer Product Safety Commission in April 2012 but it sold about 600 more of the faulty products even after that, the court said.

A Spectrum Brands official said the company did not have “defined procedures for executing the recall,” Judge Conley’s 23-page ruling said.

The judge said, though, while Spectrum Brands provided injury data, the government “introduced no admissible evidence regarding any actual injuries that a customer actually sustained by virtue of a failed handle.”

He also said it’s not clear how often the handle broke off partially or entirely, “leaving uncertain the risk of a catastrophic failure with multiple shards of sharp glass and most or all of the hot coffee being spilled on a consumer.”

Because of the “egregious nature” of the post-recall sales, the judge imposed higher penalties for the coffeemaker sales after Spectrum Brands reported the problem, amounting to $1.1 million of the total penalty.

The judge also issued a permanent injunction ordering improvements to the company’s compliance program.

Spectrum Brands gained the Black &Decker appliances with the acquisition of Russell Hobbs, a Florida appliance company, in 2010.

_ By Judy Newman, The Wisconsin State Journal

(Wisconsin State Journal)

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(c)2017 The Wisconsin State Journal (Madison, Wis.)

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