black & decker electric mower
Image: Pixabay
May 04, 2015

Black & Decker has agreed to pay a civil penalty of about $1.6 million for not notifying federal regulators about a dangerous lawn mower defect.

It took the company more than a decade to report to the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) more than 100 complaints that included reports of multiple injuries. As part of the settlement Black & Decker does not have to admit any violation of the law.

The agreement resolves CPSC allegations that Black & Decker knowingly violated federal reporting requirements with respect to cordless electric lawnmowers that started spontaneously and that continued to operate after consumers released the lawnmower handles and removed the safety keys. The matter was subject to a maximum penalty of $1.825 million.

The company has agreed to pay a civil penalty of $1.575 million and to maintain an internal compliance program.

The cordless push mowers were sold under the Black & Decker and Craftsman brand names from 1996 to 2006 and began receiving complaints in 1998. Consumers reported that the lawnmowers would not turn off even after they released the handle and removed the safety key, a violation of federal regulations.

In 2003 the company started receiving complaints that the mowers would start spontaneously on their own, sometimes while owners were cleaning the blades, resulting in multiple injuries.

Black & Decker hired an outside expert in 2004, which was able to identify the problem, but the company didn't report the injuries, the defect, or the safety hazards to the CPSC until 2009. Black & Decker agreed to recall the lawnmowers in 2010, 12 years after complaints began.

Federal law states companies must notify the CPSC of a potential safety hazard within 24 hours.

This is Black & Decker's fifth civil penalty since 1986 for failing to report safety defects with its products under CPSC's jurisdiction, and this latest penalty is the largest amount Black & Decker has paid.

In addition to paying the $1.575 million civil penalty, Black & Decker has agreed to maintain an internal compliance program to ensure that the firm complies with CPSC's safety statutes and regulations and also agreed to a system of internal controls and procedures.

Black & Decker also has agreed to pay $1,000 in liquidated damages for each day that Black & Decker fails to comply with any provision of the agreement.