DOT Announces Civil Penalty, Increased Oversight for Wheelchair Lift Manufacturer
U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx has announced that a California manufacturer will pay a $1.75 million civil penalty and agree to increased oversight by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) for continuing to sell defective wheelchair lifts even as it had issued a recall of the lifts to remedy a potential fire hazard.
Ricon Corp. has agreed to a consent order including the penalty and an admission that the company violated the Traffic and Motor Vehicle Safety Act by selling the defective equipment and violated federal safety regulations by failing to promptly notify NHTSA that it had done so.
"This company's failure to protect the public from a product known to be a safety risk is absolutely unacceptable," Foxx said. "Manufacturers must meet their safety obligations, and when they don't, we will be there with strong enforcement action."
Beginning in September of 2012, Ricon recalled more than 4,000 wheelchair lifts that it sold to manufacturers of vans and buses. The recall remedied a defective cable that could spark a fire. In June of 2013, NHTSA began contacting bus and van manufacturers who used Ricon wheelchair lifts to make sure they were aware of the recall. As part of that effort, NHTSA asked Ricon when it had stopped producing the defective lifts, but Ricon failed to respond to repeated requests for the information.
Six months later, in January 2014, Ricon informed NHTSA that it had mistakenly continued to produce and sell wheelchair lifts with the safety defect. The company reported that it had sold 356 defective lifts after it issued the recall, and as a result of NHTSA's investigation, it issued a new recall to address those lifts in March.
"Ricon violated the Safety Act both in continuing to produce and sell a product already identified as defective, and violated its obligations to make timely notification to NHTSA that it had sold defective products," said NHTSA Administrator Mark Rosekind. "In addition to paying a financial penalty, the company has agreed to increased NHTSA oversight and to improve internal procedures to prevent such safety risks going forward."
Underthe consent order, Ricon 1) admits its violations of the Safety Act and federal vehicle safety regulations, 2) agrees for the next year to acknowledge any communication from NHTSA within three business days, and 3) is required to develop internal written procedures to prevent future manufacture and sale of products already under recall for safety defects, and for the next year to report to NHTSA every 90 days on its implementation of those procedures.