Federal safety regulators are overseeing the largest recall for child car seats that this country has seen in the last 5 years. Graco, a leading manufacturer for children’s products including baby monitors, strollers, swings and high-chairs, is recalling 3.8 million car seats because defective buckles are preventing parents from removing their children from the seats in emergency situations. Reports of these defective buckles began in 2012 when parents complained to regulators that they had to cut the straps in order to free their young children from Graco car seats.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has asked that Graco also recall an additional 1.8 million car seats that also use the same defective buckles. In an attempt to justify the recall, Graco representatives explained to regulators that the root cause for the buckle malfunction stemmed from “foreign material such as food or dried liquids.” Regulators, however, rejected this explanation, saying that buckles getting dirty with food and liquids was “completely foreseeable.”
While Graco has officially denied knowing about any injuries resulting from the use of its defective car seats, a letter from NHTSA to Graco earlier this year reminded Graco that it was the named defendant in a wrongful death suit in a Los Angeles County Superior Court. This suit alleged that Leiana Ramirez, a two-year-old child, was killed in a car fire following a motor vehicle collision. The suit also mentioned that Leiana was seated in a Graco Nautilus car seat at the time the collision and subsequent fire occurred. Graco Spokeswoman, Ashley Mowrey, later responded that the case had been resolved “pursuant to a confidential settlement agreement.”
While Graco maintains that it has recalled these defective car seats out of “an abundance of caution,” NHTSA warns that these seats are defective and pose an “unreasonable risk of harm” to the young children who ride in them. While the Graco recall is well underway, it remains unclear whether this recall will be limited to Graco seats alone. Last month, the federal safety agency also began investigating similar complaints against another child seat manufacturer, Evenflo Company based in Piqua, Ohio.