Growing Class Actions Give Rise to New Evenflo Booster Seat Multidistrict Litigation (MDL)October 26, 2020
Here Are the Key Facts to Know about the Nascent Evenflo MDL, a Dangerous Product Lawyer Explains
On February 12, 2020, the first Evenflo booster seat lawsuit was filed in a federal Ohio court. Within the five months that followed, Evenflo Company, Inc. would face at least 9 more class action cases in courts across the nation.
These cases level similar allegations against Evenflo, claiming the company misled the public about the safety of its “Big Kid” booster seats, prioritizing profits over children’s safety.
The similarities in the allegations—and the increasing number of Evenflo booster seat lawsuits filed in U.S. courts—led the Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation (JPML) to issue a transfer order in June 2020, establishing new multidistrict litigation (MDL) for these claims.
The new Evenflo booster seat MDL has been assigned to District Court Judge Denise J. Casper in the District of Massachusetts (In Re: Evenflo Company Inc., Marketing, Sales Practices and Products Liability Litigation, Case No.: 1:20-md-02938).
4 Facts to Know about the Evenflo Booster Seat MDL
Although this MDL is still in early stages, here’s a look at the key facts so far and why they matter.
1. Evenflo touted its Big Kid booster seats as safe for kids under 40 lbs.
Evenflo, a major child car seat company in the U.S., has been selling its Big Kid booster seats for years, marketing them as:
- Safe for children weighing under 40 pounds (lbs): In fact, Evenflo says that the seats are “side-impact tested” for kids under 40 lbs. and that the seats are safe for kids weighing as little as 30 lbs. According to court documents, some plaintiffs have even said that they choose the Big Kid booster seat because of how many times it has the word “safety” printed on the box.
- Meeting or exceeding all safety guidelines: Up until April 2020, Evenflo stated on its website that Big Kid booster seats meet or exceed “all applicable federal safety standards and Evenflo’s side-impact standards.”
Notably, however, federal regulators have yet to establish safety standards for the side-impact testing of child car seats. Without official guidance, Evenflo had the room to develop its own tests and passing standards.
According to internal company videos, documents, and depositions obtained by ProPublica, that ended up meaning that Evenflo gave passing marks to booster seats that violently threw test dummies out of the seats during crash tests. After seeing videos of these tests during a 2019 deposition, one of Evenflo’s top engineers admitted that a real child in that situation could sustain severe or deadly injuries.
2. An engineer at Evenflo raised red flags about the Big Kid booster seats in 2012.
In February 2012, a safety engineer at Evenflo tried to alert executives to the risks and issues associated with the Big Kid booster seats. Specifically, the engineer warned high-level executives that:
- Harness-style car seats would be safer for children under 40 lbs.
- The manufacturer’s guidelines for Big Kid booster seats go against the long-established safety recommendations from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP).
The engineer reportedly raised these concerns multiple times, only to have them outweighed by a marketing battle Evenflo was waging with a competitor. Critically:
- The marketing executive who vetoed the engineer’s safety recommendations was eventually promoted to vice president of marketing and product development.
- Evenflo continued marketing its Big Kid booster seats as safe for kids under 40 lbs. for eight more years after the engineer’s 2012 warnings.
3. A report from ProPublica sparked the Evenflo lawsuits that triggered the MDL.
On February 12, 2020, ProPublica published a scathing exposé, shining a light on the risks linked to the Big Kid booster seats—and how Evenflo had allegedly ignored and tried to avoid disclosing those risks to the public.
The report released videos, company documents, internal emails, and much more. It painted a picture of a company that seemed to:
- Compromise and deprioritize safety decisions in the face of marketing needs and concerns
- Be willing to sacrifice the safety of children to beat its competitor and increase profit margins
In response to inquiries related to this report, Evenflo General Counsel Amy Blankenship issued a written statement to ProPublica, stating:
Unquestionably, our company records on Big Kid alone are anecdotal proof of the improved level of safety. No child restraint or booster seat can ensure that a child will not be injured in a car crash, especially a severe one; just like no vehicle manufacturer can ensure that all occupants will escape injury in every crash.
On the same day the ProPublica report came out, the first Evenflo booster seat lawsuit was filed in an Ohio court.
4. As the MDL proceeds, more claims will likely join the litigation.
With the Evenflo booster seat MDL launched during the pandemic, this litigation has experienced some stalls like so many other product liability cases across the U.S. As of September 2020, the court had yet to schedule any upcoming proceedings for the litigation.
While it may take a little longer for the MDL to get underway, when it does, here are the allegations Evenflo will be facing in these claims:
- Evenflo claimed the Big Kid booster seats “exceeded governmental standards,” without revealing that the company had actually created its own tests and passing standards.
- Evenflo failed to create appropriate safety standards for crash testing and “passing” its Big Kid booster seats.
- Evenflo’s own tests and records showed that children under 40 lbs. could be catastrophically hurt or killed when sitting in Big Kid booster seats during side-impact crashes.
- Evenflo intentionally misinformed the public about the safety of these booster seats for children under 40 lbs. Beyond that, Evenflo purposely hid the dangers of these seats for kids weighing between 30 and 40 lbs.
Given that more than 18 million Evenflo Big Kid booster seats have been sold in the U.S., many anticipate claims to surge as the MDL kicks off and more parents become aware of their options for justice.
Do I Have an Evenflo Booster Seat Claim?
Get a free, confidential answer by contacting the Amaro Law Firm. Depending on your situation, you may have various options for filing an Evenflo booster seat claim—and your best option will depend on your circumstances, needs, and goals.
While these claims can never reverse the harm and suffering caused by unsafe products, like dangerous car seats, they can help victims and families get medical treatment, focus on healing, and pick up the pieces.