Tuesday, May 29, 2018

height and weight claims for car seats are factual representations, not mere possibilities

Henryhand v. Dorel Juvenile Group, Inc., No. CV 17-00180 SJO (AGRx), 2017 WL 7806591 (C.D. Cal. Dec. 4, 2017)

Dorel allegedly falsely advertises its car seats for use by children whose weight is between 5-40 pounds and height is between 19-43 inches, when in fact the car seats become painful and even injurious to children substantially below those heights/weights due to the inadequate length and placement of the harness and buckle apparatus.  Plaintiffs brought the usual California claims and some nationwide claims.  They alleged that, before they bought their car seats, Dorel knew that its stated specifications were wrong through sources not available to consumers, including a NHTSA “Ease of Use” review for one model which concluded that the “[h]arness slots in the pad and in the shell are misaligned or small,”  pre-release testing data, early consumer complaints, and other internal sources. Because the height and weight limitations cannot be detected until a child reaches the maximum specifications, they alleged that they weren’t reasonably able to discover the problem until after purchase, and that any applicable statute of limitations has been tolled by Dorel’s knowledge and active concealment of the relevant facts.

The court refused to dismiss the claims.  Dorel argued that the height and weight specifications were “limits” or “maximums”, and not guarantees of subjective comfort. The court held that a “reasonable consumer” would believe that his or her child would fit in a car seat if the child’s height and weight was within the ranges represented by Dorel.  Plaintiffs also sufficiently alleged Dorel’s awareness of the defect at the time of sale through sources not available to consumers. This was sufficient to plead fraud and fraudulent omission with particularity.

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