Thursday, June 14, 2012

Unsafe and Dangerous Graco Car Seats

When we needed to switch from an infant car seat to a larger car seat for our son, we ended up choosing the Graco Comfortsport Model #1762268. We had the Graco infant seat for Sammy and our twin boys had the Graco car and stroller system. What's happened over the past several weeks has been maddening and an example of failure in our corporations and government.

A short while back, all of the sudden, we notice that Sammy has his chest clip harness disconnected. Like any two year old, that was all it took to start the fun of undoing the clip time after time. At first, I thought that it must have broken in some fashion, as there was no-way that a company as large as Graco, which is owned by Newell-Rubbermaid, could be possibly selling a dangerous and faulty car seat. Jennifer immediately said that it was the clip and it wasn't broken. Although I'm skeptical of most things, I just didn't buy into it not being broken in some fashion. I looked at the clip and by the look of the design, I thought that maybe it was bent in some fashion. So, we went ahead and ordered a replacement chest clip from Graco for the car seat.

I installed the replacement clip, we put him in the car, hit the road, and not long after, he took it off, just like the original clip. Clearly, the clip was not broken, it was a flawed and dangerous design. Next, I contacted Graco to let them know about this problem. While sending an email to their customer service department, I came across this gem from their own blog:


http://blog.gracobaby.com/2009/11/12/faq-what-if-my-child-figures-out-how-to-open-the-chest-clip-on-their-car-seat/

The blog was published on November 12, 2009 and it clearly shows that the company knew of the design flaw and danger of the Graco chest clip. Take a look and read what their PR has put up. The tips are just insulting to the consumer. Some of the gems include, "It takes consistency and some discipline to help them understand that the chest clip needs to stay closed." Really? You can do that with a two year old? No, in reality, once a two year old figures out that he or she can do something, they'll keep doing it and it's difficult to get them to stop. Part of that has to do with their development and level of understanding. Either someone without a child or someone with no common-sense crafted that beauty of a statement.

In my email, I let them know that the clip had failed and that we were extremely disappointed in what had been occurring here. I received a prompt response that there was a new design and that they would be shipping it to us and that it would take 3-5 business days to arrive. They pointed out in the response that "This has more tension in the clip and maybe more difficult for your son to open." While doing more research of what appeared to be more than an isolated problem, I found a video on YouTube.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=58o9NvcsMRA

In this video, the user shows his two year old son taking off the chest clip with ease. Exactly as what we've dealt with. The Graco baby blog listed above had many comments with children as young as barely over a year old doing this. Just keep searching, the material keeps flowing.

Here's an excerpt from my email:

"I'm contacting you as I'm quite disappointed and concerned about the safety of the car seat that our son has in one of our vehicles. The unit in question is the ComfortSport, model 1762268 with a date of manufacture of 2010/05/18. After using this car seat since he was an infant, all of the sudden, we turn around and see that he's no longer buckled in as the chest harness is unlatched. At first, I question whether I made a mistake and simply didn't click it properly. Low and behold, over the course of the day, there he goes, taking it off one time after another. I then removed the car seat from our vehicle and ordered a replacement chest clasp from your company directly. Besides the obvious inconvenience of moving the car seat between two cars for several days, what made my wife and I incredibly disappointed and downright upset is when the replacement came. Low and behold, we get the car seat back in and he's taken it off again!

From our original premise that maybe the clasp was bent and damaged, it quickly turned into a clear fact that the design of the clasp is defective and absolutely unsafe. What if we were in an accident and he had just unlatched the clasp before impact? You know what the impact of such an event would be."


Impressively, the new clip arrived the next day along with a sheet with how to properly install it, which only takes (once again that term) common-sense.

We had taken the car seat out of the vehicle as it had become obviously unusable. We then took it out of the garage and placed it outside to get setup for the new clip. I installed it and we told Sammy to come and sit down in his car seat. Next, Jennifer asked him to try to undo it and take it off. Literally, he did it within two seconds. He put his hand down and and undid the clip. Latched it back and forth so on. I became extraordinarily upset about this. The company has a known defective and dangerous product, yet it is on the market and has been for years. Their blog shows culpability. They know of the problem, but somehow they've evaded a recall of these chest clips. The cynic in me is screaming that this is yet another example of a large corporation buying off the government, who's watchdog agency is supposed to protect the consumer. We'll get back to that in a moment.

Here's our 26 month old taking off his Graco car seat chest clip with amazing ease:

http://youtu.be/JKDxkG-RMeY

Once we had Sammy on video, I uploaded the video to YouTube, so that I could present another piece of evidence of this product's failure. Once the video was live, I took to sending an email to Graco and here's portions of that note:

"We did receive the replacement harness clip promptly and I do appreciate that, unfortunately, this "new design" is no better than the prior clip. This is absolutely unacceptable. We're still sitting here with a car seat that is completely non-functioning and unsafe." "I can't help but think about what could happen to our son if we were in an accident and he is not restrained, let alone because of a fault clip design. I've now been going on a few weeks of having to shift car seats between two cars all because of this unsafe and unusable car seat."

"I have recorded a video of our son with the brand new clip and I've made a link for you to see this video. Your enclosed directions were followed completely to make certain that the clip was properly installed."

I expect a resolution of this matter, it's completely unacceptable."


I received an email quickly from Graco inquiring as to when the car seat was manufactured and also letting me know that we would receive a credit from our purchase with their store as I demanded a refund because the original replacement clip that we purchased is known to be faulty and was exactly what we had, unbeknownst to us when we first purchased it.

After reply, a follow-up email came shortly thereafter letting me know that the product was out-of-warranty, but since we weren't happy with the product, they would allow us to send the car seat back at our expense and would then issue a refund for the MSRP of the car seat. Here's what I had to say:

"These car seats have been cited by consumers for years as having a failing chest latch. They are defective, period. This was known by Graco before we purchased this seat, it was known before this seat was actually manufactured. This isn't about satisfaction, this is about Graco selling an unsafe product, period. The so-called warranty shouldn't apply when the problem is the design to begin with. Your company can spend hours going online and searching out countless other consumers with the same problem and many have complained about getting the run around with this issue. This is the same design that was sued over (due to injury) from your acquired company, Century. It's publicly documented.

As you can see with this case, I cited your blog from 2009 where your company clearly acknowledged the problem. There are comments as recent as the past week from other consumers with the same issues. To be honest, this is extraordinarily frustrating. So, I'm supposed to pay roughly $20-$30 to package and ship the car seat back? This wasn't about wanting a refund, this was about wanting a properly functioning, and safe car seat. I would have no problem sending the car seat back with some sort of prepaid label if the company wanted to see it in order to examine it for safety issues.

I'd assumed that your company is now producing car seats that do not use this latch set-up, but I can't seem to find any models that offer anything other than this design.

What am I to do?"



I then received another response that they would send to us in the mail a prepaid shipping label to return the car seat and we would then receive the aforementioned refund in 6-8 weeks from the corporate office. And, we would have to provide the box to ship it back in, but I guess that's better than having to also pay to ship it back.....


Down in an area that we lived for quite some time, Orange County, Florida, a lawsuit was filed, Roman vs. Graco, as the plaintiff's child was severely injured in the spinal cord during a traffic accident and guess what happened? She was two years old at the time and undid the Century car seat chest clip. Century was purchased by Graco whose parent company is Newell-Rubbermaid as mentioned above in 1998.

Here is a quick story from the Times' Business Section.

http://www.nytimes.com/1998/05/20/business/company-news-rubbermaid-s-graco-unit-to-buy-century-car-seat-line.html



These unsafe chest clips have been in use for years by Century and Graco. In reading through the reporter's brief from the case of Roman vs. Graco, you find out that the two parties settled out of court. Newell-Rubbermaid is able to avoid being legally responsible, but that doesn't speak to the truth of the product here. From the amateur research that I've done here, it appears that this set-up had a one piece harness all tied in together, so my assumption is that this one piece held all the parts of the restraint together. So, today, the product that we have the problem with is the two piece harness. Regardless, the same problem is here, the child can easily become unrestrained and could suffer fatal consequences.



The case of Roman v. Graco

http://www.justice.org/cps/rde/justice/hs.xsl/15319.htm

Here's a listing of countless child safety seat recalls:

http://www.hsrc.unc.edu/safety_info/child_passenger_safety/child_restraint_recalls_list.cfm

Interestingly, there have been no recalls of the Graco child chest clips that they have been using for several years. Just putting a little effort and time, you can find many sources on the Internet of complaints whether it's consumer forums, videos, or notices.

Here's a link with some complaints provided online to The Office of Defects Investigation, which is a part of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Not surprisingly, similar complaints are found.

http://www.aboutautomobile.com/ChildSeat/Complaint/Graco/Comfortsport/Child+Seat+Harness+Buckle


As I was alluding to earlier, we have a failure of a corporation and the government. Complaints typically are a small fraction of the problems that are actually out there and there is a pretty large sampling to be found with this same issue. How many complaints has Graco had directly that they've buried internally? How can something so unsafe, dangerous, and potentially deadly be ignored by our government? Is it because of lobbyists? Are they bought and paid for by corporations and damn the consumer?

It think that it's rather fair for us as consumers to expect that something a basic as a car seat for a child is properly safety tested. For there to be a problem known by the corporation and for them to continue to go about their business as normal is disgusting. It's not a problem with the stitching on the seat fabric, it's not the color of the seat, it's the most basic of safety issues, which Graco is failing.

This is OUTRAGEOUS. We have no statistics as to how many vehicles have been in accidents with these car seats and the injury with relation to the Graco branded car seats.

So, here we are and here's what I'm hoping to do. I don't know if a blog can change the world, but by getting the word out, I'm hoping that we can get some good exposure on this dangerous situation and usher in a change.


1 comment:

  1. Just ran across your post while looking for a car seat for my nephew to use while in town. Wanted to say thank you for taking the time to post the data in such a thorough and thoughtful manner. It stopped me from buying the same model secondhand. Might as well put our kids back on our laps if their safety cannot be assured by governing bodies.

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