On February 13, 2018, the United States Department of Justice announced Michaels Stores agreed to enter into a consent decree and pay $1.5 million in a settlement agreement over its shattering glass vases. For more information about the initial complaint, filed April 21, 2015, in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas, by the Department of Justice, visit our previous blog HERE.
According to the Department of Justice, Michaels sold approximately 200,000 glass 20 inch vases between 2006 and 2010 in the United States and Canada that had the propensity to shatter and cause serious injuries. According to the lawsuit, the glass vases’ walls were too thin and could not withstand the pressure of normal handling. An engineering consultant utilized in one of Attorney John Malm’s cases discovered that vases being sold in Michaels’ stores were constructed of glass thinner than that in an ordinary light bulb. In at least one case wherein a glass vase shattered, a victim suffered permanent nerve damage. Several other customers suffered injuries requiring extensive surgery. According to the Department of Justice’s complaint, Michaels knew as early as 2007 that at least one customer had been injured by a glass vase, and at least four customers had been injured in the first half of 2009. Michaels did not report the glass vases’ safety issues and customers’ injuries until 2010, thereby violating the Consumer Product Safety Act. When it finally reported the vases’ safety issues, Michaels’ report was purposefully incomplete and misleading to avoid responsibility for the recall of the vases.
Under the Consumer Product Safety Act, companies are required to immediately report potential product hazards and risks to the Consumer Product Safety Commission. 15 U.S.C. § 2064(b)(3)-(4). If a company is unsure whether or not it must report an incident to the Consumer Product Safety Commission, it may investigate up to ten days. According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission’s Chairman, Elliot Kaye, Michaels should have reported the shattering vases’ safety issues to the Consumer Product Safety Commission within 24 hours of being informed of the vases’ propensity to shatter. Instead, Michaels waited several years to report the vases’ propensity to shatter, resulting in numerous customers suffering serious and painful injuries.
Under the consent decree entered into by Michaels and the Department of Justice, in addition to the $1.5 million settlement, Michaels must maintain a compliance program to ensure it does not violate the Consumer Product Safety Act in the future and maintain internal controls and procedures to remain in compliance with the Consumer Product Safety Act. As part of the consent decree and settlement terms, Michaels has not admitted that it violated the Consumer Product Safety Act. However, Michaels remains liable for any shattering vase injuries sustained by its consumers.
Illinois product liability lawyer John J. Malm has been retained by clients injured by the defective Michaels vases throughout the United States. Attorney John Malm encourages consumers who may have purchased glass vases at Michaels, or a subsidiary of Michaels, to retain their receipts, and to carefully pack and keep vases that may have shattered. Consumers should then contact John J. Malm & Associates to learn how they can be compensated for their injuries.