Lawsuit claims Evenflo’s inadequate testing and misleading safety information places the lives of millions of children in danger, especially during side-impact car crashes
A California father has filed a nationwide class-action lawsuit against Evenflo, maker of the popular Evenflo Big Kid booster car seat, for allegedly selling the car seat with misleading advertising and safety claims, placing children weighing less than 40 pounds in grave danger during a car crash, according to Hagens Berman.
The lawsuit, filed Feb. 12, 2020, in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Ohio states that Ohio-based Evenflo’s popular Big Kid booster seat was sold to consumers as "side-impact tested" and safe for children weighing less than 40 pounds. But the lawsuit alleges Evenflo does not tell consumers that its own tests reveal that a child seated in a Big Kid booster during a side-impact collision could be in grave danger of serious injury or death.
In 2018, side-impact crashes were responsible for more than a quarter of deaths in vehicle collisions of children under 15, and yet, according to the lawsuit, Evenflo’s bar for "passing" its claimed "rigorous" side impact testing is so low that the only way it would fail one of its own products was if a child-sized dummy ended up on the floor or the booster seat itself broke into pieces.
"Millions of parents and child guardians across the country believed the lies that Evenflo printed in its marketing for its Big Kid booster seats, leaving children at high-risk of injury or even death during a side-impact collision," said Steve Berman, co-founder and managing partner of Hagens Berman. "Evenflo chose to ignore the warning signs of its own testing, which revealed plain and simple that children seated in Evenflo’s Big Kid car seat would not be safe during a side-impact car crash."
The named plaintiff in the case purchased multiple Evenflo Big Kid car seats for his twins for use in his four vehicles, all under the impression that the booster seats were "side-impact tested" as stated in Evenflo’s marketing. The suit’s plaintiff, his wife and his two children were in a side-impact collision that resulted in their vehicle being totaled in 2011. For this reason, side-impact crashworthiness was a significant part of his car seat purchase decision.
"Evenflo chose to prioritize its own profits over their promise to the public to safeguard the lives and health of children, an egregious choice that has put young lives at risk," he added. "Parents everywhere place the safety of their children first, and Evenflo sought to capitalize on that fact through misleading claims of safety testing."
Evenflo is one of the nation's largest sellers of children's booster seats, and millions of Big Kid boosters have been purchased from Amazon, Babies R Us, Costco, Target, Walmart and other major retailers.
Investigating Evenflo’s Big Kid Booster Seat
A recent news investigation conducted by ProPublica found that Evenflo's low weight recommendation for its Big Kid booster, a top-selling booster seat in the United States, is indicative of its having "repeatedly made decisions that resulted in putting children at risk."
"The company’s tests show that when child-sized crash dummies seated in Big Kid boosters were subjected to the forces of a T-bone collision, they were thrown far out of their shoulder belts. Evenflo’s top booster seat engineer would later admit in a deposition if real children moved that way, they could suffer catastrophic head, neck and spinal injuries — or die," the investigation found.
The lawsuit states: "Evenflo—in a cynical ploy to out-compete its main rival, Graco—intentionally misrepresents the safety of its products to parents and other consumers. Specifically, Evenflo prominently markets one of its most popular products, the ‘Big Kid’ booster seat, as ‘side impact tested’ and, until recently, as safe for children as light as 30 pounds. But these claims are false: Evenflo’s own testing demonstrates that the Big Kid booster seat leaves children—especially those under 40 pounds—vulnerable to serious head, neck, and spine injuries in a side-impact crash."
On its website and in its marketing, Evenflo tells parents and guardians that its in-house side impact testing is "rigorous," simulates realistic conditions, and is equivalent to federal testing. According to the lawsuit, in reality, Evenflo’s tests are anything but: videos reveal that when child-sized crash dummies seated in Big Kid booster seats are subjected to the forces of a T-bone collision, they are thrown far out of their shoulder belts.
The lawsuit seeks reimbursement to consumers for their purchasing defective products sold under misleading safety statements.
Hagens Berman Sobol Shapiro LLP is a consumer-rights class-action law firm with nine offices across the country. The firm’s tenacious drive for plaintiffs’ rights has earned it numerous national accolades, awards and titles of "Most Feared Plaintiff’s Firm," and MVPs and Trailblazers of class-action law. More about the law firm and its successes can be found at hbsslaw.com. Follow the firm for updates and news at @ClassActionLaw.