WASHINGTON, D.C. – The Department of Justice and the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) are jointly announcing the filing of a complaint against Michaels Stores Inc. and its subsidiary Michaels Stores Procurement Co. Inc. in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas.
Michaels is a publicly held corporation headquartered in Irving, Texas. In 2013, Michaels had more than $4.5 billion in sales and 50,600 employees. It is the largest arts and crafts specialty retailer in North America.
The complaint charges that Michaels knowingly violated the reporting requirements of the Consumer Product Safety Act with respect to glass vases that shattered in consumers’ hands, sometimes as the consumer lifted the vase from the Michaels Stores shelf. As set forth in the complaint, Michaels imported and sold the vases, which caused serious injuries to consumers, including lacerations requiring stitches, permanent nerve damage and surgery to repair severed tendons. The complaint, filed by the Department of Justice on behalf of the CPSC, seeks civil penalties and permanent injunctive relief.
“Michaels allegedly failed to report critical information about the safety of one of its products,” said Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Benjamin C. Mizer of the Justice Department’s Civil Division. “The Department of Justice will continue to protect the public against companies that put profits over safety.”
In addition to failing to notify the CPSC “immediately” as required by law, the government also alleges that when Michaels finally notified the CPSC, it did so in a misleading way. Michaels’ report conveyed the false impression that Michaels did not import the vases, even though Michaels should have known it was the importer. The complaint asserts that Michaels’ misrepresentation allowed Michaels to avoid legal responsibility for the recall of the vases as well as any obligation to pay costs and expenses associated with a recall.
“We believe that Michaels chose to profit from selling defective vases that put people at risk, instead of following the law and immediately reporting that their vases were shattering and causing great harm to consumers,” said CPSC Chairman Elliot F. Kaye. “To protect the public, companies are required to report potential product hazards and risks to CPSC on a timely basis. That means within 24 hours, not more than a year as in Michaels’ case.”
Michaels sold the vases in its stores from 2006 to 2010. According to the complaint, the vases pose a safety hazard because their walls are too thin to withstand the pressure of normal handling and, as a result, they shatter in consumers’ hands. The complaint alleges that beginning as early as November 2007 and continuing for more than two years, Michaels received numerous consumer complaints that the vases were unsafe because they shattered during normal use and caused serious injuries. The vases were recalled in September 2010.
The matter is being handled by Trial Attorney Kerala Thie Cowart of the Civil Division’s Consumer Protection Branch, Assistant U.S. Attorney Lisa Hasday of the Northern District of Texas and Patricia Vieira of the CPSC’s Office of the General Counsel.
The claims made in the complaint are allegations only, and there has been no determination of liability.
The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) is charged with protecting the public from unreasonable risks of injury or death associated with the use of thousands of types of consumer products. Deaths, injuries, and property damage from consumer product incidents cost the nation more than $1 trillion annually. CPSC’s work to ensure the safety of consumer products has contributed to a decline in the rate of deaths and injuries associated with consumer products over the past 40 years.
Federal law bars any person from selling products subject to a publicly announced voluntary recall by a manufacturer or a mandatory recall ordered by the Commission.
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