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Faulty Weed Trimmers Draw Fines

Nov 11, 2002 | AP

A San Francisco company has agreed to an $885,000 fine for failing to report safety defects in a weed trimmer attachment linked to more than a dozen injuries and the death of a 3-year-old girl, the government said.

U.S. Home and Garden Inc. and a subsidiary will pay the civil penalty for allegedly not telling the government of problems associated with attachments to the Weed Wizard trimmer, the Consumer Product Safety Commission said.

In a lawsuit filed in July, the government said the companies knew of a February 1998 internal report that found the product could cause serious injuries, but continued to sell it for more than two years afterward. A metal chain link on the head of the weed trimmer can fly off and cut through skin and bone, the commission said. In 1997, a 3-year-old Alabama girl was killed when a link came loose and lodged in her skull.

In a separate product safety case, a Los Angeles company pleaded guilty to importing and selling toys with parts that pose a choking hazard to young children.

STK International Inc. must pay $270,000 in civil and criminal penalties, the largest fine against a company in violation of "small parts" laws and the first time both civil and criminal fines have resulted from toy-related violations, the commission said.

In the U.S. Home and Garden case, about 2.7 million Weed Wizard trimmer heads with metal chains and about 857,000 trimmer replacement chain sets were sold nationwide between May 1987 and April 2000, the government said. The product was recalled by Weed Wizard Acquisition Corp. in May 2000 after the company received several injury reports.

"Companies that ignore our reporting requirements will be penalized," said Hal Stratton, commission chairman.

U.S Home and Garden denied the allegations but entered into the settlement to avoid litigation expenses, the company said in a statement.

"We are very pleased to bring closure to these matters without any substantial financial burden being incurred by the company," said chief executive officer Robert Kassel.

The payment will be split between U.S. Home and Garden and subsidiary A.A.B.B. Inc., the company said.

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