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Wheelchair Lift Recall Results in Massive Civil Penalty, Increased Oversight
In September 2012, San Fernando, CA-based Ricon announced the recall of more than 4,000 wheelchair lifts that it had sold to manufacturers of vans and busses nationwide, warning consumers that a defective cable could spark a fire and potentially cause serious burn injuries. Now, the company is on the hook for a $1.75 million civil penalty and faces increased oversight by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration for continuing to sell defective wheelchair lifts even after the recall.
Questions began to rise in June 2013, when NHTSA officials began contacting bus and van makers who used Ricon wheelchair lifts to make sure they were aware of the recall, and asking for updates and confirmations from Ricon. Despite repeated requests for information, including the date when Ricon stopped producing the defective lifts, the company failed to respond.
In January 2014, after a full six months of dodging NHTSA inquiries, Ricon informed the agency that it had mistakenly continued to produce and sell wheelchair lifts with the fire-prone defect. Company officials admitted that Ricon had sold 356 defective lifts after it issued initial recall, a violation of the Traffic and Motor Vehicle Safety Act. A second issue was issued that March.
"Ricon violated the Safety Act both in continuing to produce and sell a product already identified as defective, and violated its obligations to make timely notification to NHTSA that it had sold defective products," said NHTSA Administrator Mark Rosekind. "In addition to paying a financial penalty, the company has agreed to increase NHTSA oversight and to improve internal procedures to prevent such safety risks going forward."
The oversight agreement call for Ricon officials to acknowledge any communication from NHTSA within three business days over the next year; develop internal written procedures to prevent future manufacture and sale of products already under recall for safety defects; and to report to NHTSA on its implementation of those procedures every 90 days for the next year.
The issue is an important one here in Central Florida in part because our area's ever-growing tourism industry places high priority on accessibility for people using wheelchairs. If you use a Ricon-made wheelchair lift that may be affected by the recall and no damage or injuries have occurred, contact Ricon’s customer service department at 800-322-2884 to request a repair or replacement. If you have suffered an injury or damage loss, get medical treatment immediately, then call 407-999-8995 to speak with a product liability attorney with Orlando's Todd E. Copeland & Associates.