Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Go Ahead, Make Our Day

Here's a problem that will quickly resolve itself when a horde of vulturous trial lawyers descend and devour the offenders.

The Consumer Product Safety Commission has cited a Chinese all-terrain vehicle (ATV) manufacturer for importing a dangerous model--the Kasuma Meerkat 50--aimed specifically at young kids. (See WSJ story here.)

When the Curmudgeon was practicing law, he represented Suzuki in an initiative to improve ATV warning labels (pictured below). One reason Suzuki wanted to beef up the labels--the government didn't ask them to--was to reduce accidents based on misuse.

ATV's serve a useful purpose, but they are dangerous, especially when used by kids. Major ATV manufacturers, spurred by lawsuits and regulation, have made some good strides in improving safety, although the toll of deaths and injuries is still unacceptable.

Along comes Kazuma with a cute, small ATV, with a cute name--the Meerkat--which reportedly has no front brakes, no parking brake and can be started in gear (thus risking shooting forward), among other hazards. The Chinese manufacturer and its American Distributor, Kazuma Pacific Inc. of Stafford Texas, evidently have refused to cooperate with the CPSC or initiate a recall.

The CPSC itself won't be able to do much about this because it is missing a chairperson and lacks a quorum to enact recalls or sue manufacturers for recalls.

Fortunately, our legal system will--sooner or later (but, unfortunately not before someone gets hurt) take care of this. For all the justifiable scorn heaped on trial lawyers, they will now descend on Kazuma and its American distributor--and hopefully their officers and directors, etc.--like a pack of hungry vultures. When they're done, we can only hope the carcass is stripped clean and that other similar predators are deterred. And, of course, that's what the CPSC intented in taking the unusual step of making the whole thing public.
If you are an ATV dealer and carry the Meerkat, be forewarned: each one you sell is an invitation to bankruptcy. Hardly worth it.

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