According to a news source, the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) has discontinued its Fourth Circuit appeal from a Maryland federal court’s ruling that a product safety complaint was too misleading to post on the commission’s Saferproducts. gov database. Company Doe v. Tenenbaum, No. 12-2210 (4th Cir., motion to dismiss filed December 7, 2012). A related appeal filed by public advocacy organizations, however, remains pending; they apparently challenged the company’s ability to remain anonymous throughout the proceedings and to shield details about the complaint from public view. Company Doe v. Public Citizen, No. 12-2209 (4th Cir., filed October 2, 2012). The district court’s July 2012 ruling was heavily redacted, and many filed documents are under seal.
The case establishes precedents that remain unchallenged: (i) publishing a complaint constitutes final agency action reviewable in court and (ii) a database Website disclaimer that complaints may be inaccurate does not justify publishing all of them. Still, manufacturers are apparently concerned about the pending Public Citizen appeal, because if the court allows a company challenging a product safety complaint on the CPSC database to be named, litigation would be pointless. See Law360, December 10, 2012.