I am attending the DRI Product Liability Conference in New Orleans this week (as I know a number of readers are). Your humble blogger serves as Chair of the Mass Torts and Class Action sub-committee.
At the keynote address, Cheryl Falvey, Esq., General Counsel of the Consumer Product Safety Commission, spoke about an issue we have posted on before, the new incident report database. With the usual disclaimer that she was not speaking for the CPSC officially, she shared a number of personal insights.
The new database went on line last month, and the first consumer reports were posted last week. It can be viewed through the Commission site with a link to SaferProducts.gov. There is a search function for products or manufacturers names, and it lists any recalls and reports, which can be filtered by date.
She indicated that, like Congress and the bar, the Commission is extremely divided on the new database. She stressed that, per the statutory requirement, there is a disclaimer on the site that: CPSC does not guarantee the accuracy, completeness, or adequacy of the contents of the Publicly Available Consumer Product Safety Information Database on SaferProducts.gov, particularly with respect to information submitted by people outside of CPSC. She admitted, however, that some lawyers may well seek to use the database to argue manufacturers were on notice of something regarding the product.
She noted that anonymous reports to the CPSC are not automatically published, but of course as to the public, every report on the website appears anonymous.
The CPSC believes it is mandated to publish reports of risks of harm as well as actual harm.
The Commission, she says, investigates only about 10% of the reports received; they do not have the budget and resources to investigate every report, let alone investigate reports before they are published. The CPSC is thus "not adjudicating" the product complaints, just posting them.