The federal government recently fined Kidde, the largest distributor of fire safety products, $12 million for its defective fire extinguishers and botched recall process. Then, Consumer Reports dove deeper, discovering a disturbing pattern of ignored complaints and safety concerns – from both customers and first responders.
For years, the company overturned lawsuits, shifted liability, and continued to act with disregard for consumer safety. As one judge wrote: “A reasonable jury could find that Kidde was recklessly indifferent as to the safety of its customers.”
In one story, a small grease fire in a woman’s kitchen engulfed her entire house when a Kidde brand fire extinguisher failed to work. She sustained severe burns while trying to save her home and filed suit against Kidde.
This was one of several complaints the company received. For years, it did nothing. In another story, police officers were unable to put out a vehicle fire due to 2 defective fire extinguishers – both from Kidde. By the time the fire department arrived, it was too late for the passenger. The police department cited the defective Kidde extinguishers in its report of the “awful, horrendous, horrid accident” that a nearby neighbor witnessed in terror.
Countless other customers came forward with reports of home and vehicle fires, but the complaints were “buried” in Kidde’s legal department. Shockingly, Kidde even ignored a request from a fire department that asked about recalling a faulty extinguisher.
In addition to the documented complaints from 2013 and 2014, Kidde faced more than 2 decades of complaints and lawsuits regarding defective fire extinguishers, but the company did not issue a recall until 2015. The 2015 recall included more than 4.6 million extinguishers and prompted a complaint from the Department of Justice (DOJ) and the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC). Upon investigating, the DOJ discovered that “the scope and nature of the defect and risk, and the number of products and models affected” was larger than Kidde originally indicated.
In late 2017, the CPSC urged Kidde to issue another recall – this one covered nearly 38 million extinguishers across the United States, some of which had been in people’s homes as early as 1973. The recall is one of the largest in the CPSC’s history.
By this time, however, the company’s faulty fire extinguishers had led to significant property damage, at least 16 injuries, and 1 fatality.
Faulty Extinguishers – and Replacements
People, including firefighters and police officers, rely on fire extinguishers in case of emergency. Kidde’s fire extinguishers simply didn’t work. Further, Kidde knew that millions of their fire extinguishers may not discharge fully and acknowledged this fact internally in 2014.
When Kidde issued the 2015 recall, the company also knew it was too narrow. Extinguishers were often empty, and the plastic nozzle frequently fell off, trapping the foam in the canister. Worse, when Kidde replaced the recalled extinguishers, many of the replacements were defective, as well. Even after the 2017 recall, countless consumers were unaware that the fire extinguishers in their homes would not work in an emergency. While investigating Kidde in 2020, one Consumer Reports reporter discovered she had a recalled Kidde fire extinguisher in her own home.
Kidde continued its pattern of ignoring consumer complaints until the Department of Justice hit the company with a $12 million fine, fulfilling one customer’s complaint to the CPSC:
“They need to get fined or something. They can’t send a recalled item to replace a recalled item and take forever in doing so when it is an item people rely on for safety.”
Kidde first became aware of problems associated with its products 15 years ago. Three years ago, the company botched its second recall in a row. Only after being subject to a criminal investigation and a $12 million fine did the company agree to make changes to its practices. Still, consumer advocates argue that this fine Is nothing more than a “slap on the wrist” for Kidde when its parent company, Carrier, made more than $5 billion in its most recently reported sales quarter alone.
For years, Kidde put every day, safety-conscious Americans at risk and caused chaos during emergencies. The company still has not apologized, nor admitted to any wrongdoing.
For those who were harmed by the dangerous, defective products, the CPSC and the DOJ did not act quickly enough, and even federal fines and charges will not undo the damage.
What To Do With Your Fire Extinguisher
On the bright side, the truth about Kidde is finally available to the American public. News sources around the country have shared the Consumer Reports exposé, and personal injury firms like Clark, Fountain, La Vista, Prather & Littky-Rubin can pass the information onto our clients.
If you’re reading this, we encourage you to take a moment right now and check your fire extinguisher. Bring it to the computer and visit SaferProducts.gov to find out whether or not your extinguisher has been recalled.
If you have a recalled fire extinguisher contact Kidde immediately at 800-880-6788 or online. While you wait for Kidde to replace your extinguisher, consider buying a new one to ensure your safety.
For new and old fire extinguishers alike, use the accompanying warranty card to register your contact information with the manufacturer. This way, you will be among the first to go if something goes wrong.
From there, keep your fire extinguisher in the kitchen or somewhere you might need to use it if a fire occurs. Learn how to use your fire extinguisher, and remember to use the PASS acronym to fight small house fires and call 911 for larger blazes.
PULL the pin out of the top of the fire extinguisher
AIM the extinguisher at the base of the fire (while 6 to 8 feet away from the flames)
SQUEEZE the handles together slowly
SWEEP the contents of the extinguisher from side to side
If the worst happens and your fire extinguisher does not work, do not let Kidde get away with years of detrimental, unsafe business practices.
Instead, call our firm and tell us about your injuries and losses. At Clark, Fountain, La Vista, Prather & Littky-Rubin, our product liability lawyers have over 200 years of experience handling complex injury cases involving defective consumer products.Call us at (561) 922-0258 or contact us online to schedule a free consultation and hold Kidde accountable for its wrongdoings.