John R. Yannaccone, P.E., Senior Mechanical Engineer
What do wallets, purses, jewelry, and child car seats have in common? All are on a list of counterfeit items available for purchase. That’s right – child car seats have recently been added to the list per reports of parents and caregivers. While buying a knock-off Coach bag or Rolex might mean you overpaid for the item, the purchase of a counterfeit car seat can place your child at risk.
As with other products, counterfeit car seats are not manufactured to the same quality and standards of the genuine product. This includes poor fitting and flimsy parts; missing components traditionally found on car seats; hazardous chemicals in the fabric covers, and plastic parts in places where metal components are typically used. While these counterfeit car seats may have a similar appearance to the genuine car seats, it is likely they weren’t tested to the Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards, may perform poorly in a crash and place child occupants at increased risk of injury.
While some of the counterfeit car seats lack the labels used on genuine car seats, it is likely some include similar or identical labels to those used by manufacturers. They may include an actual model number from a car seat manufacturer. So how do you recognize a counterfeit car seat in order to assure the seat you are purchasing / using is safe?
Case Synopsis: On a dark and foggy morning an armored car, occupied with a driver and guard, was transporting assorted monetary cargo. The guard was situated in a seat located in the rear cargo area. As the armored car was traveling down the road, the driver failed to see a stopped tanker and drove into its rear. Upon impact, the cargo in the rear of the armored car shifted forward and impacted the rear of the guard’s seat, driving him into the bulkhead separating the cargo compartment from the driver’s area. The guard sustained serious injuries resulting in partial paralysis.
Expert Analysis: Inspection of the armored car revealed that the damage to the guard’s seat was consistent with it being loaded from behind and deforming it forward. There was a small bar, intended to serve as a barrier, to prevent the cargo from shifting, which was heavily deformed and had separated from its mounting points, allowing the cargo to move forward during the crash. In addition to the inadequate strength of the barrier, the basic design of the low bar was not sufficient to prevent heavy cargo from getting to the guard seated in the cargo area.
Case Synopsis: An employee of an outdoor adventure facility was participating in an in-house training scenario where the employees were to complete a rope course. One of the obstacles involved a giant swing that used a carabiner to connect the participant’s harness to a swing line attached to two trees. A second line was connected to a quick release and was used to pull or haul the participant approximately 25 feet up. The participant pulled a small rope to actuate the release mechanism, which dropped the haul line and allowed the participant to swing from the swing line.
Several other participants had safely used the giant swing on the day of the incident prior to the plaintiff’s turn. When it was his turn, the plaintiff went to the bottom of the swing where the operator (another employee) connected the two lines and the plaintiff was hauled up. When the plaintiff pulled the release rope, he was completely discharged from the swing and fell approximately 25 feet to the ground where he sustained serious injuries.
John R. Yannaccone, PE, Senior Mechanical Engineer ::::
Case Synopsis: One evening at closing time, an employee at a self-storage facility opened an electric gate to allow a car to drive out of the facility. As the driver was leaving, he stopped his car in the path of the gate to talk to an employee and a customer. The customer was standing next to the stopped car, adjacent to the gate. Suddenly, the gate began to close and pinned the customer between the gate and the car. The driver moved forward to prevent the gate from hitting his car, but this caused the pinned customer to be twisted between the car and gate, resulting in additional injury.
Expert Analysis: By the time an engineer was retained to investigate the cause of the incident, the storage facility had replaced the gate operator and disposed of the system in use at the time of the incident. Based on the materials provided, the following was determined:
Case Synopsis: On the morning of the incident, a machine operator reported that the clamps used to hold a workpiece were not gripping as tight as they normally do. The maintenance worker was alerted to this problem, and he and his helper went to repair equipment. The maintenance worker reported he adjusted the clamping mechanism and asked his helper to press the button to actuate the clamps. The helper moved to the control panel and depressed a button. At that time the two portions of the machine moved together, entrapping and crushing the lower portion of the maintenance worker’s body. The maintenance worker alleged the machine malfunctioned during the repair, resulting in him sustaining serious crush injuries to his lower body. It was further alleged that the equipment lacked the safety system to prevent motion of the machine during maintenance.
John R. Yannaccone, PE, Senior Mechanical Engineer ::::
Case Synopsis: An adolescent residential care facility, and their employees, were named as defendants in a case where a teenage resident was being transported to a medical facility for a non-emergent condition. During the transport, the resident opened the vehicle door, jumped from the moving vehicle, and sustained serious injuries. The plaintiff stated that the residential facility should have transported the resident via ambulance rather than a facility van. They further stated that the second staff member should have been seated adjacent to the resident rather than in the passenger seat, implying this would have prevented the occupant from being able to jump from the vehicle.
Expert Analysis: Numerous failures on the part of the facility and staff were alleged by the plaintiff. Plaintiff’s expert claimed the facility should have identified the patient as a suicide risk and transported them in an ambulance. He further opined the van was an unsuitable means of transport due to the lack of ability to contain/restrain the occupant. The defendant was able to show, through testimony of staff members and psychiatric professionals who were acquainted with the resident, that there were no indications the resident intended to hurt themselves, they just did not want to be in the van.