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Tuesday, May 21, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Williams-Sonoma Settles Claims for Risky Shades

(CN) - Williams-Sonoma will pay $700,000 to settle the federal government's claims that it sold about 85,000 Pottery Barn Kids Roman window shades with cords that posed a strangulation threat to small children.

Williams-Sonoma Inc. had imported, distributed, and sold the shades with exposed inner cords from 2003 to 2007, according to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission.

Between 2005 and 2007, the retailer implemented three design changes to eliminate the product's strangulation hazard, including a protective backing to cover the exposed cords, the commission claims.

But that didn't eliminate the problems with shades that had already been purchased and installed in customers' homes. In August 2007, the company received five reports of children becoming entangled in the shades' cords, and it receive two additional reports in the following year, the commission said.

The manufacturer allegedly settled consumer safety claims from 2006 to 2008, but did not file its full report with the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission until Sept. 18, 2008.

The commission investigated and ultimately charged that Williams-Sonoma had sufficient information by August 2007 that the shades had a defect that could create a substantial hazard or unreasonable risk of serious injury or death.

Though Williams-Sonoma says none of the reported incidents resulted in a serious injury, it was required under the Consumer Product Safety Act (CPSA) to immediately inform the commission of the defect, the agency claims.

And it kept selling the hazardous shades until it recalled them on Aug. 26, 2009, according to the commission.

Williams-Sonoma maintains that it stopped sourcing corded window coverings in 2009, and took reasonable steps to prevent the inadvertent post-recall sale of shades sold by Pottery Barn Kids, Pottery Barn, PBteen, and West Elm that were voluntarily recalled on Dec. 15, 2009.

The commission and manufacturer settled the charges for $700,000 Wednesday, "to avoid the cost, distraction, delay, uncertainty, and inconvenience of protracted litigation or other proceedings," according to the settlement.

The parties agree that the settlement figure is based on "the accuracy of oral and written representations of, and statements by, Williams-Sonoma," the document says.

"The parties enter into the agreement for settlement purposes only," it continues. "The agreement does not constitute an admission by Williams-Sonoma or a determination by the commission that Williams-Sonoma violated the CPSA."

The settlement states: "Williams-Sonoma hereby expressly and irrevocably waives and agrees not to assert any past, present, or future rights to the following, in connection with the matter described in the agreement: (a) an administrative or judicial hearing; (b) judicial review or other challenge or contest of the validity of the order or of the commission's actions; (c) a determination by the commission of whether Williams-Sonoma failed to comply with the CPSA and the underlying regulations; (d) a statement of findings of fact and conclusions of law; and (e) any claims under the Equal Access to Justice Act."

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