Evenflo must face 'Big Kid' booster seat safety litigation, U.S. court says

A child car seat is pictured inside a robotaxi in Tempe, Arizona, U.S., August 31, 2021. REUTERS/Paresh Dave
  • 1st Circuit says plaintiffs have standing to sue Evenflo
  • Plaintiffs claimed they were overcharged due to misrepresentations

(Reuters) - A federal appeals court on Wednesday revived class action litigation accusing Evenflo Company Inc of misleading consumers about the safety of side impacts and testing of its "Big Kid" vehicle booster seats.

The Boston-based 1st U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that a judge wrongly concluded in January that consumers in the multidistrict litigation lacked standing to sue for damages when they could not show the allegedly unsafe seats failed to work as promised.

U.S. Circuit Judge Sandra Lynch, writing for the three-judge panel, said "overpayment for a product — even one that performs adequately and does not cause any physical or emotional injury — may be a sufficient injury to support standing."

Barbara Smith, a lawyer for Evenflo at Bryan Cave Leighton Paisner, did not respond to a request for comment. The company has said the plaintiffs' claims lack merit and that the evidence shows its Big Kid seat keeps children safer in cars.

Jonathan Selbin, a lawyer for the plaintiffs at Lieff Cabraser Heimann & Bernstein, in a statement said they were gratified the court "acted swiftly to revive our claims." It ruled only two weeks after hearing arguments.

"Too many courts have been using Article III standing as a way to keep consumers who were ripped off from having their day in Court," Selbin said. "We are happy that our clients will now get theirs."

The plaintiffs allege Evenflo misled consumers into buying its Big Kid booster seats by claiming they were "side impact tested" and exceeded governmental standards, even though its own tests showed a child could be in danger in such a crash.

The plaintiffs said Evenflo also failed to inform consumers the seats were dangerous for children who weigh less than 40 pounds, and they claimed the Canton, Massachusetts-based company violated various states' consumer protection laws.

If not for Evenflo's misrepresentations, the plaintiffs said, consumers would not have bought the seats or would have paid less for them.

Evenflo's lawyers argued that when plaintiffs are not physically or otherwise injured by an unsafe product, they lack standing under Article III of the U.S. Constitution to pursue a claim for monetary damages.

Evenflo pointed to recent U.S. Supreme Court rulings including 2021's TransUnion LLC v. Ramirez, which held that plaintiffs needed to establish a "concrete" harm in order to have legal standing to seek damages.

But Lynch said the Supreme Court's recent rulings on standing in class actions have "made clear that monetary harms such as those alleged here fall firmly on the real, concrete side of the divide."

The case is In re Evenflo Company Inc, Marketing, Sales Practices and Products Liability Litigation, 1st U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, No. 22-1133.

For the plaintiffs: Jonathan Selbin of Lieff Cabraser Heimann & Bernstein

For Evenflo: Barbara Smith of Bryan Cave Leighton Paisner

Read more:

MDL judge tosses suits over Evenflo Big Kid booster seat

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Nate Raymond reports on the federal judiciary and litigation. He can be reached at [email protected]