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Collapsing hammock stands lead to fine

Parent company agrees to pay $987,500; it was accused of selling hammock stands despite being aware of link to accidents, injuries.

By Mitch Lipka May 6, 2013 1:37PM
Elderly man with arm in a plaster cast © Tobias Titz/fStop/Getty ImagesWilliams-Sonoma has agreed to pay a penalty of nearly $1 million after being accused by federal safety regulators of selling hammock stands through its Pottery Barn division that it knew had injured consumers, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission said today.

The company was aware that some of the wooden hammock stands, which were sold nationwide for about $300 between 2003 and 2008, would deteriorate over time and collapse. By the time the company  issued a recall in 2008, it was already aware of 45 incidents -- including a dozen that involved injuries requiring medical treatment.

Federal law requires a company to disclose to the government within 24 hours the discovery of a product defect that could cause "unreasonable risk of serious injury or death." The hammock stands were sold through July 2008 and the company reported to the problems to the government in September 2008, leading to a recall a couple of weeks later.

Under the terms of the agreement, Williams-Sonoma -- which admitted no wrongdoing -- agreed to pay $987,500 and to develop and operate a program to ensure the company complies with federal safety standards.

"The settlement resolves CPSC staff’s charges that the firm knowingly failed to report to CPSC immediately, as required by federal law," the CPSC said today in a news release.

The safety agency said when the hammocks were used outdoors, the wood would break down. The wood was inside a metal bracket and couldn't be seen, so a consumer usually had no indication the wood was rotting until the beams broke and the hammock stand collapsed, the CPSC said.

Injuries to consumers included fractured ribs, cuts, neck and back pain, and bruises. About 30,000 of the stands, which were made in China, were sold through the Pottery Barn catalog and the company's website.

Consumers can report concerns about product safety and potential product defects, and read about others' concerns, at SaferProducts.gov.

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