Flammable Chenille Robes Case Settles

Every year, approximately 4,300 Americans are injured and about 120 die of burns they suffered while wearing flammable clothes. Most of the time, the victims of these injuries or deaths do not realize how highly flammable the clothing is or the danger it poses. More modernized standards for clothing flammability is long overdue. The cheaper labor costs found overseas make it attractive for manufacturers to have their garments produced, as compared to paying higher prices and adhering to rigorous safety standards in the United States.

The Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) has recalled more than 162,000 women’s chenille bathrobes, as well as other articles of women’s clothing, manufactured by the Blair company, after discovering that they did not meet the Fabrics Act’s flammability standards. The Blair robes were made in Pakistan and were recalled in April 2009 due to being substandard in flammability. Despite being recalled, nine women have died wearing Blair’s chenille robes since the recall took place.

A lawsuit was filed against the Blair company by a woman whose mother died tragically of thermal burns when the Blair cotton chenille robe she was wearing caught fire as she was preparing her breakfast on the stove. The sleeve of the robe came close to the gas flame and ignited within one second, burning rapidly. The Blair robe almost completely burned right off her body.

The Blair robe was defective and extremely dangerous due to its loose fitting design and fiber content, causing it to ignite easily and intensely. The robe was difficult to extinguish and provided no protection to the wearer.

Blair began selling its “cotton chenille” robe in 2003, selling more than 172,000 chenille robes between 2003 and 2008. It is the most flammable, general-approved garment ever sold. The recalled robe is associated with at least ten deaths, 70 injuries and more than 400 catch-on-fire incidents. Eight of the death victims were elderly women who were cooking at their stoves when their Blair chenille robes ignited.

This tragic case demonstrates what can happen when a company puts its profits before consumer safety.  Blair chose A-One in Pakistan to manufacture their robes for one reason—it was cheaper to outsource the robes overseas. Blair chose A-One in spite of their knowledge that A-One had previously made the chenille robes for Blair, which were dangerous, highly flammable and had failed flammability testing. Additionally, Blair never researched whether or not A-One had any quality control measures in place.

As though that wasn’t negligent enough, Blair never performed one flammability test on their robes before sending a finished product to the marketplace. Blair only conducted a “FFA 1610” test, which is known in the garment industry as a very minimal test to assess the flammability of a product. This testing was done overseas on raw fabric prior to the manufacturing process. Virtually anything would have passed this evasive testing as being safe for garment flammability, even a piece of paper would have passed.

The first time Blair conducted the minimum flammability test on a finished product, was only after it began receiving complaints from consumers that the robes were causing burn injuries. In March 2009, Blair had flammability testing performed on eight samples of robes, which they had in their possession. Blair chose the company to perform the testing, which showed that six of the eight robes failed the minimum 1610 test.  In addition, the results showed that following the manufacturing process, the sample robes burned four times faster than the raw materials, which had been tested overseas.  This was the reason Blair decided to recall and stop selling the cotton chenille robes.

Blair admitted that the robes burned at an alarmingly fast rate and they had no legitimate defense in this case. The case settled two weeks before the scheduled trial date for a confidential amount.

Companies that put their profits before the safety of consumers deserve to be held accountable for the negligence and greed. Hopefully, this will serve as a lesson to other companies who try to use substandard products that knowingly are harmful to the public.

Contact one of our Gacovino Lake attorneys at 1-800-246-HURT (4878).

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