The public is often clueless about the true malice some corporations demonstrate in their willingness to put people’s lives in jeopardy for the sake of profit. The anti-plaintiff rhetoric of recent years has reached a fevered pitch with little understanding that to give into it undermines one’s constitutional right to a jury trial and the ability of a single person to use the courts to stop corporate wrongdoing when the government has failed to act. And the news tells us each day how ineffective government can be in this regard–because it is slothful, because it has been bought off with lobbyists, or because it is unwilling to challenge the prevailing political prediliections of the party in power at the moment.
We see corporate deceit in many of the cases we handle, so we get hardened to it. Sometimes we see a story, however, that amazes even us. This is one of them. A St. Petersburg, Florida company, Youth Research, had been hired to perform child safety tests on cigarette lighters. It has now been found to have falsified the tests and to have submitted fraudulent reports to federal regulators. The discovery of the fraud has prompted the Consumer Product Safety Commission to order 12 lighters off the market until they have been retested.
The CPSC implemented lighter safety standards after research showed that children under the age of 5 had inadvertently started 5,900 residential fires resulting in 170 deaths and 1,150 injuries in a two-year period. The standards require that panels of 100 children be given dummy lighters to see if they can activate the lighters. A lighter would pass only if 85% of the children could not activate it. In creating the fraudulent test results, the company altered birth dates and identity records and eliminated data that showed that a child could ignite the lighters.
The woman at the center of the fraud, Karen Forcade, has now pleaded guilty to fraud in federal court.
St. Petersburg Times, January 23, 2010.
The Tampa Tribune, January 24, 2010
United States of America v. Karen Forcade, U.S. District Court, Middle District of Florida, Case No. 8:09-CR-544-T-27TBM.