Was Peleton’s Recall Too Late?


Earlier this week, Peleton’s CEO John Foley announced that the company would be recalling 2 of its treadmills- the Tread and Tread+, due to safety concerns. The treadmills in question are thought to be the cause of the death of a 6-year-old, as well as possibly 70 other incidents involving injuries. The recall was issued several months after the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) issued a plea to Peleton to voluntarily recall its products due to perceived defects.

Peleton’s CEO, Foley issued a statement where he deemed the company’s initial reaction to the accidents a “mistake,” and indicated that Peleton should have “engaged with (the CPSC) from the outset.”

The recall advises members to stop using the equipment immediately, and asks that they contact Peleton to request a full refund or other “qualified remedy”. In addition, the company has stopped the sale and distribution of the faulty products, and is working on software updates to fix the issues with the treadmills.

The Consumer Product Safety Commission’s Authority

The CPSC, along with other consumer protection advocacy groups, has argued in the past that they do not have enough authority to command a recall, and that they must first negotiate with a company and reach mutual terms before issuing a safety warning. Some groups are calling on Congress to give the CPSC more authority, as its current ability to protect the public is limited by these procedures.

Strict Liability

The fact that a product is recalled is not necessarily an indication that the manufacturer will be found to be liable for injuries alleged due to that defect in a civil lawsuit. In a civil lawsuit involving a defective product, the plaintiff must prove all of the elements of a strict product liability case, which include that the particular product was defective, and that the product’s defect(s) caused a person’s injuries. The standard in Pennsylvania is that “a person or entity engaged in the business of selling a product has a duty to make and/or market the product – which ‘is expected to and does reach the user or consumer without substantial change in the condition in which it is sold’ – free from ‘a defective condition unreasonably dangerous to the consumer or [the consumer’s] property.’”

To demonstrate a breach of this duty, a plaintiff must prove that the seller, whether a manufacturer or a distributor, placed the product on the market in a “defective condition.”

The Manufacturer’s Notice of Recall Defense

In contrast, the manufacturer is not exempt from paying damages because a recall was issued, and the plaintiff should therefore have known about the product’s dangers. The manufacturer must prove that this particular plaintiff actually received notice of the recall, understood the dangers of continuing to use the product but nevertheless decided to continue to use it.

Scott Bonebrake practices personal injury law in Media, PA, and has been a licensed attorney for 25 years. Please feel free to contact Scott if you have any legal questions, including those regarding product liability and product recalls. You can reach Scott at 610-892-7700, or at sbonebrake@noelandbonebrake.com.