Washington Post reporter Todd Frankel turned to veteran product defect trial lawyer Wes Ball for analysis of the legal challenges facing Peloton after the company switched course and agreed to a voluntary recall of its popular Peloton Tread Plus treadmill.
In the article, “How Peloton backed down and agreed to recall treadmills tied to one death, many injuries,” Frankel details Peloton’s stunning reversal and agreement to a voluntary recall of the treadmills.
The company refused to provide federal safety regulators with the identity of the 6-year-old child who died in March, citing privacy concerns. An investigation by the Consumer Product Safety Commission was delayed as the agency took the unusual step of issuing an administrative subpoena to get the information, according to officials familiar with the incident who requested anonymity to discuss internal deliberations.
After Peloton rejected the CPSC’s request for a recall, the agency instead ran a public warning notice in April telling consumers to stop using the treadmills. Peloton responded with a statement calling the agency’s claims “inaccurate and misleading.” Peloton chief executive John Foley said they had “no intention” of taking the treadmills off the market.
But Peloton’s tough stance quickly buckled.
The home exercise company had been adamant for weeks that it was not going to agree to a voluntary recall of its Tread+ treadmill, despite the $4,300 machine being tied to dozens of accidents where children and adults were pulled under by the rotating track, resulting in one child’s death and many injuries.
It faced a backlash from appalled consumers. Its stock price slumped. A private meeting with a U.S. senator showed there was little support for the company’s position, according to two officials familiar with the matter. And Peloton hired a new attorney to handle its negotiations with the CPSC, opting for a less hard-nosed approach.
In a stunning reversal, the company struck a deal Wednesday with the CPSC for a voluntary recall of its 125,000 Tread+ treadmills. Peloton offered consumers full refunds or the option of keeping the treadmill with improved safety software. Foley put out a statement admitting the company “made a mistake in our initial response” with regulators.
Mr. Ball — a veteran product defect trial lawyer — notes in the article that manufacturers are taking a risk when they object to a request for a voluntary recall.
Forcing the issue to court means regulators need to identify the product defect that caused the accidents, Ball said.
“That’s the absolute last thing any product manufacturer wants” because it opens up a company to personal injury lawsuits and liability, he said.
A voluntary recall, in contrast, usually allows a company to avoid spelling out the danger.