LOS ANGELES (Legal Newsline) – A federal judge has denied a car seat maker's motion to dismiss a class action against it over allegations the seats were mislabeled as to the height and weight of the child the seats could accommodate.

Dorel Juvenile Group Inc. manufactured the Cosco brand car seats. Dorel’s motion to dismiss claimed that “Plaintiffs have failed to quote any affirmative misrepresentations made by defendants, and that plaintiffs' characterization of the height and weight specifications provided by defendant as ‘limits’ or ‘maximums,' and not guarantees of subjective comfort, which defeats plaintiffs' claim that those specifications were misleading.” 

In ruling against Dorel, the Judge James Ostero, of the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California wrote Dec. 4, that he “finds this argument unpersuasive, since a ‘reasonable consumer’ would believe that his or her child would fit in a car seat if the child's height and weight was within the ranges represented by the defendant.”

In January 2017, a class action was filed by Arriane Henryhand on behalf of herself and other parents whose children were either injured or grew out of the allegedly mislabeled car seats.

Dorel’s motion to dismiss the fourth amended class action complaint was filed Oct. 20. Henryhand and plaintiff Margarita Quezada opposed the motion. The court found that oral argument was not necessary and ruled against Dorel without a hearing, the order to dismiss states.

Dorel’s motion to dismiss claimed that “Plaintiffs fail to adequately allege claims under the Unfair Competition Law, Consumer Legal Remedies Act or False Advertising Law, which sound in fraud, because plaintiffs fail properly to allege that defendant (1) made an affirmative misrepresentation; (2) had knowledge that it was misrepresenting anything; or (3) actively concealed any information it was required to provide; (4) particularly since that information did not relate to the safety of the car seats,” according to the court’s order. 

Otero found that the motion to dismiss was invalid because “Plaintiffs allege reliance because they contend that they would not have purchased the car seats or they would have paid less money for the car seats if they were aware of the true height and weight specifications."

Defendant Dorel makes and sells infant car seats, convertible car seats and booster car seats. Plaintiffs filed suit alleging that Dorel had deceptively marketed and sold its Cosco Convertible Car Seats since at least 2012. Plaintiffs also allege that the products in this class action include the Apt 40 Car Seat and the Cosco Scenera Next Convertible Car Seat. 

Henryhand alleged in her original complaint that she bought a new Apt 40 seat from Target, an authorized Dorel retailer, in Los Angeles County in late 2013. She alleged she installed it in the car according to the instructions provided by Dorel. Henryhand alleged expected to be able to use the car seat until her daughter reached 43 inches or 40 pounds, as stated in the car seats' packaging and instructions manuals.

However, in July 2016, Henryhand alleged she drove from Northridge, California, to Kingstree, South Carolina, for a vacation with her daughter, who used the defendant's seat. When they arrived in South Carolina, she alleged her daughter began complaining of neck pains. 

The complaint states on July 24, 2016, a doctor determined that her daughter had incurred a large neck abscess and the doctor felt that it was likely caused by the harness straps of the car seat. Henryhand's daughter was approximately 34 pounds and 36 inches tall, the complaint states, and she alleges was then forced to purchase a new car seat for approximately $80, long before her daughter had reached the maximum height and weight specifications on the car seat. 

The order to dismiss states Quezada purchased a new Apt 40 seat from Walmart, an authorized Dorel retailer, in Alameda County in August 2015. The seat was installed in Quezada's car according to the instructions provided by Dorel. Quezada alleged she expected to utilize the car seat until her daughter reached 43 inches or 40 pounds, as stated in the car seats' packaging and instructions manuals. 

After approximately five months of use, Quezada alleged her child outgrew the seat and she had to replace it with a non-Cosco brand convertible car seat. At that time, her child was 30 inches and 22 pounds. 

The original class action was filed because “Plaintiffs allege that, because of Dorel's height and weight representations, consumers, like Plaintiffs, purchase the car seats under the false expectation that the car seats will be suitable for children until they exceed the height or weight specification, at which time they would be the appropriate size and age for a booster seat. However, consumers are forced to purchase a second, replacement car seat long before the reasonably anticipated useful-life of the car seat has run,” according to the court’s order.

Plaintiffs alleged that Dorel has known about the issues with its car seats since 2012, because it had access to pre-release testing data, early consumer complaints, and other internal sources.

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