Samsonite, the world’s largest luggage manufacturer, has voluntarily recalled its “Tokyo Chic” line of luggage after tests on several samples found high levels of carcinogenic compounds in the handles. The tests, conducted by the Hong Kong Consumer Council (HKCC), led to a recommendation by the government of Hong Kong to stop selling the allegedly defective luggage models. Samsonite, despite maintaining that the luggage is safe, says that it is recalling the line of luggage to “allay any concerns that consumers may have.” The luggage line is primarily sold in Hong Kong and elsewhere in Asia, but it is not clear if the line is also available in the United States. The recall process is similar to that used in Maryland and elsewhere in the country.
The HKCC tested several samples of the Tokyo Chic luggage. It announced in mid-June that the handles on four of the samples tested positive for high levels of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs). PAHs are a byproduct of incomplete hydrocarbon combustion, resulting from the burning of oil or coal and found in auto exhaust and other emissions. They may also be found in grilled food. Extended exposure to PAHs has been shown to increase the likelihood of cancer in humans.
Samsonite sent samples to independent laboratories in Hong Kong and Germany for testing in response to the HKCC’s findings. The tests, according to the company, concluded that the handles on the luggage did not pose any health hazard. Company officials described the HKCC’s report as “irresponsible,” claiming that its findings were isolated and did not represent a widespread problem. The company also noted that no legal standards exist in Hong Kong as to PAH levels in luggage. Samsonite decided to recall about 250,000 units anyway because of the publicity surrounding the HKCC’s findings. Consumers may obtain “next-generation handles” to replace the allegedly contaminated ones.
The HKCC, on its English-language website, describes its mission as “enhancing consumer welfare and empowering consumers to protect themselves.” In this regard, it is similar to the federal Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) in the United States. The CPSC’s mandate is to protect “the public from unreasonable risks of injury or death” from a wide array of consumer products. It has jurisdiction over most consumer goods sold in the U.S. The CPSC has the authority to compel recalls of products it concludes pose an unreasonable risk to the public. Maryland has several similar agencies, including the state’s Office of Environmental Health and Food Protection and the Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Division, charged with regulating or investigating allegedly defective products.
The legal theory of products liability holds manufacturers or distributors of faulty or defective products liable for injuries that a product causes. A manufacturing defect, such as the use of contaminated materials in the assembly of a product, could make a company liable for illness or other damages caused by the product. A strict liability standard often applies, meaning a plaintiff need only prove the defect and damages, not negligence or fault.
The Maryland personal injury lawyers at Lebowitz & Mzhen are skilled at pursuing justice for people injured due to faulty or defective products. Contact us today online or, by calling (800) 654-1949 for a free and confidential consultation.
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Photo credit: ‘HK Central Des Voeux Road C Samsonite Shop Man Yee Building’ by MandeD [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons.