In a win for consumer safety, a federal district appeals court overturned a ruling that had allowed a manufacturer to hide its identity and seal all documents in a case against the US Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC).
Stating that the public’s first amendment “right to access” trumped Company Doe’s fear of economic woes that might occur if the public found out about the case, the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ordered that all case files be unsealed.
The court case began as a company sought to stop CPSC from posting an incident report in their public database, SaferProducts.gov. The original court granted the company’s motion to keep court documents sealed before, during and after the trial.
While CPSC did not pursue the case further, three consumer organizations and KID allies – Consumer Federation of America, Consumers Union and Public Citizen – continued to press the matter. The April 16 ruling found that the court documents must be unsealed.
This ruling doesn’t address the original matter, so the report on Company Doe’s product will not be added to SaferProducts.gov, but it will hopefully discourage other companies from attempting to thwart the transparency and safety goals of SaferProducts.gov. The database is a vital source of information to identify emerging hazards.
Here’s more from the blog at Union of Concerned Scientists.