Sears agrees to add stove safety measures
The company will pay to install anti-tip safety brackets or provide other reimbursements to customers who may have Sears stoves dating back to 2000.
NEW YORK (CNN) -- Consumer advocates Wednesday hailed the settlement of a class action lawsuit in which Sears agreed to pay to install anti-tip safety brackets or provide other reimbursements to customers who may have Sears stoves dating back to 2000.
The brackets will keep the appliances bolted to the floor or wall to prevent them from tipping over. Such accidents have caused more than 100 deaths or injuries, mostly from scalding and burns, according to the non-profit consumer group Public Citizen.
According to the court-approved agreement, Sears will notify nearly 4 million customers who may have bought stoves from Sears between July, 2000 and September, 2007 that they can either get the safety brackets installed for free or receive gift cards or reimbursements of up to $100 to qualifying customers.
Although the value of the settlement depends on how many customers respond to Sears' offer, Public Citizen says it could end up costing Sears more than $545 million.
"This agreement by Sears and the lawyers for the consumer is a real deal," said Joan Claybrook, president of Public Citizen. "This is a fantastic deal for a lawsuit to make this headway and get the protection for the consumer."
Sears Holdings spokesman Chris Brathwaite told CNN the plaintiff's counsel is overestimating the monetary aspect of the settlement.
"The parties dispute many aspects of the case, including the value on this settlement - which Sears estimates to be a small fraction of what plaintiff's counsel estimates," Brathwaite said in a statement.
Claybrook and other consumer advocates would like the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) to require anti-tip brackets for all stove installations. Currently, installing brackets is voluntary, not mandatory.
Claybrook said the agreement "...sets a model for what the Consumer Product Safety Commission should do, and should have done. They've known about it for 25 years and done nothing."
She said an amendment requiring anti-tip stove devices should be added to legislation now pending in the Senate that is intended to beef up the CPSC.