Defective Child & Infant Products
Product Liability Attorneys for Dangerous Children's Products
When parents buy children's products, including bassinets, car seats, cribs and strollers, they expect the products to have passed stringent safety tests, ensuring the safety of their child. Unfortunately, manufacturers often scrimp on testing, which results in products that conceal serious defects. At Arnold & Itkin, we are dedicated to representing injured consumers who have suffered because of manufacturing or design defects in the products they use. Assisting injured children is an area of particular importance to us. The products created particularly for children should be designed and manufactured with special care to ensure they are free from defects. They should include proper instructions and sufficient warning labels to ensure they are used properly. When this does not occur and a child is seriously injured, we are standing by to seek justice.
Defective & Dangerous Toys
Toy manufacturers, like other companies, are required to produce toys that are, most importantly, safe for children. Unfortunately, parents often find themselves rushing to the E.R. because their child swallowed a small detachable part, has been burnt, or has been strangled. In 2008, thousands of parents rushed their children to labs for lead detection tests to find out if their child had ingested dangerously high levels of lead from toxic paint on their toys. In 2003, more than 155,000 children, most of them below the age of 4, required emergency room treatment due to dangerous toy related injuries. That same year, there were 11 dangerous toy related deaths. Our firm represents clients throughout the United States who have been injured by defective and dangerous children's toys.
We are committed to helping families recover the money that will cover an injured child's medical bills, continued treatment, and possibly much more. You can find out more about our services by calling (888) 493-1629 today.
Toxic Ingestion Hazards
Some of the biggest toy recalls in U.S. history have had to do with toys that concealed toxic ingestion hazards, most notably, the ingestion of lead. As one toy giant after another recalled large volumes of toys, doctors advised worried parents to get their children's blood lead levels checked. Most of the toxic toys were manufactured outside the U.S., where standards of lead paint exposure to children are not as stringently maintained as they are in the U.S. However, it is the responsibility of toy makers to ensure their products do not contain unsafe chemical levels.
Some common toxic ingestion hazards with toys include lead poisoning, explained further down this page and phthalates. Phthalates is a group of hazardous chemicals known to cause genital abnormalities, hormonal imbalances, and other reproductive defects in male children exposed to them for long periods of time. These chemicals are often added to plastics to give them a softer, smoother, and more appealing feel.
Common infant products that include phthalates are the following:
- Teething rings
- Baby rattlers
- Bottle nipples
- Talcum powder
These can enter the body when the child places toys in his mouth and can interfere with sperm production in male children, leading to decreased levels of testosterone, as well as malformed genitals. The dangers are strong enough that pregnant women are advised to keep away from air fresheners, cosmetics and other products that contain phthalates because exposure can cause reproductive system abnormalities in a male fetus.
Buckyballs & BuckyCubes Recall: Injuries from Ingested Magnets
Buckyballs and BuckyCubes are made up of multiple individual magnets that are packaged together in clumps of 10, 125, and 216. Maxfield & Oberton Holdings LLC originally manufactured these products to children, calling it an "amazing magnetic toy." Later, the product changed its marketing to target adults as a desk toy. More than two million of these products have been sold to consumers around the U.S.
Unfortunately, children and teenagers were ingesting the product, causing injuries to the digestive tract. Many individuals even needed surgery to remediate the damage. A bulk of the complaints came after children (typically under the age of 14) ingested two or more of these magnets. The magnetic force would pull the magnets together after they were already in the digestive tract and pinch the intestinal wall and tissue together. In some, this caused tissue injury, inflammation, ulcers, infections, and even death. If children do not tell their parents of swallowing the magnets, then parents and doctors alike would misdiagnose the condition as symptoms were highly similar to stomach flu or another type of gastrointestinal upset. Initial symptoms include nausea, vomiting, and abdominal pain. Because the situation was not seen as life-threatening in many cases, necessary surgery was delayed. This caused some to suffer permanent and life-threatening internal injuries.
The Consumer Product Safety Commission has since filed a complaint against Maxfield & Oberton Holdings LLC for the manufacturing of Buckyballs and BuckyCube. The CPSC alleged that the company manufactured a product with design defects, packaging defects, and marketing defects. The CPSC claims that there was a lack of proper warnings on the labels for these products. The requirement for a product of this type is to warn "for children 14+" while the company warned "for children 13+"; however, even when the company changed their packaging, the injuries continued to occur. The CPSC also claimed that warnings for the products were ineffective because once the products were taken out of their cases, children no longer care about the safety risks. Most retailers are now clearing these harmful magnetic products off of their shelves.
The complaint filed against Maxfield & Oberton was an administrative complaint, which is extremely rare. In fact, only one other administrative complaint has been filed within the past 11 years.
Dangerous Toys: Pocket Bikes
Pocket bikes were marketed to children, teenagers, and adults throughout the country. These mini-motorcycles look exactly like full-scale motorbikes, but are only 2 feet tall and 40 pounds in weight. However, the danger comes from the fact that they are fast. With 40cc engines, they can race up to 50mph. Due to the hazards that these dangerous "toys" have created, they are now restricted in some states.
For example, while they may be allowed on private property, they are not allowed on public streets or sidewalks. This is also due to the fact that they do not come equipped with required road safety equipment (lights, turn signals, mirrors) and they are not registered at the Department of Motor Vehicles. Other states have age restrictions for who can legally operate these bikes. Thousands of reports of injuries and deaths have been flooding in. Due to their small size, it has been shown that other drivers have had difficulty in seeing them. When struck by a motor vehicle, pocket bike riders have little or no protection against injury. In other cases, bike riders have collided with pedestrians, causing serious injuries.
Lead Paint Poisoning
Lead ingestion usually occurs when young children put toys painted with lead paint in their mouth. Children below the age of two are particularly susceptible to poisoning through oral ingestion.
Lead poisoning through toys is not a one-time occurrence where a child can ingest large quantities of lead through sucking on a toy. Rather, it is a slow process of accumulation in which a small amount of exposure over a period of weeks and months leads to a rise in lead levels in the blood.
A child with a high level of lead in their blood may not show any noticeable symptoms of toxicity, although the amount may be sufficient to cause long-term brain damage in the form of low IQ development and developmental delay. Lead poisoning is a particularly acute problem in young children because their gastrointestinal systems absorb lead more readily than adult systems. Because it commonly interferes with the body's nervous system, it is also particularly hazardous to children because their nervous systems are not yet fully developed.
Stay informed on product recalls and eliminate any products in your home you know contain lead-based paint or plastics. Even some older houses may have contaminated drinking water, so if you are concerned about this risk, have your home tested. Since lead has no smell and is difficult to detect, you must watch out for the symptoms of lead poisoning.
Depending on the quantity and duration of the lead exposure, your child's symptoms can range from moderate to severe. Some recorded lead-poisoning cases have cited brain damage, seizures, hyperactivity or ADD, headaches, and kidney problems. Your child may also be at risk even if they are still in the womb. Mothers can pass on exposure to lead-based products, which can cause birthing complications.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, an estimated 250,000 children in the U.S. under the age of 5 years old have blood lead levels higher than the safe amount. If you are concerned that your child has been exposed to lead products, you should seek medical attention immediately.
Choking and aspiration hazards are some of the leading causes of child death in conjunction with children's products and toys. In 2003, choking-related deaths linked to children's toys accounted for 64% of the total number of deaths caused by dangerous toys that year. That same year, close to 72% of all choking deaths related to toys were linked to choking on small balls; however, children can also choke on things like un-inflated balloons, pieces of burst balloons, and magnets in toys. Even the harmless looking stuffed toy your child plays with can conceal dangers in the form of buttons and beads that make up its eyes and nose. These parts can come off, posing the risk of choking.
Almost all major toy manufacturers have been forced to recall thousands of toys after they were found to present choking hazards.
While a child's tendency to put things in his or her mouth can't be curbed, manufacturers can take steps to make sure that risks are kept to an absolute minimum. For instance, teethers, and baby rattles should be large enough that they cannot fit in a child's throat. Also, toy cars and buses must not have wheels that can come off.
Child Safety Protection Act: Helping Combat the Risks of Choking
To combat the rise of choking-related death, the CPSC passed the Child Safety Protection Act that bans products with small parts for children under the age of three. This is why many products we see in the stores have a label that says something like "not intended for children under 3." Small part regulations are detailed in the Code of Federal Regulations Title 16, Parts 1501 and 1500.50, 51 and 52. Small children are especially prone to putting things in their mouths, which is why choking deaths and injuries are so common. Toy manufacturers must test their products in order to determine if they qualify as a choking hazard. If they do, then the manufacturer must properly place this warning on the product's label and packaging. A failure to do so will constitute a marketing defect which can impose fines and even result in the total recall of the product.
So how does the CPSC determine which products are dangerous for small children? They use something called the "choke test cylinder."
Even if a product does not fit through the cylinder, but has parts that can break off and fit inside the cylinder, it will be considered a choking hazard for children under the age of three. Products that have small, round object especially pose a threat to young children. Balls that are less than 1.75 inches are considered a choking hazard. Anyone can purchase a choke testing tube in order to test their children's toys. It is important to note that, on some occasions, some products that can pass through the choking tube may still present a choking hazard to young children.
It is important to note that not all products must pass this test and put warnings on their labels.
The CPSC details all of the products that can present a choking hazard but are not subject to these small part regulations:
- Books and other paper articles
- Crayons, chalk, pencils, and pens
- Paint, watercolors, and clay
- Clothing and accessories
These products are exempt because they need to be small in order to perform their intended function. Rattles and baby pacifiers are also subject to their own regulations listed under a different section of federal regulations.
Every year, hundreds of children's products are recalled due to strangulation, choking, and suffocation. Products range from clothing to play equipment. Strangulation hazards caused by children's products account for nearly 22% of all accidental fatalities in children in the U.S.
There are two types of strangulation:
- Ligature strangulation refers to strangulation by a cord or rope. For instance, a child wearing clothing with drawstrings or playing with window blind cords can wrap the cords around their neck, interrupting oxygen supply. Breathing difficulties result almost immediately and asphyxiation can result if there is no adult nearby to give emergency aid. Ligature strangulation is often seen in children of curious ages, specifically 1 to 2. 30% of all strangulation deaths recorded are the result of ligature strangulation.
- Suspension strangulation occurs when the body is suspended above the ground by the neck. Such strangulation often occurs with playground equipment, cribs, and other furniture. Cribs with low sides are a common cause of such accidents. Suspension strangulation is the most frequent of all child strangulation accidents, accounting for nearly 70% of all related fatalities.
As a parent, there are certain steps you can take to help avoid strangulation hazards that may affect your children. For example, the Consumer Product Safety Commission has a list of cribs that have been tested and proven safe for children. Choosing a crib from this list is a wise choice.
A few other helpful tips:
- Never buy a secondhand crib for a child. Most have unsafe designs and may have missing parts.
- Never buy a crib with high corner posts. A baby's clothing can easily get snagged on these.
- Never buy cribs with vertical slats far enough apart to trap a baby's head.
- Avoid keeping loose pieces of clothing in the crib or any items that can be wound around their neck.
Defective Car Seats
If you drive with a child or infant in your car, you realize that you are carrying precious cargo. You want to do everything you can to ensure your child's safety when driving. You likely put your child in a car seat to protect them in the event of an accident, but sometimes that may not be enough. Unfortunately, it is estimated that about 10 million car seats were found to be defective and recalled after reports of safety malfunctions which caused an infant or child harm. Many of those recalls were from major brand names and manufacturers of car seats.
The defects that typically occur in car seats include:
- Bad handles
- Weak construction
- Sudden buckle releases
Because car accidents are the #1 cause of unintended death for children under the age of 14, it is important to be well-informed about child car seats and their possible safety risks. If you notice any cracks in the buckles or any part of your child's car seat, it should not be considered safe. Some models of car seats that have been recalled include Baby Trend, Basic Comfort, Britax, Dorel, and Graco. This is not a comprehensive list, so if you are concerned that your child's car seat may not be safe, look up the manufacturing name to see if they have issued any recalls.
Defective Restraints for Older Children
Babies have special restraints designed for their safety as adults do, but children who are too big for infant restraints and too small for adult restraints are missing out. Built-in child safety seats would make it safer for older children to ride in vehicles, but currently, no effort is being put forth to make this a safety standard. Typically, a product such as this would target children who are between the ages of four and eight, weighing at least 50 pounds. Many accidents lead to child injury because the seatbelts they were using were not conducive to safety.
Commonly used are "booster seats," which is currently the standard for older child car safety. However, in a recent study, only 20-38% of children in the vulnerable age (4-8) use them.
This is probably because there is no clear message about the standards for older child car safety and the NHTSA campaigns tend to shy away from the topic. The agency actually doesn't even require booster seat testing for older children and even more shocking than this, they do not require vehicle manufacturers to build vehicles that can accommodate older child safety restraints. While many measures are currently being taken to improve overall passenger safety in vehicles, the number of injuries to young children has actually increased in recent years.
Because it is not required, U.S. auto makers do not manufacture their vehicles with older child safety in mind. They also do not typically test their vehicles for safety or advise car owners on the potential risks. It seems now that it is up to individual automobile manufacturers to develop better safety mechanisms to outfit their cars with so that they are safe for children. If your child was injured in a car accident and you believe that their injuries could have been lessened or prevented by adequate child restraints, then you should definitely seek legal help. A skilled product liability attorney can help you with your case and advocate on your behalf should you become a client.
Defective Bicycle Helmets
One product type the CPSC has issued public requirements for is bicycle helmets. If a helmet is proven not to meet the Children's Bicycle Helmet Safety Act standards, it will be recalled, even if there have been no reported injuries. All bicycle helmet manufacturers must perform tests, record the results of those tests, and place inserts or stickers on all of helmets stating the product has been tested and approved by CPSC standards.
One common way in which a helmet can fail to meet consumer safety standards is a faulty chin strap.
Most chin straps are held on by a plastic buckle. If this buckle is faulty or easily breakable, then in the event of a fall, the helmet would come off and not protect the wearer. Helmets may also be made of faulty materials. If the plastic or other material is too thin or fragile, then the helmet would not comply with CPSC standards because it would not fully protect the wearer from head injury in the event of a fall. Materials used in the manufacturing of bicycle helmets must be able to absorb the shock of a fall, and when they do not, they pose a safety hazard.
Did you know that over 11 million cribs, bassinets, and playpens have been recalled since 2007? Before purchasing a crib for your child, check to make sure it has not been recalled. The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission has a detailed list of recalled cribs. Besides checking to ensure your child's crib has not been recalled, parents are also urged to ensure the crib is structurally sound. There should not be any gaps larger than two fingers on the sides of crib and mattress. Failure to assemble the crib according to the instructions can also lead to injury and as can using an old or modified crib. Curtain cords and blinds also pose a strangulation threat, so do not place a crib next to a window.
Defective Children's Products: FAQ
What types of defects occur in children’s toys?
Children’s toys may have various defects in the way they’re designed, produced, packaged, or marketed. Toys need to be appropriate for the age to which they’re marketed. The packaging must be clear, helping parents determine whether their children can safely play with a certain toy. The materials used to make the toy must be child-friendly and free from defects, and the design itself must be reasonably safe for children in the appropriate age group.
The following are examples of defective and potentially dangerous children’s toys:
- Toys that can break into small parts, presenting choking hazards for young children.
- Magnets and toys with magnets inside that can cause internal organ damage if swallowed.
- Toys manufactured with lead paint that children may ingest, causing lead poisoning.
- Toys that pose risks of serious eye injury, such as dart guns.
- Motorized vehicles for children that travel too swiftly or lack proper occupant protection.
Any of these defects could cause a child to suffer serious harm. If this happened to your child, be sure to involve an attorney who can help you hold the manufacturer or other responsible party accountable.
How could a design defect make an infant product dangerous?
When it comes to infant products, parents rely on product manufacturers to use clear labeling, safety warnings, and instructions for use. Even if all these things are correct, however, a defect in the design of an infant product could make it dangerous to use.
The Bumbo seat is an example of a product that was recalled twice. These molded seats were designed for infants aged 3 to 12 months who cannot sit up unassisted. Unfortunately, some children suffered serious injuries when these seats fell from tables or other high surfaces where they were placed. This resulted in a 2007 recall and issuance of a warning about placing Bumbo seats on high surfaces. The second recall specifically addressed the design of the infant seat.
In August of 2014, the manufacturer issued another recall to add a safety strap that would prevent infants from wiggling from the seat. The Bumbo seat was initially designed without any strap. This flaw in the design of the product led to its subsequent recall. Today, Bumbo seats are sold with the strap and additional warnings.
How do I know if I have a product liability case for a children’s product?
While it’s true that accidents happen and children may get hurt even when products are properly designed and manufactured, there are incidents caused specifically by defective children’s products. If your infant or child was injured while using any type of product—from a car seat to a rattle to an electronic toy—make sure you talk to an attorney about your options. There could be many other children who suffered similar injuries. The manufacturer or other at-fault party should be held responsible, not only to give you the chance to seek justice for your child, but to protect others.
Talk to an Experienced Product Liability Lawyer Today: (888) 493-1629
Sometimes, in spite of our best efforts to protect our children, a defective product will cause them injury. If your child has suffered any type of injury as the result of a defective child or infant product, make sure you discuss your legal options with a product liability lawyer at our firm. We can determine how you can hold the responsible party liable. No matter the particular nature of product liability claim you may have as related to a children's product, you can count on our knowledge and experience.
Contact a defective product attorney at Arnold & Itkin today.