Civil Litigation Leads to Increased Toy Safety
Despite what legislators and big business would have you believe, personal injury litigation serves an important role in today’s society. There are numerous incidents of injury that were only addressed after civil litigation forced businesses to correct the issues. One example made major headlines a few years ago, when high levels of lead content were found in jewelry that was marketed and sold to society’s most vulnerable members: children.
In 2003, a 4-year-old child became extremely ill, after swallowing pieces from a vending machine bracelet. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the jewelry was made from lead. The following year, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) issued a recall of 150 million units of toy jewelry sold from vending machines. In 2006, a 6-year-old reportedly died after ingesting a heart-shaped necklace charm. That piece of jewelry was reportedly found to also contain large levels of lead, causing fatal poisoning to the child. According to the CDC, the charm was offered as a free gift with purchase from Reebok International, Ltd. As a result of the death, Reebok voluntarily recalled more than 300,000 of the jewelry pieces.
These tragic injuries and deaths were only two of numerous incidents that involved these lead-based toys. Another larger recall was issued in 2006 involving toy jewelry from the Dollar Tree retail stores. According to the CPSC, the recall included mood rings and necklaces, along with glow-in-the dark pieces. Allegations of lead poisoning also continuously spread much wider than toy jewelry. Product testing found lead-based paint in a variety of toys reportedly manufactured in China.
Toy Recall Litigation
As the number of injuries grew, civil litigation lawyers took steps to protect children and secure the reimbursement that these injuries warranted. In 2009, toy manufacturer Mattel settled a product liability lawsuit over these toys, resulting in a settlement of more than $50 million. In the year that followed, Disney reportedly began testing its own character-related toys, even when manufactured by other corporations. Sesame Workshop and Nickelodeon quickly followed the trend. Litigation and the potential for litigation essentially forced these companies to meet the duty of care owed to their customers, but the legal fight was far from over.
Cadmium Enters the Picture
In response to strict lead regulations, many Chinese manufacturers reportedly found another cheap substance to give their metal toys a shiny appearance. According to a report by ABC News, cadmium is a carcinogen that is linked to diseases in the bones, kidneys and liver. The highly toxic material can reportedly accumulate in the body over long periods of time. When children place the toys in their mouths, they are exposed to its cadmium. The exposure is considerably higher if the item is scratched or damaged. Once again, it was not until the government and legal community became involved, that businesses began taking responsibility for the dangers of cadmium use. Several retail stores agreed to stop selling the products as part of civil settlement agreements.