How to Keep Your Child Safe: Defective Toys & Product Liability

Michael P. Quinn, Jr.

It is every parent’s worst nightmare. A small part of a toy purchased or gifted to his or her child that appeared safe dislodges and is ingested, causing a catastrophic choking incident or death. A parent should be able to rely on toy manufacturers to painstakingly and arduously test and retest their toy products to be certain that no part – large or small – presents a danger to children.

Today, most manufacturers do follow strict guidelines and label new toys appropriately, but there are instances when their practices fail to result in the production of the safest toys. Just last month, Target recalled more than 560,000 Easter egg and dinosaur toys due to a serious ingestion hazard.

There are a number of actions that parents can take to prevent an unsafe toy from injuring his or her child. Below is just a brief checklist.

  • Since most new toys are subject to stricter guidelines, parents should avoid older generation toys. These toys may sometimes be bought cheaper, but they do not meet current safety standards.
  • Be wary of toys that use “coin cell” or “button” batteries. These batteries are the shape of a coin and if ingested/digested, can cause severe injury to a child’s digestive tract.
  • Be wary of toys with small magnetic parts. These parts, if ingested/digested, can also cause severe injury to a child’s digestive tract.
  • Any artistic materials should be nontoxic. On the box, there should be a statement that the item has been evaluated by the American Society for Testing and Materials.
  • Make sure that any plastic toy is not easily breakable, as small sharp plastic is particularly dangerous to a child’s small digestive tract if ingested/digested.
  • Avoid marbles, coins, balls, and games with balls that are 1.75 inches (4.4 centimeters) or less in diameter because they can become lodged in the throat above the windpipe and restrict breathing.
  • Periodically check the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission’s list of “Toy Alerts”: cpsc.gov.

With proper parental attention and toy manufacturers’ adherence to current safety guidelines, toy injuries have become more and more rare. However, if your child was injured and you believe that it was caused by a defectively manufactured or designed toy, there is recourse: a product liability claim. Product liability is the theory under which designers, manufacturers and sellers of products can be held liable for damages after consumers are injured by defective products. This same legal theory can be applied to toys that are unreasonably dangerous and injure a child. The attorneys at Decof, Decof & Barry have experience in this area of the law and can help the injured and their families to understand how the law may apply to their circumstances.

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