Trouble in Toyland is an annual exposé of dangerous toys released by U. S PIRG (Public Interest Research Group) Education Fund. For thirty-four years, the consumer watchdog group has identified toys on the market which it deems unsafe, sparking over a hundred and fifty recalls of such toys and providing parents with the information they need to protect their children from hazardous playthings.
Despite the successes of the U.S. PIRG Education Fund, many hazardous toys are still being sold and passed into the hands of our children. What legal options do parents have if their child has been injured by one of these toys?
In this post I will discuss legal options parents of injured children possess. I will start by highlighting some of the types of dangerous toys identified in the Trouble in Toyland report. Keep in mind that even if the type of toy that injured your child is not discussed here you still may have a viable legal claim. Hazards in toys and children’s products run the gamut from choking hazards created by toys with small parts, to strangulation hazards from cords on pull toys, to laceration hazards from edges that are too sharp, to toxic hazards posed by chemicals in toys. Injuries have been documented from all of these hazards.
The most recent edition of Trouble in Toyland identifies three types of toys parents should be aware of:
- Toys with easily identifiable hazards
- Toys with hidden hazards
- Toys that have been recalled but are still for sale
- Toys with easily identifiable hazards
One type of hazard that is easily identifiable is annoyingly loud noises. Loud toys such as the Kicko Toy Gun Blue Light-Up Noise Blaster would fall into this category:
Loud toys such as this one may be more than annoying – they may be damaging your child’s hearing.
Another type of identifiably dangerous toy is those that pose a choking hazard, such as these familiar little guys:
Of all toys, balloons are the leading cause of death by suffocation.
Other choking hazards include toys with very small parts that are easily detachable. Trouble in Toyland recommends using a toilet paper roll to gauge whether an object poses a choking hazard. If the object fits easily through the center of the roll, it is too small.
In addition to these hazards, toys designed for teens and adults can become hazardous if younger children get their hands on them. For example, small magnets can be a great toy for a teenager, but give them to a younger child and you are likely to end up with a trip to the hospital.
2. Toys with hidden hazards
The second category of dangerous toys covered by Trouble in Toyland are those that possess hidden hazards. These include toys, jewelry, slime, and makeup that are contaminated with toxins such as lead, cadmium, and boron. For example, some children’s jewelry contains excess cadmium which can be detrimental if ingested.
It is toys like these that pose hazards which are invisible to even the most careful eye.
3. Toys that have been recalled but are still for sale
Finally, the Trouble in Toyland report cautioned parents to be careful about buying used and older toys, as these have sometimes been deemed too dangerous and recalled. You may even have some of these lying around your home. To identify recalled toys, check out THIS website.
The Trouble in Toyland report included many other helpful details in addition to the information I just covered. You can read the full report HERE.
I’ve highlighted a few types of dangerous toys that can cause harm to children. Next I want to address what options a parent has if their child has been injured by one of these types of toys or any other toys that pose an unreasonable risk of harm.
Normally, a products liability claim is going to be the best option for parents. In Georgia, product liability is centered upon O.C.G.A. Section 51-1-11 which provides that the manufacturer of personal property sold as new is strictly liable to individuals who are injured by that property.
To establish a strict liability claim under this statute, a plaintiff must prove that (1) the defendant was the manufacturer of the product, (2) the product was defective when it left the control of the manufacturer, and (3) the product’s defective condition proximately caused the injury to the plaintiff.
In other words, to have a strong case, you must be able to prove fault on the part of the toy manufacturer. For example, if your child’s hearing is damaged by an overly loud toy, you may have a strong case because the manufacture is clearly at fault for the injury. On the other hand, if your child gets their hands on and swallows small marbles that are marketed strictly for teens and adults, I am afraid that you have no case. Since the manufacturer was marketing the marbles for teens and adults, not small children, they are not at fault for the injury. However, given different details, this scenario could make for a strong case. If the manufacturer’s advertising neglected to make clear what age groups the marbles were appropriate for, they are partially responsible for injuries resulting from small children playing with the product.
As you can see, many aspects play into whether a products liability claim is a viable option for you. A lawyer can help you navigate the details of your situation, but the basic idea is that you must be able to prove that the manufacture is at least partially at fault for your child’s injury.
While O.C.G.A. Section 51-1-11 is the basis for most products liability claims, there are other legal options open to a parent whose child is injured by a dangerous toy. A plaintiff can rely on negligence, strict liability, and warranty theories. Whatever the specifics of your child’s injury, a lawyer can advise you on what course of legal action to take.
The bottom line? If your child has been harmed by a toy and you believe there may be a basis for holding the manufacturer liable, please don’t hesitate to contact me. It costs you nothing and may benefit you a great deal.