Another child suffers brain injury in a toy box
More than 10 years ago, we successfully sued KMart and a toybox manufacturer for selling a "toy box" with a lid that could fall and entrap young children. It has been documented for nearly 30 years that toy boxes must not have hinged lids that do not lock: the lid can readily fall on a toddler and suffocate a child too young and too weak to extract his or her head and neck. Toy box manufacturers adopted "voluntary guidelines" several decades ago, however, the so-called "guidelines" were inadequate and have never become mandatory. This week, yet another case made the news in Pittsburgh, where an 18-month old girl was left in a permanent vegetative state after her head was monentarily entrapped in a wicker toybox.
The girl suffered severe hypoxia and is now a spastic quadrepligiac: her parents are suing the retailer, Target. The parents have documented that Target knew customers were using the steel-framed wicker boxes as toy boxes and that the Consumer Product Safety Commission has documented 45 deaths resulting from toybox lids that lack a support or locking mechanism. Our toddler client suffered a similar fate, and we would imagine that the number of hypoxic injuries significantly exceeds the number of fatalities. Back when we ran into this situation, it was apparent that sale of this kind of product was a serious health concern that could be avoided by careful retailers, but twenty years later, nothing has been done.
In Michigan, matters have been made worse by "tort reform" that attempts to immunize retailers for the sale of defective products. If the same case happened today in Michigan, Target might not be resposible for the child's lifetime health care (as KMart would have been in our case) and being immune, it would not need to assure that its suppliers were adequately insured. It could by the box from a Chinese manufacturer (since they don't have to "stand behind" exported products) and assure that no one would be responsible!