Articles Posted in Products Liability

hoverboardWe saw the worst that can happen last week in Harrisburg, PA when a hoverboard caught on fire in a family’s home, claiming the life of a three-year-old child.

The hoverboard reportedly ignited while charging, destroying the home. The three-year-old girl died at a local hospital and two other girls were left in critical condition. The girl’s father and a teenage boy were treated for smoke inhalation.

This tragedy was compounded by another death; a local firefighter was reportedly killed in a motor vehicle accident while driving to the fire, the victim of an alleged drunk driver who now faces charges.

Britax stroller which was recalled in February 2017As the weather turns warm, parents will be reaching for the outdoor toys and children’s equipment again. Baby strollers are one of the first products to come out.

Before you use a stroller, check if there are any loose or worn parts. Then check if the stroller has been subject to a product recall and caused anyone injury. You can check online now on the Consumer Product Safety Commission website.

Baby Stroller Recalls. We started with baby strollers because there have been several baby strollers recalled in the past year, including Britax, Aria Child and Phil & Teds strollers. Britax has actually issued two sets of recalls over the past 15 months, one for 60,000 strollers in January 2016 and another for more than 700,000 strollers in February 2017.

toy-shopping

Many of us will shop for a child this holiday season. Do your homework first, so you purchase gifts which are both safe and fun to use.

Each year, children and young adults are seriously injured or killed while playing with dangerous and defective toys. We should be able to trust that the toys we purchase from reputable stores are safe, but that is not always the case. In 2015, there were an estimated 185,500 toy-related, emergency department-treated injuries and 11 deaths to children younger than 15 years old, according to the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC). Riding toys, specifically non-motorized scooters, were associated with the most toy-related injuries.

Before you shop, here are a few tips:

Check out the CPSC recall page. Check the recall page before you shop. You can search for a specific toy, by manufacturer or in several different useful ways.

Read labels. Look for labels with age recommendations and follow them. If you shop online, double check the age recommendation and other labels once you receive the product box. What you see on the computer screen may not be what you actually receive.

Read the Top 10 Worst Toys 0f 2016 list. Take time to read this list and make sure not to buy any toy mentioned on it. Another toy to note: the Tonka 12V Ride-On Dump Truck. It has not been recalled, but Toys R Us has pulled it off shelves after one of the toys caught fire in Bellingham, Washington over the weekend.

No small pieces. Do not buy toys with small pieces for small children under three years old. Consider every part, even things such as small plastic eyes and noses on stuffed animals and dolls which could become loose.

Plastic film. If you purchase toys with mirrors or similar surfaces, remove the protective plastic film before giving the gift to a child. It is a choking hazard.

Avoid magnets. Do not purchase toys or adult gifts with small magnets. If a small child swallows two or more magnets, they attract in the stomach. Surgery may be required to remove the magnets and the child may suffer very serious complications. Thousands of children have these suffered these injuries and required surgeries. At least one child died in recent years, according to news stories.

The CPSC and companies have recalled many of the popular magnet toy sets in recent years, such as Buckyballs toys, and strengthened federal standards. But some are still sold. Steer clear of any product with small magnets. Once they are brought into a house, small pieces can fall under furniture or other areas and stay there for years until they are discovered by a child. They are hard to thoroughly clean up.

Electrical toys. Children should use toys with electrical components under adult supervision and follow age recommendations. Before you buy an electrical toy, check with a child’s parents to see if it is appropriate.

Cords and strings. Do not buy toys with long strings for infants and young children. A child can wrap a long string around his or her own neck and strangle themselves.

Batteries. Do not purchase toys which operate with small circle button batteries.

Balloons. Children can suffocate from balloons and the CPSC advises against letting children younger than 8 play with balloons. One risk is a child can swallow a balloon or suck it in while blowing it up. After the balloon pops, a child can also choke on the broken pieces.
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hoverboard.jpgDespite fires and hard falls, the hoverboard was one of the year’s most popular gifts.
Reports of hoverboard fires began before the holidays. Amazon even told consumers to return some models in mid-December and notified sellers that they must provide documentation showing hoverboards are compliant with safety standards. The Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) opened an investigation on Dec. 16th, after reports of 10 hoverboard-related fires in Washington, California, New York and other states. The fires often happen during charging.

The CPSC has also received dozens of reports of hoverboard-related falls from hospital ERs, including concussions, fractures and internal organ injuries. Christmas Day brought more injuries, revealed as photos and videos were posted to social media.

Congressman Carlos Curbelo of Florida fell when he tried out his daughter’s hoverboard. He tweeted a photo of himself wearing a sling:

“Confirmed – #hoverboard is for kids. My daughter got it. I ended up in @BaptistHealthSF #ER. #hoverboardChristmas.”

We do not think this product is safe for any age. But we agree with his colleague, Congresswoman Illeana Ros-Lehtinen of Florida, who tweeted back: “Ouch. At least it didn’t catch on fire!”


News Headlines
One headline from the Washington Post: “Thanks for ruining Christmas, hoverboards.” Below is a video from the report.

Our Thoughts

This is a dangerous product and safety concerns need to be addressed. If you received one, consider returning it. If you keep it, follow instructions for charging it. Do not charge it overnight or while you are outside the home. Also, remember most airlines have banned hoverboards due to the fire risk.

If you do ride, always wear a proper helmet and padding while using this product. Ask what the local traffic laws are before use.


Drones
Many people also received drones as holiday gifts. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) predicted more than 1 million drones would be gifts on Christmas Day.

drone-186.jpgOn Christmas Day, photos and videos of drones crashing on the ground, into the neighbor’s roof and even into other family members filled social media. Read this Washington Post report, “Wear a Helmet: All those Christmas Drones are Falling Out of the Sky.”

The FAA has set up a website to register drones. Anyone with an aircraft weighing from a half-pound to 55 pounds must register with the FAA. Drone owners who are 13 and older must register on the FAA website. Parents with younger children are expected to register on their behalf.

Drone Owners Must Take Care
There are serious concerns about drones interfering with airplane traffic, but there are also very real concerns about general transportation safety. Drone owners must take care to be sure that they do not interfere with traffic, bicyclists or pedestrians. Be considerate and be aware of local laws and ordinances related to drone use.
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Each year, the 10 Worst Toys list is released to help holiday shoppers steer clear of unsafe toys. This year, the authors warn shoppers about everything from trampolines, popular movie toys and playsets which have small choking hazards.

The annual list is compiled by W.A.T.C.H. This year’s list includes:

Skipit’s Wheely Cute Pull Along
Every child loves a cute puppy, but this toy has hub caps which come off the wheels and pose choking hazards for young children. This product is marketed to children six months and older and is made by Bunnies By The Bay. Certain lots of this product were actually recalled on June 16, 2015. However, W.A.T.C.H. reported a similar toy was purchased online after the recall, so this risk may still be on the market.

Foam Dart Gun
This gun is manufactured by G.D. Jiefeng Toys and is marketed to children ages 3 and up. It is sold on Amazon.com and Ebay. W.A.T.C.H. says, “In today’s world, there is no excuse for outfitting children with realistic toy weapons designed to produce potentially dangerous and unnecessary thrills. Existing regulations addressing the hazards associated with such ‘toys’ are inadequate.”

Stats 38″ Quick Folding Trampoline
Toys R Us manufactures and sells this trampoline, which is marketed to age 6 and older. Trampolines are associated with spinal cord injuries and this one even has a warning stating, “Landing on the head or neck can cause serious injury, paralysis, or death, even when landing in the middle of the bed.”

Splat X Smack Shot
This $10 toy looks fun, but it actually poses the potential for serious eye injuries to the child using the toy and others around him. The toy, which is made by Imperial Toy LLC, comes with ammunition with can fire up to 100 feet away. It is sold at Walmart, Amazon.com and Kmart.

Poo-Dough
This $4.99 toy was included in W.A.T.C.H.’s list because it only has an allergy notice on part of the packaging.

Kick Flipper
This is basically a plastic board marketed as a “skateboard without wheels.” The packaging shows pictures of children using the Kick Flipper as they would a skateboard, but they are not wearing helmets or safety gear.

Leonardo’s Electronic Stealth Sword
This toy can cause facial and other impact injuries. It is manufactured by Playmates international Company Ltd and marketed to children ages 4 and up. It is sold by Toys R Us, Amazon and Ebay.

Kid Connection Doctor Play Set
This $5 play set is sold at Wal-Mart, Amazon.com and Ebay. It is recommended for children ages 2 and up, but includes a small “tongue depressor,” which is 4 ¾ inches in length and could cause a choking hazard.

Pull Along Zebra
This toy poses a strangulation risk. It has a 21-inch cord and is marketed for children 12 to 36 months old. The toy is made by Early Learning Centre and sold at Amazon.com, Kmart, Brookstone and Village Toy Shop. It carries this warning: “Remember babies and young children have no idea what is dangerous or potential harmful, so supervision is important…”

Jurassic Word Velociraptor Claws
This $19.99 toy is marketed to 4-year-olds who want to “claw like a raptor!” The packaging warns there is a choking hazard and small parts will be generated. There are no warnings about potential facial or eye injuries. The claws were manufactured by Hasbro and are sold by Target, Amazon.com, Toys R Us, Walmart and Kohl’s.

Read more on the 10 Worst Toys of 2015 List.

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Nearly one million Trek bikes have been recalled after a cyclist was left paralyzed by an accident caused by a defective front disc brake.

About 900,000 bicycles in the U.S. and 98,000 bicycles in Canada were recalled recently by Trek Bicycle Corporation of Waterloo, Wisconsin. The recall involves bicycles sold nationwide from September 1999 through April 2015 for between $480 and $1,650.

Bicycles involved in the recall have a quick release lever on the bicycle’s front wheel hub that can come into contact with the front disc brake assembly, causing the front wheel to come to a sudden stop or separate from the bicycle, posing a risk of serious injury to the rider. Defective bicycles have a front quick release lever that expands beyond 180 degrees.

Trek issued the recall after reports of three injuries, including one person who suffered quadriplegia. A second person suffered facial injuries and another suffered a fractured wrist.

Consumers should stop using these Trek bicycles immediately. Call an authorized Trek retailer for a free inspection and installation of a new quick release on the front wheel of your bike. Trek is trying to encourage cyclists to seek the repair by offering a $20 coupon toward Bontrager merchandise.

Trek has not released a list of specific bicycle model numbers. Cyclists need to check their own bicycles and see if they are impacted by this recall. Some bicycles involved in this recall were purchased many years ago and owners may not have the original paperwork. Or you may have purchased one of these bicycles secondhand.

Do your due diligence and seek out a Massachusetts bicycle shop which sells Trek bicycles. Ask for a free inspection and have them make the free repair if needed.

Find a Trek bike dealer.
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20150112_honda.jpgLast week we learned the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) issued Honda Motor Co. two safety fines totaling $70 million. The fines were announced last week but had been issued before the New Year. These are the largest penalties the NHTSA could impose. With them, automakers finish the year paying $126 million in civil penalties, the most ever for one year. The amount also exceeds the total amount collected in all 43 years of the NHTSA’s operation.

Honda’s Fines

  • Honda was fined $35 million for failure to report submit early warning reports (EWR reports) identifying potential or actually safety issues. The company failed to report 1,729 death and injury claims between 2003 and 2014.
  • Honda was fined a second $35 million for failure to report certain warranty claims and claims related to its customer satisfaction campaigns, in which a manufacturer quietly agrees to fix defects on cars even beyond the normal warranty period.

Honda was ordered to submit injury reports as part of the NHTSA’s investigation on defective Takata airbags last year. Some of the drivers who died as a result of the Takata airbag defects were driving Honda vehicles. The airbag defects are linked to at least five deaths and dozens of injuries in the U.S. Automakers have recalled nearly 14 million cars with these airbags worldwide. Takata, a Japanese company, has limited its recalls to Florida, Hawaii and other warm weather states, despite pressure from the NHTSA to expand the recall nationwide.

Other Companies Which Were Fined
Among the companies the NHTSA fined last year: Gwinnett Place Nissan, Ferrari S.p.A. and Ferrari North America, Chapman Chevrolet LLC, Hyundai Motor America, General Motors Company and Prevost and Southern Honda Powersports.

Then of course there was General Motors, which was fined $35 million for how it handled a recall of more than 2 million vehicles with ignition switch problems. It also paid a separate $441,000 fine for failure to fully respond to a special order by a specified due date.

Toyota is not on the list of companies which paid civil penalties in 2014. But it paid the U.S. government a $1.2 billion criminal fine for it actions during a safety investigation.

Proposed Safety Changes for 2015
In the New Year, the U.S. Department of Transportation and NHTSA are proposing to increase the maximum fine for auto safety violations from $35 million to $300 million. The agencies also want the NHTSA to have additional authority to compel companies to recall unsafe products.

Related:
U.S. Department of Transportation Fines Honda $70 Million for Failing to Comply with Laws That Safeguard the Public, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
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Before you shop, please check out the Worst Toys of 2014 list by W.A.T.C.H. Since last year, there have been at least 17 toy recalls in the U.S. and Canada, accounting for 5 million defective toys, reports the watchdog group which releases its list annually.

Shop carefully, even at familiar and trusted stores. Of course you should avoid the toys listed below. But make your own judgments on the safety of the toys you are considering. The main things to beware of are:

  • Marbles and small pieces
  • Sharp edges
  • Small magnets
  • Flimsy toy accessories or pieces which are loosely attached
  • Toys with strings (such as musical instruments and necklaces)
  • Toys which shoot sharp projectiles

Also, remember to buy toys which are age-appropriate, read the warnings on the toy box and watch out for toy packaging materials. Toys and many products come with an almost-invisible plastic lining on mirrors, digital screens and other pieces. Many also come with a lot of plastic wrap. These are all choking hazards and you should remove them before giving toys to children.

Here are the W.A.T.C.H. nominees for the “10 Worst Toys” of 2014.

1) Air Storm Firetek Bow
This toy is designed for children 8 years and older, but it shoots arrows up to 145 feet high in the air and can cause eye injuries. It has glow pieces and is marketed for day or night use, thought it warns against use in the “complete dark.” Finally, the packaging carries several other warnings, more than most people want when buying a toy. It sells for under $25 at Walmart and Amazon.com.

2) Radio Flyer Ziggle
Toy2.jpgThe seat on this bike is too low, just 8 inches off the ground, W.A.T.C.H. said. The bike’s packaging also features young children who are not wearing bike helmets, which puts them at risk for head injuries. The $39.99 bike is sold at Target, Toys R Us and Amazon.com and is recommended for children ages 3 to 8 years old.

3) Catapencil
This pencil is also a catapult. The packaging encourages children to enjoy target practice from their desktops and reads, “Because the pencil is mightier than the sword.” There are no safety warnings or age recommendations. This $3.99 toy is sold at Amazon.com, Ebay.com and Learning Express.

4) Alphabet Zoo Rock and Stack Pull Toy
This toy has a 20-inch cord, which is eight inches longer than industry safety standards. It creates a strangulation risk for young children and the manufacturer even warns parents about this risk on the packaging. This toy is sold for $19.99 at Amazon.com, Toys R Us and Magic Beans stores.

5) SWAT Electric Machine Gun
Junxing Toys Industrial Co. warns buyers on the packaging that its toy gun may be mistaken for an actual firearm by law enforcement officers and others. W.A.T.C.H. rightfully says there is “no excuse for outfitting children with realistic toy weapons designed to produce potentially dangerous and unnecessary thrills.” The recent killing of a 12-year old, who was carrying a toy gun mistaken in for a real gun, in Cleveland is a serious reminder of this risk.

6) Wooden Instruments
This toy is designed for children 12 months and older, but includes a 4 ½ inch long drumstick which children can mouth and get lodged in their airway. Additionally, there are no warnings on the toy, which is sold at Walmart.

7) Bottle Rocket Party
This toy makes use of projectiles which can strike and injure a child. There are safety goggles advertised on the packaging, but they are not packed in the box. This toy by Norman & Globus is recommended for children age 8 and older and is sold for $14.99 at Walmart.com, Amazon.com and the Village Toy Shop.

8) Lil’ Cutesies – Best Friends
Toy8.jpgWhile advertised as the “perfect friend for your little one,” this toy is dangerous, according to the W.A.T.C.H. report. The decorative bow can detach from the doll’s head and pose a choking hazard. The toy is designed for children age 2 and older. It is sold for $7.99 or less at Kmart, Toysrus.com and Amazon.com.

9) True Legends Orcs Battle Hammer
This hammer is marketed to children as young as 3 years old, yet it comes with a hammer which stretches nearly 2 feet. Do not look for safety warnings and instructions–there are none! It is distributed by Toys R Us and sold at stores for under $15.

10) Colored Hedgehog
The hedgehog’s hair can be easily pulled out, posing a risk for ingestion and aspiration injuries, W.A.T.C.H. says. This infant toy is sold for $10.99 at Toys R Us.

Read the full Worst Toys of 2014 list. Photo credit on this blog: W.A.T.C.H. and the Worst Toys of 2014 report.
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20141124_holidayshopping.jpgReady or not, the holiday shopping season begins in earnest this week. Enjoy shopping for loved ones, but remember to buy with caution, especially when selecting toys and products used by young children. The Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) recalled millions of unsafe toys this year, and also many of the most basic children’s products, including car seats, strollers and furniture. Shoppers should closely examine every purchase. Here are a few holiday shopping tips:

Check for recalls. Search the CPSC database to see if a specific product has been recalled. You can also search by company.

Here are some of the important ones to remember:

Graco Recalls. Graco recalled millions of car seats earlier this year because of sticky-buckles which were trapping children in the seats. Just last week, it also recalled 4.7 million defective strollers which can cause finger amputation. Graco recalled the 11 stroller models after 10 fingertip amputations and one finger laceration. The strollers were sold from 2010 until earlier this month at a number of retailers, including Target, Toys R Us, Walmart, Amazon.com and Walmart.com. Read the recall notice.

Furniture Recalls. Common home furniture also caused child injuries this year. In August, Ace Bayou recalled 2.2 million bean bag chairs after two children unzipped them, crawled inside and suffocated to death. Anyone with one of these defective chairs should call the company for a repair kit to disable the zipper.

Another serious recall impacted in Massachusetts. Earlier in the year, Lane furniture renewed its recall of wooden cedar chests after two children in Franklin became trapped in one and suffocated. The children had apparently been playing hide-and-seek and became locked inside. The company first recalled the chests in 1996, but millions of the defective chests are believed to still be in use without the necessary repair.

In the Massachusetts case, the children’s family is believed to have bought the used chest at a second-hand store more than a decade ago. Second-hand sales are challenging to regulate, as are families and friends who pass along used products to each other. This makes it important to know the characteristics of an unsafe product as well as specific products which have been recalled.

Buy age-appropriate. Read the age recommendation on toys and children’s products. Consider a child’s family. If you are buying for a child with younger siblings, buy something which is safe for all ages in the household.

Be careful buying online. After a product is recalled, it is against the law to sell it in stores or online. But some auction and online listing websites do not police private sellers closely. Avoid these sites when holiday shopping for children.

If you purchase through a merchant website such as Amazon.com, make sure you receive the right product and that it has the same age appropriate label and pieces as shown online.

Beware of suffocation and choking hazards. Avoid balloons, marbles and toys with small pieces which children can put in their mouth. Also avoid small magnets. Remember these things come with many toys, but they also come from other gifts and products that enter a home. For instance, the magnet desk sets which were so popular many years ago for adults turned out to be extremely dangerous for children. In some cases with the Buckyball magnet sets (which have been recalled), children found small magnets years after families brought the set into their home in hard-to-reach places, such as under a couch. Our point is: Please consider every gift carefully.
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20141111_airbag.jpgLong before the deaths and injuries, Takata knew its airbags were defective, according to two former employees of the company.

In fact, Takata knew about the defects as far back as 2004, the workers told The New York Times. The Japanese company learned one of its airbags exploded and sent metal debris spewing at a driver in Alabama, then began secret testing at its U.S. headquarters in Michigan. The testing was conducted outside normal work hours and was never disclosed until now. Three months into testing, employees began to theorize the problem was the welding on the airbag’s inflator canister, but the investigation was shut down and employees were instructed to destroy all testing data.

It took Takata four years to report the faulty airbags in a regulatory filing. In November 2008, the first Takata airbags were recalled.