“Or . . . What Would Toys Be Like Without Trial Lawyers?”
This is another in my “what would life be like without trial lawyers?” (and jury trials) series. Glad everyone is enjoying it.
Choking hazards were the leading cause of Consumer Product Safety Commission Toy Recalls in 2009. Yet the millions of recalled toys may be just the tip of the iceberg. Many toys still on shelves barely make the CPSC standard for small pieces. Of particular danger are objects that are narrow in shape, such as toy nails or darts, because they can more easily cause suffocation. In 2007, at least two boys died after asphyxiating on soft darts from Chinese made toy guns. The toy’s importer refused to recall the gun. At least one other child died under the same circumstances before a lawsuit filed by families persuaded the retailer to put it off their shelves.
So what made the difference? What it talking? Was it an arbitrator without a jury? Was it conservative legislators? No, it was trial lawyers and juries, the civil justice system – the great equalizer – the balancer!
A “CSI” fingerprint examination kit, based on the hit CBS Show, allowed children to look for fingerprints with a special powder and brushes. The powder in questioned turned out to contain up to 5% asbestos, the stuff that causes lethal lung cancer. The alarm was sounded in November of 2007, but the toy’s manufacturer, CBS Consumer Products, decided to leave it on the shelves in anticipation of Christmas money. Rather than wait for the Consumer Product Safety Commission to negotiate a recall, the Asbestos Disease Awareness Organization filed a lawsuit to stop sales of the kit.
A trial lawyer, a lawsuit, a jury. Not government.
Over the last several years, toy manufacturers have increasingly used small, powerful magnets, creating a new category of deadly toys. These magnets can become lose and be swallowed by small children. Unlike other small objects, which are often passed through the body, magnets pose a unique risk because if two or more are swallowed, they attract one another through intestinal walls. This could result in pinched, blocked, twisted or perforated intestines. The effect is fast and devastating. Magnets quickly erode through the intestinal wall, spilling bacteria into the body and causing lethal blood poisoning and infection.
A family of a toddler who died after ingesting nine tiny magnets filed a lawsuit that prompted the Consumer Product Safety Commission to recall the dangerous toy and which raised awareness across the nation.
Did the government do it? No. Did the patent manufacturers voluntarily “do the right thing?” No. What did it? Trial lawyers and juries.
The danger most frequently encountered with toys is invisible, of course, even to the most watchful parent’s eye: lead contamination. Lead is the second most deadly house toxin in existence, after arsenic. No level of exposure to lead is safe. Every holiday season is marked by incidences of children being sickened by lead tainted toys. Most are still on shelves and allegedly pass toy manufacture’s internal tests. A series of lawsuits in the late 2000’s not only helped to remove lead tainted toys from the shelves, but also helped to establish quality assurance programs overseen by the courts.
What did it? Lawsuits by trial lawyers.
Conservative law makers and business interests lobby continuously that they “self-regulate” and “self-police,” and that lawyers, juries and the courts are no longer necessary. Do you believe that? Does that make sense? Don’t vote for candidates who espouse those beliefs. Vote for candidates who will protect the civil justice system, who will protect the right to a jury trial and will protect the ability of trial lawyer to make the country safer. To make you and your family safer. Because manufacturers don’t do it on their own.