Is Your Baby’s Toy a Toxic Hazard?

Monday, March 27, 2017

Is Your Baby’s Toy a Toxic Hazard?

Written by Malman Law, reviewed by Steve J. Malman.

Chicago Injury Attorney Informs About Toxic Toy Hazards

Whether your child has received a flurry of new toys for the holidays, or you are just picking up a few new toys from a local garage sale – buyer beware. There are several instances where toys marketed for children (including infants) have tested positive for chemicals and other toxins that are harmful to young ones.

Contrary to popular belief, just because a toy is on the shelves of your favorite toy store and marketed for your child does not mean it is safe. It also does not say that the retailer has ensured it is safe. Sometimes, a toy is a hazard without even having harmful toxins – for example, if the toy is a strangulation hazard.

Regardless, manufacturers are required to produce toys that are safe, and they must be aware of any foreseeable harm before releasing their product. When manufacturers fail to do so, they could be held liable under product liability law.

What Are Potential Toy Hazards Out There?

In 2012, the United States Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) reported 11 deaths related to toys, and there were 265,000 injuries associated with toys. Most of these toy-related fatalities involved drowning or suffocation, while the injuries involved lacerations or bruises.

Accidents like these are tragic, and children should be able to play with their toys safely. At the same time, parents should be able to purchase toys confidently, and not worry if that toy is a toxic or safety hazard for their child.

Some of the common hazards associated with these injury-prone toys include:

  • Cords and Strings: Any time a toy has a cord or string attached, it is a strangulation hazard for small children. Parents should remove any toys from their young child’s bin if they have a cord, ribbon, loop, or long string. Also, any toys that go in the crib with the baby or toddler should be free of strangulation hazards.
  • Sharp Edges: A surprising number of toys have sharp edges. Any toy given to a child eight years or younger should not be easily broken to expose sharp edges of plastic, and they should not be made from glass.
  • Small Components: Small components to a toy, including those that may easily break off, are a choking hazard for children under the age of three. Parents must look for warning labels regarding potential choking hazards, and not give those toys to their younger children.
  • Noises: A toy that creates a loud noise could damage a young one’s hearing. When using loud noised-toys, do not let them be any less than a foot from the child’s ears.
  • Propelling Toys and Objects: Toys that shoot arrows, darts, or other objects should never have sharp points. They may injure a child’s eye, cause bruising, and more.
  • Sharp Points: Toys for children under eight should never have any sharp points that may cut, stab, or penetrate the skin. Sharp wires, for example, could break loose from a toy and cut a child or harm the eye.
  • Electric Toys: Electric toys should be kept from younger children. First, a younger child may be inclined to chew on the electric wires. Second, a toy could cause electrical burns to a young child.
  • Infant Toy Caution: Some toys designed for infants still have small parts or cheaply made components that break off easily. Parents must inspect any toy given to an infant for these small components that may break off in the child’s mouth and lead to choking.

The Risk of Toxic Hazards in Toys

Several outlook agencies have found toxins and harmful chemicals in children’s toys, but there has been limited government intervention with these toys.

Some of the chemicals found in children’s toys have been associated with cancer, fertility problems, thyroid malfunctions, development delays and complications, and brain damage. Some have led to lower IQs in young children. In some studies, toxins found in children’s toys include:

  • Lead
  • Cadmium, Mercury, Arsenic, and Bromine
  • PVC Plastic

Liability and Compensation from Injuries and Illnesses Caused by Dangerous Toys

Most toys on the toy store shelves are safe; therefore, parents should by no means assume that all toys pose a risk to their child. However, there is a high number of children who are injured each year because of toys, and these are only the numbers that the government gathers from reports. There are likely to be hundreds more since not all injuries are reported or seen at emergency rooms.

The most common injuries reported with toys include:

  • Lacerations
  • Contusions
  • Abrasions
  • Bone fractures
  • Puncture wounds
  • Suffocation
  • Strangulation
  • Burns
  • Chemical poisoning

Some of these injuries occur because children are not supervised properly, or they are given a toy that is inappropriate for their age – such as letting a toddler play with small building block toys. Other times, the injuries occur because parents fail to follow manufacturer instructions.

There are also serious injuries associated with toys that are defective or inherently dangerous, and manufacturers failed to test these toys properly to assess their risk to children. Some manufacturers, to save money and lower the cost of their products, have switched to overseas manufacturing plants or purchasing discount materials that contain high levels of toxic chemicals. Also, when toys are produced or assembled in a third-world country that does not have the same quality standards, the toy could be dangerous.

What Can You Do if Your Child is Injured by a Dangerous Toy?

Toy injuries due to defective toys fall under the theory of product liability. In a product liability claim, the plaintiff alleges that the toy was defectively designed or manufactured, or did not contain the proper warning labels to indicate there was a risk or hazard to children using that toy.

Regardless of how the child’s injuries were caused, the basis for the claim will fall on the negligence of the manufacturer, designer, assembly company, distributor, or retail store that sold the defective product.

The Essentials of a Product Liability Claim

For a product liability claim to be successful, there are certain elements that your attorney must prove to the court, including:

  • The product was defective in some way. This may be a defect that occurred on certain batches of toys during assembly, or the entire design of the product was defective and inherently dangerous.
  • The manufacturer’s negligence led to the defective toy. Perhaps the manufacturer should have known there was a risk, or the manufacturer was aware that a batch of defective toys were shipped and sold without warning the public. Regardless, the manufacturer must have some form of negligence. Sometimes, strict liability applies.
  • The negligence and defect was the direct cause of the child’s injury. Your attorney must prove that your child’s injuries were the result of the defective toy and not another reason.
  • The injury resulted in damages. Sometimes, an injury is very minor and does not result in damages. For example, a few scrapes treated with a quick bandage at home are not something that generate damages. However, if your child suffered an emergency room visit, required stitches, or suffered from toxic chemical exposure, these are all significant events that would certainly create financial damages.

It is not enough that a child suffers an injury. Instead, your child’s injuries must be severe enough to result in damages.

Assessing the Theory of Strict Liability

There is an exception to the legal burden on the plaintiff for product liability claims. This approach is known as strict liability. Under strict liability, you do not have to prove negligence. Instead, you only must prove that there was a defect and the defect caused your child’s injuries.

How Does Strict Liability Work?

Showing a toy’s hazards can be obvious, while other times your attorney must hire experts to prove to the court that the toy is dangerous – even when used properly. If the court feels that the design of the product is clearly hazardous, then you will not have to spend much time proving that it was hazardous.

An example would be lead poisoning from toys. Say a child had a set of miniature toys and had played with those toys for several weeks. The cars were metal and painted in different colors. After a few weeks, the child began showing symptoms of irritability, nausea, and vomiting. After being assessed at the hospital, it was revealed that the child had severe lead poisoning.

It turns out that the toys the child had been playing with used a lead-based paint. By putting the cars in the mouth, the child ingested lead without knowing so. In this case, the parents could sue the manufacturer on strict liability. It was clear that the cars were dangerous, because they contained lead paint, a known toxin. This danger is indefensible by the manufacturer; therefore, the court would likely agree that strict liability applies.

There May be Other Defendants in a Product Liability Case

Often, product liability cases become more complex because there are typically multiple defendants that may be listed in the lawsuit. For example, the retail store that sold the defective toy could be held liable. After all, retailers are also required to do everything possible to ensure the products they sell and market for children are safe.

Retailers should conduct research on manufacturers before accepting their products for their stores. If they do not research the products they are selling, they too are negligent.

Another party may be the company responsible for assembling the toy. While the manufacturer could be a United States-based company, their subsidiary could be in another state or country and is responsible for assembling. While the manufacturer would take the brunt of the blame for not overseeing the assembly plant’s quality, the assembly plant could also be held liable in the lawsuit.

How Your Attorney Can Help

An attorney’s role in a product liability claim is very complex, but with the assistance of an attorney you are more likely to receive compensation and have a successful outcome. When your child suffers serious injuries because of a toy’s defect, it is imperative that you contact an attorney as soon as possible.

Just some of the items your attorney can assist you with include:

  • Reaching out to the manufacturer. Your attorney may reach out to the manufacturer directly, letting them know about the hazard and the injuries your child suffered.
  • Reaching out to government agencies. If there is a history of complaints or injuries associated with that product, there could be public warnings, recalls, or reports with one of the many oversight agencies. Therefore, your attorney may pull any reports to see what claims are pending already.
  • Filing an official lawsuit. After conducting background research, your attorney will gather the evidence needed as a basis for filing the official lawsuit with the courts.

Hire an Advocate for Your Child’s Injuries Today

If your child was injured by a defective product, contact the attorneys at Malman Law today. Our team is here to represent your rights and hold manufacturers responsible for their negligence. Schedule a consultation today with our attorneys by calling us or requesting your appointment online.

Steve Malman

Malman Law’s founder Attorney Steven Malman has over 30 years of experience handling personal injury, nursing home, medical malpractice, truck accidents, car accidents, premises liability, construction, and workers’ compensation cases in Chicago, IL.

Years of experience: +30 years
Justia Profile: Steve Malman
Illinois Registration Status: Active and authorized to practice law—Last Registered Year: 2024

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This page has been written, edited, and reviewed by a team of legal writers following our comprehensive editorial guidelines. This page was approved by President and Founder, Steven J. Malman who has more than 20 years of legal experience as a personal injury attorney.

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