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Product Liability and Dangerous Toys in California

With summer quickly approaching kids are more likely to spend time outdoors. Studies show that toy-related injuries are more likely to happen in the summer months. In fact, every three minutes a child sustains an injury while playing with a toy. To prevent dangerous toy injuries in our children, it is important to understand the manufacturer recommendations and watch children closely while they play. If your child has been injurd, there are legal options you can pursue.

Toy companies are required to test and certify any products intended for use by children under 13 years of age. The toy safety standards imposed by the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) are intended to hold toy manufacturers to a higher standard. The CPSC standards impose increased safety standards to reduce the potential for exposure to dangerous chemicals, increased testing requirements, and limit products that may be imported from outside of the country. Despite these rigorous standards, emergency rooms report seeing upwards of 180,000 toy-related injuries each year.

Dangerous Toy Injuries

Toys that fail to meet rigorous safety standards have the potential to inflict serious harm on a child. Injuries that may result from a dangerous toy include:

  • Cuts and lacerations;
  • Bruising;
  • Fractures;
  • Punctures;
  • Blindness;
  • Burns;
  • Strangulation;
  • Suffocation;
  • Brain damage;
  • Internal organ damage;
  • Digestive problems;
  • Learning disabilities;
  • Choking; and
  • Death.

While oversight groups do their best to reduce the number of dangerous toys on the market, it is still possible for them to slip through unnoticed.

Dangerous Toy Liability in California

Companies who manufacture toys intended for children have a special, elevated level of responsibility to families who purchase those toys. They must put the health and well-being of a potential child user first, and ensure that the product is designed, manufactured, labeled, and sold properly. Failure to adhere to these heightened requirements could leave them vulnerable to product liability lawsuits from injured families.

In California, toy manufacturers and retailers may be held liable for unsafe toys. Interestingly, this includes companies such as McDonalds or Wendy’s who may include toys in meals marketed for children. Families with children who sustain an injury while playing with a dangerous toy may have legal recourse on one of the following grounds.

Negligence

A family may pursue a product liability lawsuit on the grounds of negligence if they can prove:

  • The manufacturer had a duty to the child;
  • The manufacturer breached this duty; and
  • The breach caused an injury to the child.

For example, the use of lead-based paint in the United States is not the problem it one was, years ago. However, companies still import parts or utilize cheaper materials to save costs. If these cost-cutting efforts are not carefully monitored it is possible to use harmful materials in the manufacture of toys intended for children. Children are notorious for sticking things in their mouths, and if those toys are coated in lead-based paint they can suffer serious injuries. A company utilizing harmful materials in the creation of their toys may be liable to a lawsuit on the grounds of negligence.

Defect

A family may pursue a product liability lawsuit on the grounds of a defect if a child was injured as the result of a manufacturing or design defect.

Manufacturing Defect: a flaw or defect resulting from the manufacturing and/or assembly of the toy.
Design Defect: an inherently dangerous flaw or defect resulting from the design of the toy.
Failure to Warn

A family may pursue a product liability lawsuit on the grounds of failure to warn if a child was injured by a toy that was improperly labeled, did not have instructions for proper use, or which lacked safety warnings. In marketing toys to children, it is incredibly important to state the age for which the product is intended. Failure to do so could lead to serious injuries if a child younger than is appropriate uses the product.

Strict Liability

California imposes a theory of strict liability on manufacturers. This means that plaintiffs are not required to prove negligence caused an injury. Rather, they must only prove that a defect – whether in manufacturing, design, or marketing – exists and caused the injury.

What You Can Do If Your Child Has Been Injured By a Defective Toy

Injuries resulting from dangerous toys can be significant. If your child was injured while playing with a dangerous toy, you should contact an attorney to learn about your legal rights and options. It is important to note that there are certain time limits for when you may sue a manufacturer for a dangerous toy injury, ranging from between two to ten years.  

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