Rash of Holiday Toy Recalls Show Hidden Product Defect Threats
Christmas toys are an industry unto themselves, allowing behemoth retailers like Toys R’ Us and F.A.O. Schwartz to ouster Santa Claus and his elves as the gatekeepers of holiday mirth. Year after year, toy makers save their best ideas for dramatic unveiling in the weeks leading up to the holiday shopping season, and the goodies fill the spectrum from the frugal to the fanciful and from the miniature to the monstrous. But every year families from Las Vegas to Reno keep a nervous eye on reports of Nevada toy recalls related to unsafe or defective children’s toys. As 2010 comes to a close, we see that this year has been no different.
Most remarkable about this year’s toy recalls is their variety. There are certainly the usual suspects — small pieces that come loose and pose choking hazards, and clothing items that can cause strangulation — but there have also been some unusual threats. The loose-part-ingestion phenomenon has been complicated this year by one toy that features small magnetic bits; if a child swallows these powerful magnets they can actually disrupt body chemistry. Some rocking horses and other toys with reins or loops have been recalled due to a strangulation risk posed by the size of the loop. Also, several cheaply produced flashlights and battery-operated toys can melt due to circuitry failures, creating a risk of burn injury.
A line of bath toys was scrutinized because, in one item, a structural wire could become exposed and pose a risk of laceration. This example highlights the toy companies’ concerns about injuries caused by defective products: in addition to bearing liability for the immediate injury (say, a cut or laceration), the companies could also be held responsible for the secondary and tertiary impacts of the problem, such as if a cut became infected and required surgery or even amputation due to gangrene.
Even though Nevada defective product recalls are an annual reality, the defects in question are related to the engineering idiosyncracies of the products in question; in fact, with the number and variety of toys growing year after year, it may be the case that the rate at which toys prove defective or dangerous is shrinking. However, some of the product recalls this year suggest a harmful trend. This shopping season has taken place amidst diminished consumer power and increased wariness among those feeling short on cash. As a result there has been a strong downward pressure on prices generally, which manifests at the other end of the supply chain as weaker quality controls. Many of these mass-produced toys come from China, where environmental and product input controls are some of the weakest in the world. Perhaps this explains a rash of startling toy recalls based on the chemicals used in the items: excessive levels of cadmium and lead, for instance, can pose chronic health effects such as cancer or brain damage.
Fortunately, we are privileged to live in a country with a baffling array of toys and gift items that are mostly safe. Moreover, we have regulatory agencies that monitor the safety of consumer products and alert us about those that are potentially dangerous. Nonetheless, if you or a loved one have been injured by a defective product or have concerns about risk due to a recalled toy or consumer product, call our Las Vegas product liability attorney today for a free consultation.