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Safer Children: Jury System Helps Make Toys Safer

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You probably know that there are more lawsuits regarding children’s toys than there were a generation ago. Maybe you’ve seen recalls of cadmium-tainted jewelry, or information about dangerous car seats. Do you blame overly litigious parents? A new report suggests that, in fact, toys are much less safe, and cause many more injuries than a generation ago, so before we blame parents, let’s look at the facts.

In 2008, more than 235,000 children were treated at U.S. emergency rooms for toy-related injuries, and at least 19 children died.

The American Association for Justice recently released a report highlighting a major shift over the last 30 years in toys: growing more complex, and causing more injuries. (Playing with Safety: Dangerous Toys and the Role of America’s Civil Justice System (pdf).) Moreover, almost 90% of our toys are imported from other countries. The fact is, toys are more dangerous, and causing more injuries:

Between 2004 and 2008, toy-related injuries increased 12 percent, and over the last 10 years, toy-related injuries have increased 54 percent.

This increase in the number of injuries to children every year has coincided with a marked increase in imported toys. The U.S. imports more than 30,000 tons of toys every year from foreign markets, accounting for 95 percent of toys sold.

This isn’t just the American Association for Justice talking, either. They cite a 2009 Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) report, the U.S. Census Bureau 2009 Annual Revision for U.S. International Trade in Goods and Services, and a 2009 U.S. Department of Commerce Industry Report.

One alarming trend is the increasing use of small magnets, which apparently can cause extreme injury—even death—when swallowed:

In early 2006, four-year-old Kyle Booke fell ill to a massive infection. He had swallowed magnets from a Magnetix set his grandmother had bought him for Christmas. The magnets tore open his intestines, spilling bacteria into his stomach and causing a massive infection. Doctors were forced to leave the wound open for nearly three weeks in order to vacuum infected material out of Kyle’s abdomen as he recovered. It was while he was in hospital that his mother first saw the news on a hospital television that Magnetix were being recalled.

The next time you are tempted to—or hear someone else—blame a "litigation culture” for our problems, remember these facts: more children, more seriously hurt, by increasingly foreign toys. Tort “reform” only makes it harder to force foreign manufacturers to take our children’s safety seriously.

What do you think? Are we better off with lower-priced, but less safe toys? Or demanding that manufacturers submit to our system of laws, and reducing child injuries and fatalities from toys?

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Tags: Unsafe toys, trial lawyers, jury, jury system, American Association for Justice, William Eadie, Spangenberg