Defective toys lead to federal lawsuit
The United States Department of Justice recently filed a product liability lawsuit in federal court against Toys Distribution Inc., BLI Apparel Inc., All Seasons Sales Inc. and S&J Merchandise Inc., as well as six of the owners and managers of the companies. The charges allege that the companies imported toys marketed for children under the age of three that included small parts constituting a choking hazard. In addition, many of the products contained high levels of lead and phthalates, which are suspected to disrupt hormone activity and cause severe health problems. These dangerous substances are banned in the U.S. and violate the Federal Hazardous Substances Act and the Consumer Product Safety Act.
The Consumer Product Safety Commission has documented numerous violations by these companies since 2008. The suit is an effort on the part of prosecutors to avoid further violations and prevent the sale of the products in stores in Illinois and other states. Five of the defendants have agreed to settlements, but litigation against the other five continues.
Shipment screenings reveal millions of tainted children’s products
The discovery of many of the infractions these companies committed came as the result of a new risk assessment methodology developed by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, or CPSC. The assessment tool represents an attempt to increase the safety of imported products, and helps officials screen thousands of high-risk shipments of retail merchandise at U.S. ports of entry between October of 2012 and March of 2013.
The CPSC and U.S. Customs and Border Protection have identified approximately 6.1 million units of hazardous products since the implementation of its new process. This number includes 1.2 million units of defective toys.
Government safety regulations protect consumers
It is the responsibility of every company to ensure that federal and state product safety regulations are met before merchandise is imported and distributed. The enhanced surveillance program has already prevented many products from becoming available to consumers, and it is slated for continued expansion through 2015. Future funding will come from the federal budget, as well as an import user fee. Lawsuits such as the one still pending against Toy Distribution Inc. send a zero tolerance message to companies while protecting the end consumer from damages.
Products that do not meet government standards still occasionally reach store shelves in spite of the improved vigilance. Any Illinois family with a child who has sustained injuries from a defective toy should seek the support of a personal injury attorney who can provide assistance in navigating the legal system.