A jury has awarded a family $20.6 million Massachusetts products liability verdict in their wrongful death case against Toys ‘R’ Us. Robin Aleo, 29, died in 2006 after she hit her head while sliding down a Banzai Falls, inflatable in-ground pool slide.
At the time, Aleo, her husband, and their 18-month daughter were attending
a pool party at a relatives’ home. As she went down head-first,
side bottomed out and she hit her head against the pool. Aleo broke her
neck, suffered a spinal cord injury that left her paralyzed, and lost
the ability to breathe on her own. Meantime, her toddler watched as she
was rescued, unconscious, from the pool. Aleo died one day after the swimming accident.
The pool had been purchased from the giant toy retailer through Amazon.com.
During theMassachusetts defective products trial, jurors were told that
Bureau Veritas, the company that Toys “R” Us works with in
China to test products for safety, was never instructed to see whether
the pool slide complied with US safety regulations. The slide failed tests
to see whether it contained excessive levels of lead twice.
The toy retailer’s attorneys argued that federal regulations don’t
apply to inflatable slides, which meant that Toys ‘R’ Us didn’t
have to test the Banzai Falls slide for regulation compliance. They also
contended that Aleo got hurt because she tried to dive off the slide.
Federal Safety Standards for All Pool Slides
Pool slides must be able to hold 350 pounds without giving way. Slides
must also be tested for safety for “head-first sliding.” According
to one expert witness for the plaintiff, the Banzai slide cannot support
any load because as one goes down the slide, shifting the weight, someone
is going down it displaces the air at the bottom.
The jury awarded Aleo’s family $18 million in punitive damages,
$2.5 million in future lost income that she would have made had she lived
and other damages, and $100,000 for the pain and suffering she experienced
from the inflatable pool slide accident leading to her death. Amazon.com
and slide manufacturer SLB Toys USA were also defendants in the family’s
Massachusetts wrongful death case. They have, however, already settled
with the family.
If you were injured by a defective product, depending on the specifics
of your case, you may be able to pursue products liability damages from
not just the manufacturer, but also the retailer, wholesaler, distributor,
or supplier–any parties that may have played a role in the product’s
chain of distribution, which is the route the product takes from the manufacturer
to the customer. When suing a retailer for products liability, you don’t
have to have been the one to buy the product. You may not have even been
the person actually using the product that caused your injury. Do not
be intimidated even if the retailer is a large corporation.
Massachusetts jury awards $20 million verdict in lawsuit over inflatable
pool slide, Washington Post, October 16, 2011
$20.6M award in pool slide death Toys “R” Us liable in sale,
Eagle Tribune, October 15, 2011
Defective Product Liability Claims: Who to Sue?, Nolo
Pool Slides, Consumer Watch
More Blog Posts:
More Than 1500 Drowning Deaths Reported This Season, Product Liability
Law Blog, September 24, 2011
Inflatable Pools Pose Significant Drowning Risk to Young Children, Says
American Academy of Pediatrics, Product Liability Law Blog, July 13, 2011
Mother Files $12.5M Oregon Child Injury Lawsuit After Daughter Nearly
Drowns in Pool, Product Liability Law Blog, March 9, 2011