There has been a significant amount of press about recalls of toys that contain illegal levels of lead paint. These recalls have hit a chord with the public, because it underscores the fact that products for our children made by even the most well known companies are being manufactured in China without appropriate oversight. Obviously, any toys that are subject to the recall should be returned. However, if the paint is not removed from the toy, generally there is no substantial danger. The litigation related to lead paint cases generally involved children that were exposed to homes and buildings that had deteriorating paint or paint that was intentionally scraped off during construction, so that its particles were inhaled by the children. Thus, hopefully these toys will not ultimately cause any significant personal injury to young children.
However, the fact that so many of these potentially dangerous products are coming from 3rd world countries, underscores how important it is that States like Florida have civil laws to protect consumers from defective products. The claims are often referred to as “Strict Liability”, which holds the manufacturer or seller of a product liable for a defective product. A product may be considered “defective” if it does not meet consumers expectations, if the dangers outweigh the benefits, or if the product is deemed unreasonably dangerous. Unfortunately there are many manufacturers abroad, and in the United States that lack the resources to pay for catastrophic injuries caused by their defective products. In Florida, as mentioned above, the retailer, and or supplier are also liable for a defective product. For example, it determined that Wal-Mart sold defective product that severely injured a child, but the manufacturer was located in China, the law would allow a victim to hold Wal-Mart accountable for the damage caused by the defective product it sold. Unfortunately, many states do not hold sellers and distributors liable under these circumstances.
The lead paint recalls should be a wake-up call to the public that while this global world has become smaller with the advent of technology, there is tremendous difficulty in compelling manufacturers outside the United States (and inside the Untied States) to meet minimum safety standards, and it is critical that we have a civil justice system to hold all parties in the chain of commerce responsible for damage caused by defective products. Otherwise, our children will be at even a greater risk of danger.