Monday, October 17, 2011


Importers put on notice - again


The husband of a woman who apparently died following an accident on an untested inflatable pool slide was awarded US$20.6 million by a Salem (MA) Superior Court jury.

According to an article in The Salem News (, Toys "R" Us sold a Chinese-made Banzai Falls inflatable pool slide via Amazon. The 6-foot slide was installed in an in-ground pool.

The jury ruled that Toys "R" Us was responsible for the death five years ago of a 29-year-old wife and mother. Amazon and the slide's manufacturer, SLB Toys USA, settled with the survivors for an undisclosed amount.

Meanwhile, Wal-Mart and the Chinese manufacturer are being sued following a similar accident in Missouri that left a man a quadriplegic.

Court records note that more than 4,000 of the slides have been sold in the U.S.

Once again

Courts are holding importers and retailers responsible for the products they handle.

This is becoming a regular message in this blog space.

According to The Salem News article, Toys "R" Us apparently failed to have its Chinese testing company test the slide for compliance with U.S. safety rules. Toys "R" Us contended that the slide, since it is inflatable, did not need to be tested. Federal standards require testing.

The complete article can be read on The Salem News' Web site (ibid.).

The bottom line is that any business that touches a product that is blamed - no proof necessary - for causing death, injury, or financial loss (e.g., Chinese wall board) can find itself in court. Even if it prevails, there are both financial and reputational damages to overcome. It if loses, there can be - as in the Salem MA instance - hefty penalties.

There may not be any 100 percent protection, but if the organizations that "touch" the product perform "due diligence" and either test or confirm that another organization along the supply chain has tested the product for compliance to both federal and local laws, all organizations are at risk.

Will a 1-in-1000 unit sampling be sufficient?

In the case of the Banzai Fall, a 1:1000 sampling ratio would be considered insufficient. Perhaps 1:100 would be valid. In the specific Banzai Fall case, just one test to U.S. safety standards might have been sufficient to identify the problem that is alleged to have caused at least one death and one spinal cord injury. (The accident details are on the newspaper's Web site.)

With 4,000 units scattered around the U.S., and with multiple retailers (Wal-Mart, Toys "R" Us, and perhaps others), the importer would seem to have the greatest responsibility for testing. The courts, at least the one in Salem MA, apparently believe the retailer should bear the financial burden.

Even Amazon, which apparently only provided a link to the Toys "R" Us advertisement, ended up as a defendant in the Salem case.

If I wrote it, you may quote it

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