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Children Swallow Super-Magnets

Children Swallow Super-Magnets

Thursday, March 7th, 2013

Dangerous Super Magnets

Karolina Turner, a minor under age 14, suffered extreme pain and became completely immobilized after swallowing 15 Buckyballs sometime in May or June 2012. Turner’s parents and doctors sought to discover the source of her increasing pain. During an attempt to perform a colonoscopy in August 2012, a doctor discovered magnets were blocking Turner’s upper gastrointestinal tract. She underwent emergency surgery to have the magnets removed.

The magnets are made of a rare-earth mineral known as neodymium. They are spherical in shape and are about 3 to 6mm in diameter; the most common are called Buckyballs, manufactured by New York City-based Maxfield & Oberton Holdings. When more than one magnet is swallowed, the magnets attempt to connect inside the body and when doing so, can tear holes in the esophagus, stomach, and bowel, often resulting in complications and the need for surgery.

The high-powered magnets were first sold to consumers in 2008. Generally marketed as adult toys, they were labeled for use by children 13 and older. In May 2010, the Consumer Product Safety Commission and Maxfield & Oberton announced a cooperative recall of 175,000 magnet sets because of the 13-plus label: Federal standards require that 14 is the cutoff age for those sales. Maxfield & Oberton changed the label to comply with federal standards.

Despite the new labels and recall, the Consumer Product Safety Commission received increased reports of ingestion-related injuries: In 2009, only one incident was reported, but seven were reported in 2010 and 14 through October 2011. In November 2011, the Consumer Product Safety Commission issued a safety alert that the high-powered magnets were dangerous to children.

Last summer, the Consumer Protection Safety Commission requested a voluntary recall and halt on sales of the magnets, and while 11 of 13 manufacturers and importers complied Maxfield & Oberton and Zen Magnets, the Denver-based company that markets its namesake product both refused. Their refusals prompted the Consumer Protection Safety Commission to file administrative complaints against both companies in July and August, essentially requesting a mandatory recall.

The agency, which rarely files administrative complaints, alleges that the products are defective in their design, packaging, warning labels, and instructions. The Consumer Protection Safety Commission claims that the magnets “pose a substantial risk of injury to the public” and has asked an administrative law judge to order both companies to cease sales, notify the public of the defect, and offer consumers a refund.
The agency also issued a notice of proposed rulemaking in September that would ban the sale of the high-powered magnets by setting performance requirements for magnet sets based on size and strength; those that do not meet these requirements could not be sold.

Maxfield & Oberton responded with an aggressive public relations campaign. Using the slogan “Save Our Balls,” the company argues that federal agencies have gone overboard with regulation.

Turner and her parents sued Wonder Works, the South Carolina-based manufacturer, and Maxfield & Oberton for negligence, negligent hiring and misrepresentation, breach of warranty, products liability, and violation of the South Carolina unfair trade practices law in the sale, marketing, and distribution of Buckyballs, an allegedly defective and unsafe product. They seek compensatory and punitive damages and specifically allege Maxfield & Oberton disregarded public safety when it continued to market the product despite the CPSC’s repeated warnings and demand for a recall. Mary Firmin, a Louisiana woman, filed a similar products liability lawsuit against Maxfield & Oberton on behalf of her daughter in late 2012.

Amid growing complaints and safety concerns, Maxfield & Oberton ceased Buckyballs sales on Dec. 19, 2012. Less than two weeks later, the company announced it was going out of business and setting up a liquidation trust in anticipation of claims.

If you or a loved one has been harmed by dangerous toys or in or around Newburgh, Poughkeepsie, Kingston, Middletown, New Windsor, New Platz, New York, please contact Charles N. Rock to schedule a free personal injury consultation today.

Category: Personal Injury
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