Children's Clothing Hazards & Related Products Liability Lawsuits
Parents usually look for clothing that will be comfortable for their children, perhaps also taking into account factors such as price, appearance, and the child’s age. However, they may not always think about safety hazards. The federal Consumer Product Safety Commission has addressed potential risks posed by children’s clothing as part of its children’s product safety rules. For example, children’s sleepwear above size 9 months and up to size 14 must pass flammability tests, or must be tight fitting as defined by the CPSC. Hood and neck drawstrings on children’s upper outerwear in sizes 2T to 12 are considered a substantial product hazard due to the risk of strangulation. Waist and bottom drawstrings on children’s upper outerwear also may present a substantial product hazard if they do not meet certain requirements.
In addition, clothing must meet lead content and surface coating limits. The total lead content requirement (100 parts per million limit) applies to parts of clothing such as buttons, snaps, and zippers, although not to components that are not accessible to a child. The lead in surface coating requirement (90 parts per million limit) applies to parts such as painted buttons, painted zippers, and screen prints.
Recalls of Children’s Clothing
A company that finds out that certain clothing does not meet safety standards or otherwise poses a hazard likely will issue a recall. Parents should stop using clothing that is subject to a recall.
Claims Based on Defective Children’s Clothing
Manufacturers and sellers of clothing have a responsibility to provide consumers with safe products. Sometimes, though, they may cut corners in the interest of maximizing profits. Parents may have legal recourse if their child suffers harm because their clothing had a defect that made it unsafe. A violation of a safety standard will provide strong evidence that a defect existed.
Claims involving defective clothing fall into an area known as products liability. In contrast to plaintiffs in most personal injury cases, parents bringing a products liability lawsuit may not need to show that the defendant failed to exercise a certain degree of care. States generally impose strict liability on manufacturers and distributors of defective products. This requires a plaintiff only to identify a defect and trace their injuries to the defect. The three main types of product defects are:
Manufacturing defects: an error in the production of a particular item
Design defects: a flaw in the inherent design of a product line
Marketing/warning defects: inadequate instructions or warnings about safety risks associated with the product
If they can establish liability, parents can recover compensation for damages such as medical bills and the pain and suffering of their child. Sometimes a company may be liable for punitive damages as well as compensatory damages if its conduct was intentional, reckless, or otherwise highly culpable. Punitive damages are meant to punish a defendant and deter similar conduct. For example, punitive damages might be appropriate if a company did not issue a recall despite knowing that its clothing contained a defect that posed a safety risk. A company also might pay a penalty to the government for violating federal laws, but this is separate from damages in a civil lawsuit.
Products liability is a distinctive area of personal injury law, and these cases tend to be more complex than the average personal injury case. An attorney who is experienced in bringing products liability lawsuits may help parents improve their chances of getting a favorable settlement or judgment. Under the contingency fee arrangement commonly used in these cases, parents would not need to pay fees unless they get compensation. A percentage of this amount would be allocated to the attorney as their fee.
Weigh a Settlement Offer Carefully
A settlement of a personal injury case generally will involve a release of further claims against that defendant based on that injury. Thus, before they agree to an offer, parents should make sure that it adequately compensates their child and them.