Choking Risks for Children & Related Products Liability Lawsuits
Choking is one of the most common causes of injury and death for small children, especially those under three years old. This occurs when an object gets caught in a child’s throat and obstructs their airway. Certain types of food can pose choking risks, especially round and firm foods such as hot dogs, grapes, popcorn, nuts, candy, and raw vegetables. Parents should supervise their children during meals and should cut the food of small children into manageable chunks. They also should prevent a child from moving around or lying down with food in their mouth. If some of their children are older than others, they should make sure that their older children do not give inappropriate food to their younger siblings.
However, food is not the only choking hazard. Other objects that may get lodged in a small child’s throat include coins, pen caps, button batteries, marbles, balls, and small toys or detachable parts of toys. Parents should not let children play with these objects or with similarly small household objects. Many toys and other child products come with age recommendations and safety warnings. Parents should read and heed these advisories, even if they think that their child is mature enough to refrain from swallowing a small object. They also may want to learn how to conduct cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) in case a child has a choking incident.
Small Parts Test Devices
Some toy stores and other stores that sell children’s products may provide tubes or other devices to test whether an object is too small for a young child. If an object fits into the tube, it is too small.
Lawsuits Arising From Choking Incidents
Sometimes choking occurs because a parent failed to properly supervise a child while they were eating or playing. In other cases, a manufacturer of a product that caused choking may bear at least some of the responsibility. For example, the manufacturer might have failed to provide adequate age advisories or safety instructions for the use of a child product. This is known as a marketing or warning defect, or a failure to warn. Or a flaw in the design or manufacturing of a product might cause a small part to break off, which a child might put in their mouth.
Parents can hold a manufacturer strictly liable for a defect in its product, regardless of how much care the manufacturer used in designing or making it, or in providing warnings. This can allow them to recover compensation for the injuries that their child suffered, such as the medical costs of responding to an emergency and providing follow-up care that may be needed. Choking may cause significant distress to a child as well. Parents may be able to recover damages for pain and suffering and other intangible harm that their child endured.
Consult an Attorney
Sometimes responsibility for a choking incident may not be immediately obvious. Parents may want to talk to an attorney about whether a manufacturer may be liable. Products liability attorneys generally offer free consultations at which they can evaluate a potential claim.
When a manufacturer finds out that its product poses a hazard, it usually will issue a recall. Parents should immediately stop using a product subject to a recall, even if it has not caused any problems. If a manufacturer fails to issue a recall after it discovers a safety risk, and a child suffers injuries as a result, parents may be able to pursue punitive damages as well as compensatory damages. Punitive damages are designed to punish a manufacturer that engaged in serious wrongdoing, and to deter other manufacturers from similarly disregarding consumer safety.
Most products liability lawsuits result in a settlement rather than going to trial. However, parents should carefully consider whether a settlement offer is adequate before accepting it. A settlement usually involves a release of any claims against the defendant. This means that parents cannot get more compensation for their child’s injuries later. An attorney can advise parents on whether an offer is reasonable, based on their experience in similar cases.