FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
July 9, 2018
Contact:Eric W. Boyer, Esq.
305.670.1101 Ext. 1023
QPWB GETS DEFENSE VERDICT ON PRODUCT LIABILITY $66 MILLION LAWSUIT CLAIM FOR DEFECTIVE WARNING AND DESIGN
Product Liability Defense
District Court, Jackson, Mississippi
JACKSON, Mississippi – Quintairos, Prieto, Wood & Boyer, P.A. (QPWB), David M. Tarlow, managing partner of the Fort Lauderdale office and William Grubbs, co-managing partner of the Tallahassee office, represented Maxfield & Oberton Holdings LLC, the manufacturer of Buckyballs, an adult desk toy that contained 216 small individual industrial strength spherical magnets. The intense magnetic properties of Buckyballs are so powerful that, if swallowed, they can pinch and perforate any tissue caught between them. When two or more magnets are ingested, they have a way of finding one another inside the intestines. When they catch a loop of intestine, the pressure leads to loss of blood supply, tissue rot, perforation – and potentially death. Over 100 reported and documented incidents of children were severely injured by the ingestion of rare earth magnets, including Buckyballs.
On March 9, 2011, Plaintiffs Meaghin and Jonathan Jordan purchased a set of Buckyballs and testified that they both read a warning contained on the packaging which they believed of only warning of a choking hazard and were unaware of any risk associated with the magnets causing severe intestinal damage if swallowed. The warning label, at the time of purchase, stated “for grownups” and contained a warning that states: “Do not put in nose or mouth. Swallowed magnets can stick to intestines causing serious injury or death. Seek immediate medical attention if magnets are swallowed or inhaled.”
On the night of April 2, 2012, Plaintiffs’ 22-month-old child Braylon began vomiting. Hospital x-rays revealed the child had ingested eight (8) Buckyballs magnets. Surgeons discovered that the Buckyballs magnets had perforated the child’s intestines and caused a massive infection in the peritoneal cavity. Within one week, three surgeries were performed and surgeons removed most of the small bowel and all but nine (9) centimeters of the small intestine. The child was placed in a medically induced coma for a month and eventually a priest was called in to administer last rights. The child survived, and within the next few months underwent numerous additional procedures to clean the wound, insert catheters, maintain an ostomy bag that was made, and to remove additional necrotic and infected tissue. Due to the removal of most of the small intestines, a PIC line was inserted to enable Total Parenteral Nutrition. Total Parenteral Nutrition is a method of feeding that bypasses the gastrointestinal tract. Fluids are given into a vein to provide most of the nutrients the body needs. The method is used when a person cannot or should not receive feedings or fluids by mouth. The child wears a backpack with an infusion pump and solution packet that feeds nutrients into his body 24 hours a day. He measures less than 1% on the growth chart for children his age and is limited in his play and activities. The child’s treatment, for the rest of his life, includes semi-annual enemas, sigmoidoscopies, colonoscopies, and other extremely intrusion procedures. The child will most probably need a liver, gallbladder, intestinal and bowel transplant in the future. Past medical bills are approximately $2.2 million and life care plan, unchallenged, total $40 – $45 million dollars.
Plaintiff filed a product liability lawsuit alleging defective warnings and defective design. The defective warning count was dismissed on the morning of trial. On the defective design count, Plaintiff alleged that Buckyballs was a children’s toy and therefore the magnetic strength violated federal ASTM standards. To make the argument Buckyballs was a children’s toy, evidence was introduced of marketing advertisements showing children playing with the Buckyballs and statements that Buckyballs were compared to “An Erector Set® that never stops erecting; a Hula-Hoop® you don’t look ridiculous playing with; Silly Putty® that isn’t silly; cram it all in a jar, tum the fun up to 11, and you’ve got Buckyballs!” The CEO of Buckyballs was quoted in the media: “We coulda been a Leggo®! We coulda been a Rubik’s® Cube!” Plaintiffs further introduced evidence from the Consumer Product Safety Commission which found that while intended for adults, Buckyballs should be considered a children’s toy as it would appeal to an age group of 8-9 year olds.
After 10 trial days, Plaintiffs asked the jury to return a verdict of $66 million dollars and then were prepared to argue punitive damages. A jury of eight, after two and one half hours of deliberations, returned a defense verdict finding Buckyballs was not defective.
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David M. Tarlow is the managing partner of the Fort Lauderdale office. He is an expert in civil litigation and is Board Certified in Civil Trial Law by the Florida Bar Board of Legal Education and Specialization. His practice includes all aspects of insurance and general liability defense, product liability, wrongful death, personal injury defense, premise liability, automobile liability, negligent security, legal malpractice, and insurance coverage disputes and bad faith litigation.
William Grubbs is co-managing partner of the Tallahassee office and focuses his practice on insurance defense, mass tort litigation, catastrophic and/or traumatic liability claims, medical malpractice and nursing home defense litigation, and entertainment law.
Quintairos, Prieto, Wood & Boyer, P.A., is the largest minority and women owned law firm in the nation with more than 370 lawyers serving clients from 21 offices in the United States and abroad across a spectrum of industries in over 40 areas of practice. Our lawyers provide representation in litigation, business, real estate and governmental law.