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article imageToys 'R' Us ordered to pay $20.6M in wrongful death lawsuit

By Leigh Goessl     Oct 20, 2011 in Business
Salem - This week a Massachusetts jury has awarded a Colorado man $20.6 million in a wrongful death case heard in Salem Superior Court.
In the summer of 2006 Robin Aleo was visiting family in Andover, Mass. with her husband, Michael, and 18-month-old daughter. During their visit they had been swimming in the home's pool, which contained an inflatable slide. As Aleo was going down the slide, the slide bottomed out and she hit her head on the edge of the pool, sustaining serious injuries which included a broken neck.
According to the Eagle Tribune, Aleo's injuries were so severe that it that left her a quadriplegic and unable to breathe. A day later she was removed from life support.
Robin Aleo was only 29-years-old.
The pool slide had been purchased at Toys 'R' Us and was called the 'Toyquest Banzai' slide. The item was available both online and in-store for purchase. The product had been imported from China and did not comply with U.S. Federal safety standards; the product had never been tested by Toys 'R' Us either before or after import which is a violation of U.S. law.
According to the Tribune, "The product was tested for other product safety rules — and twice failed, once for containing lead in excess of federal limits — but not for compliance with the Consumer Product Safety Commission pool slide regulation, a former Toys "R" Us executive acknowledged during testimony."
It turns out the slide in question had been purchased on Amazon.com. According to court records, over 4,000 of this product were sold in the U.S. Toys 'R' Us opted to go to trial, whereas Amazon.com and SLB Toys USA settled with Michael Aleo out of court for undisclosed sums.
The Mass. trial lasted a week, but it took the jury less than an hour's time to reach a verdict. At the conclusion of deliberations, the plaintiff was awarded both compensatory and punitive damages in the wrongful death suit.
Aleo was not the first person to be injured from this particular brand of pool slide. Mark Grantham, a camp counselor in Missouri, was in a similar type of accident from this product. Grantham survived the accident, but sustained serious injuries including paralysis. His lawsuit against Walmart and the Chinese manufacturers is still pending, according to the Eagle Tribune report.
The Boston Globe reported attorney family attorney Ben Zimmerman, of Sugarman and Sugarman's law firm, said, "We are pleased that the jury recognized the dangerous and defective nature of the product, the extent of Toys R Us’ misconduct in importing and selling it, and the deep loss that was needlessly suffered by the Aleo family.
“Although nothing can bring Robin back, this award will help provide some security for the husband and daughter who lost her.”
More about toys r us, pool slide, Wrongful Death, Massachusetts, Toyquest Banzai
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