Buckyballs Attract Another Lawsuit

By: Michael Seinberg

If the stroller you bought for your child is recalled due to safety concerns, what do you do? Get it replaced or repaired as quickly as possible. If you get a letter from the maker of your car that there has been a recall of your model, what do you do? You take it into the dealer and have the issue dealt with. However, while this reaction to recalls may seem like common sense, that appears to have slipped the minds of Dr. Raymond Turner IV and his wife Magdalena.

The Turners bought a set of Buckyballs magnets for their older daughter around September 2010. Then things got murky. The Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) issued a recall for the rare earth magnets in May of 2010 – before the Turners bought them. Between 2009 and 2011 about 1,700 children who swallowed the strangely tasty magnets had to be treated in emergency rooms all around the US. Just a note here folks, Dr. Turner is listed as a neurological surgeon who also practices vascular and interventional radiology in Charleston, SC. Seemingly a pretty bright guy.

So he and the wife buy their older daughter a box of 216 of these little tasty treats and their younger daughter, Karolina manages to wolf down 15 of the little buggers in May/June of 2012, a good two years after the recall. The magnets caused her to become “completely immobilized” (stuck to a metal surface?) and she had to undergo abdominal surgery after a colonoscopy noted, “Something metallic and magnetic blocking Karolina’s upper GI tract.”

Rather than be happy that their daughter came through this OK and admit that they should have noted the recall, or that the product had warning labels to keep away from younger children,, the good doctor and his wife chose to sue Maxfield & Oberton Holdings, the distributor of Buckyballs. They are demanding compensatory damages, punitive damages, court costs for negligence, negligent hiring, breach of warranty, product liability, and unfair trade.

They feel the fault is all on the company, not themselves for leaving a potentially dangerous product within reach of a young child even after a recall and lots of publicity. Listen to what the release from the CPSC said: “The press release warned that ‘[Buckyballs] found by young children can be swallowed or aspirated. If more than one magnet is swallowed, the magnets can attract each other and cause intestinal perforations or blockages, which can be fatal,'” according to the complaint.

The Turners even suggest that the company waged a public campaign to downplay the danger and cast doubt on the CPSC findings, so obviously this is a great reason  to keep them with your unsupervised toddler. I suppose if little Karolina brought home a set of lawn darts the parents wouldn’t get rid of them until she popped the tires on the Lexus or nailed the family pet to the deck.

The bottom line is that if a parent gets a fair warning of danger and fails to act on it in a timely manner, it’s more than a little ridiculous to blame the maker of a product that is not inherently dangerous if used properly (the box is covered in warnings noting that Buckyballs are not for use by children). Once again, an inability to take responsibility will affect us all with court costs, increased liability insurance and greater difficulty finding powerful magnets and lawn darts.

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