Our firm recently settled an action brought on behalf of a four year-old child that was seriously injured when he ingested the magnetic parts of a Magnetix-brand building set. The terms of the settlement are confidential.
The Magnetix X-treme Combo is a modern day tinker-toy like building set where parts are attached together by magnets imbedded in the ends of plastic pieces of varying sizes. The toys were advertised as appropriate for children from the age of “3 to 100.” They were manufactured and distributed by Rose Art and sold to the child’s grandmother by Toys R’ Us in Redding, California.
While playing with the toy, the parents noticed that the small magnets would occasionally separate from the plastic and remain magnetized to the steel ball connectors. For this reason, the toy was discarded. Unfortunately, the harm was already done.
Days after the toy had been thrown away, the child became extremely ill and was rushed to the hospital. There it was thought that he was suffering from a ruptured appendix. The child was rushed to an emergency surgery. Once the abdomen was opened, the physicians were astonished to find three small magnetic parts that had attached together in the peritoneum and perforated the cecum. This resulted in a severe case of peritonitis that would have killed the child within hours. To remove the magnets a portion of the intestines had to be removed. The lawsuit was filed in April of 2006.
In March of 2006 the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) announced a recall of 3.8 million Magnetix toys. That recall came after the death of a toddler who had swallowed the toy’s magnets. The original recall was subsequently expanded to include an additional 4 million Magnetix toys.
In April of 2007, CPSC issued a Consumer Alert warning of the serious injuries that toys with magnets were causing throughout the United States. At that point at least 33 children had been injured by swallowing loose magnets and required emergency surgery. There was one reported death.
The CPSC warned that “if two or more magnet components, or a magnet and another metal object are swallowed separately, they can attract to one another through intestinal walls. When this happens, parents and physicians may think that the materials will pass through the child. But with magnets this is often not the case. The magnets become trapped in the body and can twist or pinch the intestine, causing holes, blockage and infection in the intestine or blood poisoning. All of which can lead to death.”
Our experience with these toys is that they are dangerous not only to the child that is playing with them, but particularly dangerous to infants and toddlers in the home. The magnets are less than ¼ inch in diameter and 1/8 inch high. They easily become invisible in carpet or behind furniture and can be swallowed by an infant at a time when the parent has already put the toy away. The Magnetix line of toys are not the only toys that incorporate tiny strong magnets that pose the same dangers. Other toys include Polly Pockets, magnetic jewelry and other brands of magnetic building sets.
WARNING TO PARENTS
1.If you have these toys you should immediately return them to the store where it was purchased. Further, before returning the toy, examine it carefully to see if any magnets have become dislodged from the ends of the parts. If so, search your home carefully to find any missing pieces.
2.Seek prompt medical attention if you suspect your child may have swallowed a magnet.
3.Look for non-specific abdominal symptoms: abdominal pains, nausea, vomiting and diarrhea.
4. Note that these objects may appear in an x-ray as one piece when they could be multiple pieces trapped in the intestines.
We were very happy to successfully conclude this matter on behalf of our young client and his parents. More importantly, however, we were gratified that our work identified another dangerous toy that had entered the American marketplace, and that we played a role in having those toys removed from our shelves.