Multi-million dollar recovery for the parents of a young child who suffered severe brain damage as a result of her head and neck becoming entrapped in a storage box that did not have a proper safety latch on the lid. The claim was brought against the national retail chain that sold the box.
The storage box was made of wicker with an attached lid. It was approximately 3 feet wide and about 18 inches high. The family was using the wicker trunk for storage of toys in their family room. The accident apparently happened when the child was reaching into the toy box and the lid slammed down and trapped her neck on the rim of the trunk. Tragically, this cut off oxygen supply to her brain, and she suffered severe brain damage.
We sued the seller of the wicker trunk claiming that it was a defective product for not having an appropriate lid support mechanism, i.e., a safety latch, which any trunk is supposed to have if it is being marketed as appropriate for storage of toys. One of the major disputes in this case was whether this wicker box was intended for use as a toy box. The retailer claimed it was not, but after many hours of research, we were able to find statements on the retailer's website where they said the trunk was "perfect for storage of toys." That was very powerful evidence. We were also able to find evidence that the testing lab which inspected the wicker trunk failed it because it had no safety latch. The retailer, however, accepted the truck and decided to sell it anyway.
The other major argument the retailer made in the case was that the parent should have been watching the child more closely, but the evidence showed that at best the child was only out of the parent's sight for a few minutes, something that was hardly unusual in our view.
Lack of oxygen to the brain causes a condition called hypoxic ischemic encephalopathy. That simply means that someone has suffered significant damage to brain tissue because of lack of oxygen. This child was previously healthy, but after the accident she was unable to talk or talk and had to be fed through a tube. She required 24-hour care.
Our damage claim in the case was extensive. It included all of the life care costs for around-the-clock attention to the child; a claim for loss of future earning power; and the parents' claim for the loss of the relationship with their child.
As in most cases involving a brain-damaged child, the defense, while admitting that the child needed 24-hour care, argued that the life expectancy of the child was not very long and, therefore, the length of time during which the medical care would be necessary would be limited. We disputed that claim, and in any event, argued that it would hardly be something that diminished the devastation the child, and the family, had suffered.