29 year-old Robin Aleo slid to her death in July 2006 when she used a 6-foot inflatable pool slide on her pool deck only for it to collapse at the last minute, slam her head into the concrete, and within a day cost her her life. The pool slide, which was incidentally made by “Banzai,” not to be confused with “Banzai!”, which was the cry of Japanese suicide squads in WW2, was purchased online from Toys R Us, and ruled in 2011 to be an illegal product. A jury awarded her husband Aleo $20.6 million in damages. Now Toys R Us is turning to Massachusetts’ highest court today to overturn the award.
$2.5 million was awarded in anticipation of losses from Aleo’s career in advertising and marketing, $100,000 for pain and suffering, and $18 million in punitive damages. Toys R Us called these punitive damages “grossly excessive.”
Toys R Us is basing their suit based on what they call an injustice of the first trial, that their slide was deemed illegal for not complying with a 1976 Consumer Product Safety Commission that was drafted before inflatable slides were on the market, and which they claim therefore should not make regulation standards for anything but rigid pool slides.
Meanwhile, two other people have succumbed to injuries on the Banzai slide, including a man who thereafter became a quadriplegic, and a woman who broke her neck.
Benjamin Zimmerman, lawyer for the Aleo family, said that the slide was ordered from Amazon.com, came from China, and was “never tested. It carried no required certification that it had been so tested. Under the Federal Consumer Product Safety Commission standards and the Consumer Product Safety Act, products that come into the country without a certification that it’s been tested to its applicable standards, the sale of that kind of product is unlawful,” as the Huffington Post reported.
Toy Industry Association Inc., a 600 member trade group, disagrees and has filed a friend-of-the-court brief that vies for Toys R Us’s position.
“In any event, the safety hazard that plaintiff alleged – injury due to loss of air pressure – was not among the risks the Commission considered,” the group stated in their brief.