As with other defective Chinese products of late, U.S. consumers are looking for some accountability from the domestic importers.
Philadelphia law firm Woloshin & Killino filed a class action suit in Los Angeles County Superior Court Monday against toy company Mattel Inc.
The suit was filed in an effort to compel Mattel, the importer of millions of Chinese-made toys that have been recalled in the past few weeks due to lead paint and small magnets, to pay for lead testing for children who may have been affected by the toys.
A similar suit was filed Friday in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania by attorneys at Philadelphia-based Golomb & Honik.
In Monroe v. Mattel Inc., the parents of Nydia Monroe also seek to set up a medical-monitoring fund for the testing for lead poisoning. The plaintiffs seek damages in excess of $5 million, which would include the costs of medical monitoring, interest, attorney fees and other costs, according to the complaint.
Jeffrey Killino said the class size in his case could reach into the millions. He said he is inclined to move into other countries where the toys were sold as well.
Killino teamed up with Los Angeles-based Engstrom Lipscomb & Lack -- one of the firms highlighted in the Erin Brockovich movie -- to file Powell v. Mattel on behalf of Michael and Adrian Powell, who wanted their children tested for lead poisoning.
Killino isn't a stranger to problems with Chinese-made products in the United States. He was involved recently with a death-and-injury lawsuit filed on behalf of three victims of a fatal rollover crash caused by a defective Chinese-made tire.
The suit prompted U.S. tire importer and distributor Foreign Tire Sales to ask the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration for help in recalling nearly half a million Chinese-made light truck tires. Killino had filed a class action suit against Foreign Tire Sales before it had agreed to submit to the recall.
"With the problems with Chinese products, there's more to come," Killino said referring to possible future litigation.
It was during a televised interview about the toy recall that the Powells saw Killino and later contacted him about a possible lawsuit, Killino said. It worked out well, he added, because both the plaintiffs and Mattel are based in Southern California.
The goal is to set up a fund from which parents can draw to pay for lead testing. It will also create a system, Killino said, in which parents or insurance companies who have already paid for the testing can get reimbursed.
Killino said he hadn't yet spoken with Mattel about voluntarily creating the fund. Attempts by The Legal Intelligencer to contact the company weren't immediately returned.
Last week, 7.3 million Polly Pocket play sets were recalled because of small magnets inside of the dolls that could come loose, according to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission.
The company also voluntarily recalled one million Doggie Day Care play sets, 345,000 Batman and One Piece sets, and 683,000 Barbie and Tanner play sets because of the same problem with magnets.
About 253,000 "Sarge" die-cast toy cars were recalled for higher-than-allowed lead levels on the surface paints. Earlier this month, Fisher-Price, an arm of Mattel, recalled nearly one million Sesame Street, Dora the Explorer and other toys because of the presence of lead, the commission said.According to reports on the commission's Web site, all of the recalled toys were manufactured in China.
The complaint in Powell v. Mattel says that the potential class is not seeking any damages for personal injury. The causes of action are based on theories of strict product liability, negligence and violations of the business professions code of California, according to the complaint. The Monroe case alleges only negligence.
"The only reasonable way to determine whether plaintiffs and the class members have suffered lead poisoning is to have them undergo preventative medical screening and monitoring, including but not limited to blood tests," according to the Powell complaint.
It also alleges that members of the class would be sufficiently available.
"According to public statements of [Mattel], 1.22 million product units were manufactured with surface lead-based paint," according to the complaint. "The defendants' conduct has received widespread media coverage and the class members can easily be identified through a notice campaign similar to the recall campaign presently being made by defendants."
The complaint also seeks disgorgement and/or restitution and prejudgment interest. Killino said any disgorgement "would more likely than not go toward making the class whole" through medical monitoring.