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Lawyer triumphs over Mattel: Indianapolis lawsuit plays part in worldwide recall of 4.4 million of Polly Pocket toys.

Michael W. Hoskins
January 1, 2007
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Indianapolis partner Gordon Tabor with the Tabor Low Group (right) describes the now-recalled Mattel toys that resulted in injury because of the one-eighth-inch diameter magnets in parts of the products (left).The toy giant recalled the product worldwide.







   When attorney Gordon Tabor first took on a product liability case arising in Indianapolis, he instantly knew that it was larger than one little girl.

   He consulted with his two younger brothers, Roy and Jeff – also attorneys at the Tabor Law Firm – and decided to press the case that turned out leading to a multimillion-dollar settlement against toy-making giant Mattel and a worldwide recall of 4.4 million toys.

   "This was a product that needed to be off the market, and we needed to take on Mattel to make that happen," said Tabor, 62, whose been practicing since 1970. "Not only for this little girl but all the other kids with these products."

   His client – Paige Kostrzewski, 7 at the time in July 2005 – had swallowed two tiny magnets from Polly Pocket dolls she ;d gotten days earlier. The 3-inch-tall plastic dolls have magnets inside designed to attach to separate plastic pieces of clothing, such as dresses or pants. Children can attach them by hand or put the pieces into a dollhouse-type part to put on the clothing. Each piece clicks into place, as is referenced in the product name Polly Pocket Quik-Clik Boutique.

   The doll-set products sold between May 2003 and September 2006 and were originally marketed toward children ages 3 to 6, Tabor said.

   In 7-year-old Kostrzewski ;s case, her injuries happened as she put pieces into her mouth to carry them from place to place and inadvertently ingested the 1/8-inch diameter magnets. Within days, she started displaying flu-like symptoms and complaining of abdominal pain, Tabor said. A CAT scan later revealed two items – the magnets – lodged in her small bowel, breaking down tissue and causing peritonitis.

   The toys were bought on a Monday, Tabor said, and a surgery at Riley Hospital for Children happened that following Sunday. Her mother contacted Tabor within the next week.

   Later, Tabor learned that the adhesive used to secure the magnets easily dissolved when children put the pieces in their mouths, he said. In Kostrzewski ;s case, that led to four months of treatment and at least $31,787 in medical expenses.

   The case was filed in California near Mattel ;s headquarters in El Segundo – in part because of Indiana ;s complex product liability statute, Tabor said. A lawsuit here would have been required to target everyone in the "chain of commerce," he said. That includes the product manufacturer in China, the distributor in London, Mattel itself, and the location that sold the product involved in the dispute.

   Instead, Tabor contacted the Consumer Product Safety Commission and in November 2005 filed the paperwork in California because it ;s a more "direct and favorable venue." Mattel counsel came to Indianapolis for depositions in February, and since then they ;ve been negotiating a settle- ment, Tabor said.

   Details have not been finalized by press time for Indiana Lawyer and Tabor declined to discuss a specific settlement amount.

   However, he said part of the settlement included Mattel ;s Nov. 21 worldwide voluntary recall of 4.4 million Polly Pocket products, which entailed eight different types of play sets. About 2.4 million are located in the U.S. that the CPSC has jurisdiction over, he said.

   The CPSC is also investigating other products with magnets that could cause similar injuries, Tabor said. A Washington, D.C.-based advocacy organization, the U.S. Public Interest Research Group, has also warned consumers about magnets as part of its annual "Trouble in Toyland" report.

   "Each case certainly plays a large role and got our attention," said Patty Davis, a spokeswoman for the CPSC. "We ;re glad there are legal remedies out there to bring some of this forward."

   Since Tabor ;s action began on behalf of Kostrzewski, three other children ages 2 to 8 have also reported to have been injured in similar situations, Davis said, and media reports say that a Wyoming family has filed a suit against Mattel for similar injuries to a 6-year-old boy who was playing with his sister ;s play set. The CPSC has 170 reports of magnets coming out of the toys made by Mattel – also the maker of Barbie, Fisher Price, and Tyco-brand toys.

   "We think Mattel recognized early on they couldn ;t defend what happened," Tabor said of Kostrzewski ;s case. "I can ;t speak much what ;s happening with others, but this Indianapolis case started the ball rolling."

   Indiana Lawyer could not reach Mattel attorneys or media representatives for comment.

   Tabor said the recall couldn ;t have happened at a better time: pre-Christmas and during the busiest shopping season of the year. He thinks about his own granddaughter, whom he learned had two Polly Pocket products herself when this case first started.

   "Lawsuits can have a very therapeutic impact in society, and the law serves as a very important role in promoting consumer safety. This case shows that," Tabor said. "Through this, hopefully we can assist in preventing tragedies to children." •
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  1. I have been on this program while on parole from 2011-2013. No person should be forced mentally to share private details of their personal life with total strangers. Also giving permission for a mental therapist to report to your parole agent that your not participating in group therapy because you don't have the financial mean to be in the group therapy. I was personally singled out and sent back three times for not having money and also sent back within the six month when you aren't to be sent according to state law. I will work to het this INSOMM's removed from this state. I also had twelve or thirteen parole agents with a fifteen month period. Thanks for your time.

  2. Our nation produces very few jurists of the caliber of Justice DOUGLAS and his peers these days. Here is that great civil libertarian, who recognized government as both a blessing and, when corrupted by ideological interests, a curse: "Once the investigator has only the conscience of government as a guide, the conscience can become ‘ravenous,’ as Cromwell, bent on destroying Thomas More, said in Bolt, A Man For All Seasons (1960), p. 120. The First Amendment mirrors many episodes where men, harried and harassed by government, sought refuge in their conscience, as these lines of Thomas More show: ‘MORE: And when we stand before God, and you are sent to Paradise for doing according to your conscience, *575 and I am damned for not doing according to mine, will you come with me, for fellowship? ‘CRANMER: So those of us whose names are there are damned, Sir Thomas? ‘MORE: I don't know, Your Grace. I have no window to look into another man's conscience. I condemn no one. ‘CRANMER: Then the matter is capable of question? ‘MORE: Certainly. ‘CRANMER: But that you owe obedience to your King is not capable of question. So weigh a doubt against a certainty—and sign. ‘MORE: Some men think the Earth is round, others think it flat; it is a matter capable of question. But if it is flat, will the King's command make it round? And if it is round, will the King's command flatten it? No, I will not sign.’ Id., pp. 132—133. DOUGLAS THEN WROTE: Where government is the Big Brother,11 privacy gives way to surveillance. **909 But our commitment is otherwise. *576 By the First Amendment we have staked our security on freedom to promote a multiplicity of ideas, to associate at will with kindred spirits, and to defy governmental intrusion into these precincts" Gibson v. Florida Legislative Investigation Comm., 372 U.S. 539, 574-76, 83 S. Ct. 889, 908-09, 9 L. Ed. 2d 929 (1963) Mr. Justice DOUGLAS, concurring. I write: Happy Memorial Day to all -- God please bless our fallen who lived and died to preserve constitutional governance in our wonderful series of Republics. And God open the eyes of those government officials who denounce the constitutions of these Republics by arbitrary actions arising out capricious motives.

  3. From back in the day before secularism got a stranglehold on Hoosier jurists comes this great excerpt via Indiana federal court judge Allan Sharp, dedicated to those many Indiana government attorneys (with whom I have dealt) who count the law as a mere tool, an optional tool that is not to be used when political correctness compels a more acceptable result than merely following the path that the law directs: ALLEN SHARP, District Judge. I. In a scene following a visit by Henry VIII to the home of Sir Thomas More, playwriter Robert Bolt puts the following words into the mouths of his characters: Margaret: Father, that man's bad. MORE: There is no law against that. ROPER: There is! God's law! MORE: Then God can arrest him. ROPER: Sophistication upon sophistication! MORE: No, sheer simplicity. The law, Roper, the law. I know what's legal not what's right. And I'll stick to what's legal. ROPER: Then you set man's law above God's! MORE: No, far below; but let me draw your attention to a fact I'm not God. The currents and eddies of right and wrong, which you find such plain sailing, I can't navigate. I'm no voyager. But in the thickets of law, oh, there I'm a forester. I doubt if there's a man alive who could follow me there, thank God... ALICE: (Exasperated, pointing after Rich) While you talk, he's gone! MORE: And go he should, if he was the Devil himself, until he broke the law! ROPER: So now you'd give the Devil benefit of law! MORE: Yes. What would you do? Cut a great road through the law to get after the Devil? ROPER: I'd cut down every law in England to do that! MORE: (Roused and excited) Oh? (Advances on Roper) And when the last law was down, and the Devil turned round on you where would you hide, Roper, the laws being flat? (He leaves *1257 him) This country's planted thick with laws from coast to coast man's laws, not God's and if you cut them down and you're just the man to do it d'you really think you would stand upright in the winds that would blow then? (Quietly) Yes, I'd give the Devil benefit of law, for my own safety's sake. ROPER: I have long suspected this; this is the golden calf; the law's your god. MORE: (Wearily) Oh, Roper, you're a fool, God's my god... (Rather bitterly) But I find him rather too (Very bitterly) subtle... I don't know where he is nor what he wants. ROPER: My God wants service, to the end and unremitting; nothing else! MORE: (Dryly) Are you sure that's God! He sounds like Moloch. But indeed it may be God And whoever hunts for me, Roper, God or Devil, will find me hiding in the thickets of the law! And I'll hide my daughter with me! Not hoist her up the mainmast of your seagoing principles! They put about too nimbly! (Exit More. They all look after him). Pgs. 65-67, A MAN FOR ALL SEASONS A Play in Two Acts, Robert Bolt, Random House, New York, 1960. Linley E. Pearson, Atty. Gen. of Indiana, Indianapolis, for defendants. Childs v. Duckworth, 509 F. Supp. 1254, 1256 (N.D. Ind. 1981) aff'd, 705 F.2d 915 (7th Cir. 1983)

  4. "Meanwhile small- and mid-size firms are getting squeezed and likely will not survive unless they become a boutique firm." I've been a business attorney in small, and now mid-size firm for over 30 years, and for over 30 years legal consultants have been preaching this exact same mantra of impending doom for small and mid-sized firms -- verbatim. This claim apparently helps them gin up merger opportunities from smaller firms who become convinced that they need to become larger overnight. The claim that large corporations are interested in cost-saving and efficiency has likewise been preached for decades, and is likewise bunk. If large corporations had any real interest in saving money they wouldn't use large law firms whose rates are substantially higher than those of high-quality mid-sized firms.

  5. The family is the foundation of all human government. That is the Grand Design. Modern governments throw off this Design and make bureaucratic war against the family, as does Hollywood and cultural elitists such as third wave feminists. Since WWII we have been on a ship of fools that way, with both the elite and government and their social engineering hacks relentlessly attacking the very foundation of social order. And their success? See it in the streets of Fergusson, on the food stamp doles (mostly broken families)and in the above article. Reject the Grand Design for true social function, enter the Glorious State to manage social dysfunction. Our Brave New World will be a prison camp, and we will welcome it as the only way to manage given the anarchy without it.

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