While visiting family in Massachusetts in July 2006, Robin Aleo, along with her husband and young daughter enjoyed a summer day, poolside. However, tragedy struck when Aleo, 29, climbed atop a six-foot inflatable pool slide and slid down, head first. Upon her descent, the slide collapsed, causing her head to slam against the concrete pool deck. She fractured her upper two cervical vertebrae, resulting in quadriplegia. The next day, in accordance with her wishes, her family decided to take her off life support in a Boston hospital.
After her death, the family of Aloe began to wonder what might have been the cause of her accident. The malfunction of the Toys R Us pool slide seemed to be the culprit of the accident. And in 2011, Aleo’s widower, Michael Aleo pursued a lawsuit against Toys R Us for product liability.
The trial assessed the nature of the accident and the condition of the faulty slide, which was imported and sold by the popular toy store, Toys R Us. The slide, named “Banzai Falls In-Ground Pool Slide,” was made in China and was designed to be inflated and installed at the edge of an in-ground pool. It was made with tent-like material and a rubber coating and was inflated using its included fan. While these types of slides are often deemed safe, this particular model had no evidence of being tested or receiving a safety certification.
Federal safety standards require that a slide be tested before being imported and sold, regardless of the material. These regulations state that a slide must be able to support up to at least 300 pounds and uphold safety for an individual sliding down headfirst.
However, despite these regulations, it was found that Toys R Us failed to comply, according to one of the plaintiff’s expert witnesses. The second witness testified that the slide was defective and therefore caused Robin’s death. Following the trial, the jury found Toys R Us liable for negligence, breach of warranty, and wrongful death. And finally, the judge ruled that the slide was not tested or certified according to regulation and that this served as sufficient evidence to support judgment against the company.
Aleo’s estate was accordingly awarded a total of 2.6 million dollars for compensatory damages. This included 2.5 million dollars in anticipated lost income from Aleo’s career and 100,000 dollars for her pain and suffering. The addition 18 million accounted for punitive damages.
Despite the family’s success in court, their devastation over the loss of their wife, mother, niece, and daughter, will never be settled. This is a story of tragedy for the Aleo family and their incredible loss. However, it is also a story of strides toward progress. Safety standards and strict regulations can save lives. And it is the power of the justice system that will keep retailers in check and consumers safe.
If you or a loved one has suffered injury or death due to a faulty product, make sure you have legal expertise on your side. Do not hesitate to reach out for legal counsel and assistance in this challenging time. We at Raynes and Erickson are seasoned attorneys in product liability and are prepared to advocate for your case.