Mattel Settles Lawsuit After Pass From Barbour | Jackson Free Press | Jackson, MS

Mattel Settles Lawsuit After Pass From Barbour

Mississippi is one of 38 states that reached a settlement with Mattel Inc. and Fisher-Price Inc. over the companies' unhealthy level of lead in children's toys. An agreement filed today in Hinds County Chancery Court is the product of more than a year's worth of investigation and comes within months of Gov. Haley Barbour vetoing a bill that would have made willful contamination of children's toys a felony.

"The Mattel executive or employee responsible for quality control who sold these toys with lead paint levels in excess of 100,000 parts per million … should have gone to jail," Attorney General Jim Hood said today.

The agreement requires Mattel to make a payment of $12 million by Jan. 30, 2009, to be divided among the participating states. Mississippi gets $213,399, which Hood says will go to the state's investigative costs and consumer awareness education on lead content in products.

Mattel underwent a costly recall after the company's toys were found to contain 180 times the safe limit of lead. About 1.5 million recalled toys contained paint that was up to 11 percent lead, even though federal standards demand the lead in paint be no more than 0.06 percent lead.

Lead poisoning in children can result in permanent brain damage or death, and Hood called the $200,000 payment insufficient.

A bill that passed the House and Senate in the 2008 legislative session would have made willful contamination of children's toys a felony, but Barbour, a former lobbyist who consistently supports big business over consumer-rights efforts, vetoed the bill when it reached his desk.

Barbour said in his veto statement that the bill would "undermine the comprehensive tort reform law the Legislature enacted in 2004." The governor said the law would allow claims for alleged defective children's' products to be filed under the Mississippi Consumer Protection Act, which has stronger standards than Mississippi's anti-regulatory laws.

The governor also said the law failed to define the term "children's product," which opened to the door for many other product liability cases to be filed under the Missisisppi Consumer Protection Act.

Hood said a new bill he was devising for the next legislative session would clearly establish the definition. Barbour's office did not immediately return calls for comment.

Mattel supervisors who knew about the contamination are immune from prosecution in Mississippi, thanks to the governor, but under the company's agreement with state AGs, it will have to enact more stringent standards for toys manufactured after Nov. 30, 2008. A toy built after that date may have no more than 90 parts per million of lead in paint. Mattel must also better police its vendors, requiring them to keep four-year's worth of records on the surface coatings of products and report to state attorney generals within three days of finding unsafe concentrations of lead in vendor products.

"Our nation's toymakers must be held accountable and they must make serious changes that reduce the amount of lead in our children's' toys," Hood said.

Previous Comments


What difference would it make if it was a children's toy or children's product that was willfully contaminated? Those people who would engage in such a despicable practice should go to jail. And their enablers should be thrown out of office on their ear. If you can't protect our children as a public servant what good are you?


Who exactly does the Governor work for?


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