Settlement in Asbestos CSI Toy Lawsuit Could Mean Consumer Refunds

Public Justice and the Asbestos Disease Awareness Organization (ADAO) just announced that a proposed settlement of a nationwide class action against CBS Broadcasting, Inc. and major toy retailers, if approved, will give cash refunds to consumers and implement a nationwide recall of toy science kits, based on the popular “CSI” television drama series.

In December 2007, we wrote that the kit was finally recalled by now-bankrupt New York toy maker, Planet Toys, well after lab tests much earlier that month revealed two types of <"http://www.yourlawyer.com/topics/overview/asbestos">asbestos were present in the toys’ fingerprint powder. With Public Justice as counsel, ADAO met with CBS and Planet Toys representatives in December 2007 to discuss its findings. Planet Toys finally sent a “stop sale” notice to stores while it investigated whether the kits posed a health threat, but refused to stop sales of the Kit, which contained the same fingerprint powder; Planet Toys also refused to voluntarily recall the products from consumers’ homes. The ADAO tests revealed tremolite, one of the deadliest forms of asbestos, was present in the kits.

The Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) was also looking at the claims and Walgreens removed the Kit from its shelves and conducted its own investigation. Planet Toys, the kits’ manufacturer, is not part of the settlement because it filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy protection in March 2009.

The toy kits—the CSI: Crime Scene Investigation Fingerprint Examination Kit (CSI Exam Kit) and the CSI: Crime Scene Investigation Forensic Lab Kit (CSI Lab Kit)– were licensed by CBS television.

The settlement, which is subject to court approval, provides cash refunds to consumers throughout the U.S. who bought, or received as a gift, one or more CSI Exam Kits or Lab Kits sold by CBS, Toys “R” Us, Hammacher Schlemmer, Walgreens, Amazon.com, Buy.com, Sears, Kmart, and QVC. Consumers seeking refunds must submit a claim form to a claims administrator by January 14, 2010, and have the option of sending the toy kits to the claims administrator at no cost. Requests for claim forms may be submitted at www.csitoyssettlement.com. “We urge everyone to get these products out of your homes and away from children, and to send in your claim form to get a refund,” said Public Justice’s Victoria Ni, co-counsel in the case.

In November 2007, ADAO publicly released findings from an 18-month study it commissioned that tested over 250 commonly found consumer products for asbestos. Three independent, government-certified laboratories participating in the study confirmed the presence of asbestos in the white fingerprint powder of the CSI Exam Kit. ADAO is a nonprofit organization founded in 2004 and dedicated to raising public awareness about the dangers of asbestos exposure and often deadly asbestos-related disease. “We were aghast to find asbestos in a children’s toy,” said ADAO Executive Director and co-founder Linda Reinstein. “Even though the dangers of asbestos have been well-documented for more than 100 years, we’re still finding asbestos in common household products. That’s simply unacceptable.”

Breathing high levels of asbestos fibers is linked to increased risks of lung cancer, mesothelioma—a cancer of the lining of the chest and abdominal cavity—and asbestosis—in which lungs become scarred with fibrous tissue. Many feel using asbestos-containing products may explain—in part—why some non-smokers and persons with no occupational exposures develop these diseases. There is no known safe level of asbestos exposure. If inhaled, microscopic asbestos particles can penetrate lung tissue and stay there permanently, causing serious, even deadly, respiratory illnesses or cancer than might not manifest until decades after initial exposure.

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