Toy Gun Danger

As illustrated by a 1930 First Department products liability case, there are, apparently, worse things than shooting your eye out with a toy gun. Setting yourself on fire, for example.

From Crist v. Art Metal Works, 230 A.D. 114, 116, 243 N.Y.S. 496, 497 (App. Div. 1930) aff’d, 255 N.Y. 624, 175 N.E. 341 (1931):

Defendant is a manufacturer of toy revolvers and ‘advertised the same for use, especially by children and infants of tender years as a means and source of fun, play, joy and amusement.’ The complaint sets forth fully the advertising matter circulated by defendant, which asserted in bold type that this children’s toy was ‘absolutely harmless,’ and employed other phrases, indicating that under no circumstances could harm befall the infant user. The appeal was to children to obtain and use it; they or their parents, for them, were the intended purchasers. The complaint describes the mechanical construction and operation of this revolver, and further alleges that defendant was negligent and careless in its advertising of the revolvers, in the manner set forth, and in failing adequately to warn users against possible dangers in its use, and thus breached its duty to the public and to those who might be induced to place it in the hands of infants to their danger. The complaint charges that the pistol was advertised and distributed particularly for use during the Christmas holidays.

The infant plaintiff was seriously injured while dressed during the Christmas season in a Santa Claus costume when the flame emanating from the barrel of the revolver ignited the material used as Santa Claus’ whiskers and ‘the soft cotton material’ forming a part of that costume. (Emphasis added.)

That is quite possibly the saddest thing I’ve ever read. Worst. Christmas. Ever.

The court held that plaintiff’s case could proceed, reasoning that “[a] jury may or may not find upon proper proof that the pistol used by the infant plaintiff which ignited his costume was harmless” and that “[w]hether there was contributory negligence is likewise a jury question.”

Have a happy (and safe) holiday!

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