Opinion: A season to be joyful (and careful)

A view of one of the trees lit up for Christmas on the Milford Green in downtown Milford last year.

A view of one of the trees lit up for Christmas on the Milford Green in downtown Milford last year.

Christian Abraham / Hearst Connecticut Media

Not to be Grinch-y about Christmas, but when the children open their packages, boxes and bags on Dec. 25, unfortunately there are some things as a gift-giver you may want to consider beforehand. A gift, like any other consumer good, can cause harm if put to an unsafe use. And the last thing anyone wants to happen is for an innocently purchased gift, selected and offered with the best of intentions, to cause harm to a child.

First, a couple of words about Connecticut’s law applicable to consumer product injuries.

If someone sells a defective product that causes injury to another, the seller is generally legally responsible. Most lawsuits focus on the question of whether the item was defective or whether the injury occurred some other way. A consumer good is considered defective if, for example, it was designed in a way that made it more dangerous than most consumers would have expected. To answer this question in court, a jury may consider how useful the product was, how risky or dangerous the product was, if a safer, cost-effective design existed, and whether adequate warnings or instructions accompanied the product.

All consumers of products have the legal responsibility to follow proper warnings or instructions. But, as we all have experienced, some instructions are better than others and some warnings sound as if they are almost saying, “Don’t use this product.” If a consumer is injured by a product, the seller will no doubt argue that its instructions were not followed, or warnings not heeded. So do the best you can. Read the instructions and warnings.

Choose gifts that are age-appropriate and supervise children to the extent they need it to use a toy safely. Don’t allow a child to use a product in a manner that was not intended. However, if a product has hidden dangers, the seller must inform the buyer and, if it is foreseeable that a product may be misused in a dangerous way and the seller has not taken steps to remedy that, the seller still may be on the hook legally.

As a gift-giver, as opposed to a seller of consumer goods, you will generally not be liable for injuries caused by a defective product. Still, no one wants anyone to get hurt. Here are a couple of websites to consult if you have questions about the safety of a particular toy or its appropriateness for an intended recipient: https://www.cpsc.gov/Recalls; https://safekids.org; https://kidsindanger.org; https://toysafety.org.

Finally, if need be, remember that even though everyone has been careful and a child still gets injured from the use of toy, he or she may have a legal claim.

Carey B. Reilly is an attorney with the Bridgeport-based firm Koskoff Koskoff & Bieder. For more than 35 years, she has helped clients with a wide range of issues, including medical malpractice, personal injury and product liability. She can be reached at 203-336-4421 or CReilly@koskoff.com .