A Delicate Debate
June 7, 2010 by admncc
As a parent, it breaks my heart to hear about stories where children’s lives have been lost or irreparably changed by accidents. That’s a parent’s worst nightmare! I’ve seen stories where I felt a parent or someone else was to blame. I’ve seen stories where it truly was an accident. And I’ve seen stories where a retail product was to blame. None of those is easier to accept than the other.
So let’s discuss the story of 18-month old Camryn Surman, from Cranberry, PA. In July 2009, Camryn’s mother found the toddler with the lid of a wicker trunk on her head. Camryn was “in a choking position on the edge of the box.” The above-story went on to say, “While confident it was only moments because there were adults nearby, no one knows just how long Camryn was trapped by the box.” Regardless, the damage was done. Even though the mother immediately started resuscitation efforts, according to a Pittsburgh Tribune Review story, Camryn “suffered a devastating anoxic brain injury.” And according to a KDKA story, now Camryn “can’t move her arms, can’t move her legs, is on a feeding tube, is on a trach, can’t speak (and) has impaired vision.”
Parents, Eric and Laura Surman, have now sued Target, who was the exclusive distributor of the trunk. But that’s where the debate begins…
After doing some research regarding this incident, nowhere was I able to find the exact amount of time that the child was being choked for. The description varies from being noticed immediately to several moments passing to longer, but all reports confirm that the mother was in the home at the time. And I was able to find out that up to three adults may have been present in the home at the time of the accident. So would that suggest that multiple adults were not keeping an eye on an 18-month old child? My daughter is six years old and we still don’t let her play outside alone. But I can tell you one thing – when she was 18 months old, she was in our sight at all times.
I also started to question the ethics behind the parents suing Target. The basis for their case is that they used the wicker trunk as toy box, but it was unsafe. The lawsuit, which you can read here, further says that the trunks “are sold without specific instructions, warnings or limitations.” And it claims that Target’s web site said the trunk was “perfect as storage for toys, pillows or other big items.” But when you look at a picture of the trunk here, my initial opinion isn’t to think that it could be a toy box. The Surman family was actually able to get the trunk recalled through the CPSC. But ironically, their lawsuit still refers to it as a “trunk” and not a toy box.
So, I find myself wondering:
- If between one and three adults were physically present inside the home at the time of the accident, was it avoidable?
- Was someone watching the child or was the she within their sight at all times?
- How long was the child unsupervised and/or choking?
- Is a woven storage trunk a suitable toy box?
- Is it reasonable to assume that any trunk could hold toys?
- Should Target have had nire descriptive instructions and/or warnings?
- Is it parental neglect, a true accident or should Target pay up for negligence?
John Gismondi, the family’s attorney, thinks Target should pay. I’m not sure that I’m there yet…