The Legal Insider

December 2014

Are Your Kids’ Toys Safe?

Are your kids' toys safe?While shopping for Christmas gifts, it’s important to consider the safety of the toys and games you purchase for your children. Over the years, a number of popular children’s toys have been recalled or banned due to safety concerns.

Here’s a list of infamous toys from the recent past that are now recognized as dangerous to children:

  1. Lawn Darts. Our list begins with one of the most infamous children’s toys to ever be sold. Lawn Darts are steel tipped darts used to play a horseshoes style lawn game. Unfortunately, kids often used the darts for unintended purposes, resulting in the death of at least three children. The darts were ultimately banned, with the developer recommending destruction of the remaining products.
  2. Sky Dancers. These toys, small fairy-like figures attached to a pull string that “fly” in the air when launched, were a hit in the mid-1990s. However, given the unpredictable flight route of the dolls, children would often end up in harm’s way. The toys were banned in 2000, after the Consumer Product Safety Commission received reports of over 150 injuries.
  3. Easy Bake Oven. Another iconic childhood toy from the 1990s, Easy Bake Ovens are still available today. The initial, front-loading model of the oven was recalled in 2007 after numerous reports of children receiving 2nd and 3rd degree burns. It is probably best to leaving the baking to adults, at least until your child understands basic kitchen safety.
  4. CSI: Fingerprint Examination Kit.Riding the popularity of the hit television show (and all its spinoffs), toy producers released a replica fingerprinting set for children. However, after testing the fingerprinting dust, examiners found the dust contained over 5% asbestos. In spite of demands to recall the product, the toy producers kept the product on the shelf through Christmas. The Asbestos Disease Awareness Organization eventually filed a civil action to stop sales of the kit.
  5. Slip N’ Slide.Everyone has great memories of sliding across their Slip N’ Slides on a sweltering summer day. However, this famous toy becomes increasingly dangerous the older and bigger your children get. A teen, or even pre-teen, is likely too tall or heavy to use the slide, which usually doesn't include an adequate mechanism to catch the sliders at the end. There have been numerous reports of spinal injuries from children sliding off the end of the mat.

What to Do If Your Child Is Injured?

If you purchased a suspect toy for your child, and the defective or dangerous product subsequently injures your child, it would be prudent to contact an attorney. While a personal injury lawyer might be suited to handle the case, you should probably consider contacting an attorney who specializes in products liability cases. He or she will know the best ways to handle your case going forward.

Can an HOA Prohibit Holiday Displays?

Restriction of Holiday Displays Homeowners Associations (HOA’s) often enforce restrictions involving holiday decorations such as Christmas lights, holiday displays, trees, and signs. If you are subject to HOA regulations where you live, then you generally would be bound to these regulations.

The goal of the Homeowners Association Rules are to regulate activity that may have an effect on the neighborhood. The HOA usually sets rules and regulations known as covenants, codes, and restrictions. These rules can cover:

  • Pets
  • Exterior remodeling and painting
  • Landscaping
  • Exterior building attachments
  • Basketball hoops, children's play pens, etc.

Concerning holiday displays, many HOA restrictions only restrict displays that are religious, noisy, or too bright.

What Can I Do as a Homeowner?

If your HOA limits holiday decorations and displays, there are a few steps you can take:

  • Check your HOA policy to see the rules and regulations regarding holiday displays and decorations.
  • Speak with your neighbors to find out what is allowed.
  • Review your state's laws regarding HOA rules and regulations and whether the state law overrides the HOA rules.
  • Consider going to the HOA board and asking for an exception or amendment in regards to holiday displays.

What Can I Do as Member of the HOA?

If you are a member of an HOA and your HOA has rules restricting or limiting holiday decorations, consider the following:

  1. Be Reasonable with the Regulations: Since the holiday is a time for joy and happiness, try only limiting the holiday displays and restricting only noisy decoration or decorations that may offend or bother other neighbors. Also consider setting up a timeframe when the decorations can be up.
  2. Consider Religious Decorations Rules: Remember that favoring one religious decoration while prohibiting another could result in a discrimination claim under the Fair Housing Act and other housing laws.
  3. Consider Safety: If you allow holiday decorations, consider homeowners’ safety and be sure to have some restrictions set to avoid any safety hazards.

Tips for Winter Driving

winter-driving-tips There is no question that many drivers have bad habits that could lead to fatal injuries. These driving habits become even more dangerous during the winter months when road conditions are less than ideal.

Here are some tips to keep you safe during the winter driving:

  1. Get New Tires: Invest in good winter tires with thick treads. It is also important to check your tire pressure in all four tires.
  2. Invest in Wipers: It is recommended that windshield wipers be replaced every six-months and especially in the winter so your driving visibility is not obstructed.
  3. Slow Down and Avoid Tailgating: Don’t push the speed limit; when conditions are bad, drive slower than the posted speed limit.
  4. Brake Carefully:Avoid braking too quickly especially when the roads are slippery and wet. Slamming your brakes in slippery and wet road conditions could cause your car to spin out.
  5. Avoid Driving on Unfamiliar Roads: Try avoiding new routes and unfamiliar roads since you are not aware of the road conditions.

As the holidays are approaching and more drivers are going to be on the road, be aware of other drivers bad driving habits as well. Even if you are driving carefully, remember that others might not be.

How to Be the Perfect Guest at Your Office Party

office-party-perfect-guestTis’ the season for holiday parties! Whether hosted by your company or a coworker, holiday parties are increasingly popular.

We’ve all heard that story of a person getting too drunk at a holiday party, making a fool of themselves, and perhaps even getting fired. On the other hand, office holiday parties are a great time to network and strengthen relationships with your coworkers and your boss.

Here are some tips on how to be the perfect guest at your company’s holiday party:

  1. First things first, show up! Taking the time to show up for a few hours will show your commitment to the company.
  2. Moderate your alcohol and food consumption. Sexual harassment cases are on a rise, and many of them arise during office holiday parties. Limit yourself to a few drinks, and make sure to drink water in between. While eating at the party is encouraged, make sure not to stuff yourself. You want to come off professional and not sloppy.
  3. While dressing up or wearing holiday attire is expected and accepted at holiday parties, it’s still recommended to keep your attire professional. Provocative clothing or a silly Christmas sweater may take attention away from the goal of the party: to strengthen your work relationships.
  4. Avoid talking about work. The holiday party is a time to connect with coworkers on a more personal level to reinforce and build work place relationships. It is not the time to complain about your boss or a coworker. Avoid topics such as religion or politics, which may bring up a controversial and insulting conversation. Instead, try to stick to topics such as hobbies, favorite sports, or your family.
  5. Don’t overstay your welcome. Come to the party, have a couple drinks and some food, get to know your coworkers, maybe network a bit, and then head home.
  6. Make sure to thank the host before you leave. A lot of planning and money goes into holiday parties, and it’s important to display your appreciation of the host’s efforts.
  7. The most important tip, is to be safe! Make sure to designate a driver if you plan on drinking, or offer to be the designated driver for coworkers who plan to drink.

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