$20.6m judgment upheld against Toys ‘R’ Us in inflatable pool slide death in Andover

The state’s highest court has upheld a $20.6 million judgment against Toys “R” Us in a lawsuit brought by the widower of a woman who died after an inflatable pool slide she was using collapsed.

Robin Aleo, 29, died after using the slide in 2006 when she was visiting relatives in Andover. Her husband, Michael, sued and won in Essex Superior Court. The jury awarded compensatory damages of $2.64 million and punitive damages of $18 million.

The Supreme Judicial Court said today in a unanimous opinion written by Justice Barbara Lenk that it could “discern no error” in the lower court judge’s rulings.

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The court also said, “We conclude that there was sufficient evidence to support the jury’s findings of negligence, breach of warranty, and gross negligence. We conclude as well that the jury’s award of punitive damages does not exceed constitutional limits.”

In 2012, Wal-Mart and Toys “R” Us announced, in cooperation with US Consumer Product Safety Commission, that they were recalling about 21,000 of the inflatable Banzai in-ground pool water slides.

Noting the Aleo case, the commission said the slide could deflate, allowing the user to hit the ground and become injured. The commission also said the slide was unstable and it could topple over — and it carried inadequate warnings and instructions.