Toys R Us Bathroom Stall Falls On Child Safety Advocate

In 2006, Jennifer—the co-founder of popular parenting/consumer advocacy site Z Recommends—took her two-and-a-half-year-old to the bathroom at the local Toys R Us store. What she didn’t know was that this particular store featured the awesome striking power of the Action Toilet Stall with Collapsible Mom Trap! As she closed the door, the entire partition fell over on top of her and her daughter. Jennifer managed to protect her daughter from harm, but in the two years since the event, she’s developed chronic pain from the accident—and the response from Toys R Us has been “don’t call us, we’ll call you.”

You may think a veteran consumer advocate would be able to resolve an incident like this with the company fairly quickly, but Jennifer’s experiences over the past two years show just how difficult corporations can be when you try to get them to own up to their responsibility. Just look at how hard they tried to avoid talking to her a few days after the accident:

I left a message with the company’s “Risk Management” office, which didn’t call me back. The next day, I called again and got someone. They assigned me a “file number” and a “case worker,” but told me that the case worker they were assigning me was out on medical leave for an indefinite period. This concerned me, and I protested, but the representative assured that if I needed anything, “anyone who answers the phone will be able to help.”

Later, I received a letter from Toys ‘R’ Us which stated that due to their “inability” to reach me via telephone they were contacting me via letter. My home phone number is a VoIP line, so I logged into my account and checked the incoming calls to my home phone. Not one was identified as coming from Toys ‘R’ Us or the corporate office’s area code.




Now Jennifer is suing Toys R Us (the trial is set for June), and today she’s revealed the details of the accident, as well as the consequences of it on her health.

Being a consumer advocate may not give you an edge in being taken seriously by a corporation, but it does give you the drive you need to publicize a company’s negligence. We can’t wait to see how this develops in the coming months.

If and when we get to trial, I will be not only the plaintiff but a blogger on the scene. Now that we have a court date set, what’s truly ironic is that we have a well-established model for this new project. This is what we do. We gather information, ask probing questions, parse out the answers, publicize our findings, and make an argument for how things should be. We’ve done it with Avent, Playtex, Sassy, Tupperware, Carter’s, and continue to apply pressure to companies to make them change for the better and respond to what they’ve done. We go to trade shows in part to introduce ourselves to new vendors and discover all of the great new children’s products that come online every year. But we also go to put faces to names for people we’ve dealt with over the previous year, and you know what? When we show up at the booth of someone we’ve worked with on a contentious consumer issue, they either groan or cheer. And we like it that way.

The difference, of course, is that it’s personal now – but so is the BPA Dr. Brown’s introduced to Z through her bottles before we knew about endocrine disruptors, or the skin lesions other people’s children suffered from onesies with the same likely chemical formulation our daughter wore, but did not react to, when she was an infant. Compassion means seeing harm to everyone, yourself included, in the harm that is done to others, and we’ve learned that lesson well, both through parenting and through blogging. In fact, I’d say that this merging of personal and social interests is at the heart of advocacy blogging, and we’re ready to show Toys ‘R’ Us how it’s done. Low-level chemical toxicity is an evolving field of knowledge, but basic maintenance is a question of simple procedures and the reinvestment of a modest share of corporate profits to ensure customer safety. It isn’t the sexiest way to spend your company’s money; doing it right means your efforts barely get noticed. But doing it wrong can have deadly consequences.

“How Toys ‘R’ Us can change your life” [Z Recommends] (Thanks to Jim!)
(Photo: Carey Tilden; photo of collapsed stall from Z Recommends)

Comments

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  1. stellarceltic says:

    “If and when we get to trial, I will be not only the plaintiff but a blogger on the scene.”

    I’m sure TRU will be thrilled knowing that the plantiff is also a consumer rights blogger. Perhaps they’ll have to alter their plans a little?

  2. Stream Of Consciousness says:

    Shitty, hope they pay out the ass!

    NO..too much??

  3. ViperBorg says:

    Good luck on the lawsuit. Honestly, it shouldn’t have even gone this far. Shame on Toys ‘R’ Us.

  4. Zeniq says:

    I’m sorry, but that picture is as hilarious as this story is horrifying.

  5. LegoMan322 says:

    Yeah that picture is awesome.

  6. FooSchnickens - Full of SCAR says:

    You know, Toys R Us has just never been the same since I grew out of their market. It’ll be interesting to follow this story.

  7. Jim Topoleski says:

    What I enjoy the best is that she basically caught them in the act of lying, that because she uses VoIP and not traditional phone lines, she is able to see right away that they lied about calling her.

  8. hamsangwich says:

    Good luck getting your expenses covered. I would look into the fact that you may have a bulging or ruptured disc, it sounds like a strong possibility and it doesn’t sound like you’ve had tests for that yet.

  9. heybtbm says:

    The most disgusting bathroom I’ve ever seen in the US was at a Toy R Us store several years ago. It put the toliets of Istanbul and Mumbai to shame. At least it didn’t collapse around me…(shudder).

  10. Ezra Ekman says:

    the response from Toys R Us has been “don’t call us, we’ll call you.”

    I believe the correct response here is “Don’t bother calling me; call my lawyer, instead.” Add it sounds like that’s exactly what she did. Kudos!

  11. Rhayader says:

    I hope she can get some chronic medicine for that chronic pain.

  12. Bodgy says:

    Was there some sort of negligence on the part of TRU? Sounds like a freak accident. These lasting complications stories are always a little fishy to me. People tend to see $$$$ when anything happens in a store.

    • Skunky says:

      @Bodgy: What she failed to mention is that the stall fell on her after she unscrewed the thing.

      Also, a child safety advocate walking into a large corporate chain of toys stores…isn’t that like deliberately strolling through some gang turf while sporting the colours of the opposing gang?

    • Velifer says:

      @Bodgy: She’s seeing dollar signs and wild publicity for her blog. She’s very excited to blog the trial. Hate to bash the OP, but I’m very suspicious. Soft tissue injuries and freak accidents… I’m glad the burden of proof is on her at the trial.

      “Compassion means seeing harm to everyone, yourself included, in the harm that is done to others” What harm will come to a company that failed to shake the shit out of the stall walls each morning before opening?

      If she has a case, I hope she gets her medical bills and court costs paid. Too many have paved her way with scams for me to jump on her melodramatic bandwagon.

  13. nakedscience says:

    Oh come on, nevets68. I was wondering how long it’d take for someone to blame the OP, and look! There ya are!

    If she’s in PHYSICAL PAIN it could very well lead to a much lower quality of life, especially if she has kids, and it doesn’t help at all that this company doesn’t seem to care. I can understand becoming depressed because of this.

  14. the-wanderer says:

    As soon as the words BPA came out of her mouth, I stopped caring.

    Lemme break it down for you anti-everything, organic this, natural that.. We are smart monkeys without tails. We’re supposed to eat nasty stuff that’s crawling with bugs. Anti-bacterial everything is the *PROBLEM*, not the fact that you precious little snowflake got exposed to a trace about of some plastic.

    If you were injured, I’m sorry. But you’re not apologizing for all your asinine BS behaviors, so I’m not THAT sorry.

    • Eyebrows McGee (now with double the baby!) says:

      @the-wanderer: BPA is not about crawling with bugs. BPA is about endocrine disruption that can lead to fertility issues and cancers of the reproductive organs.

      Before you bitch out “anti-everything” people, it would be helpful if you understood what they were complaining about. And then if YOU choose to expose YOUR infant to known, unnecessary carcinogens, that’s fine, but I choose not to.

      • the-wanderer says:

        @Eyebrows McGee: Oh, look, a wikipedia link: [en.wikipedia.org] And a dictionary.com link: [dictionary.reference.com] BPA has NOT been tested for a cancer link, but you’re sooooo sure that the big plastic boogieman is the problem that you’re willing to protest stupid crap.

        Most of us don’t have real problems anymore. 100 years ago, you had to go shoot your dinner and pick the lead shotgun pellets out of it. Now, we have to gall to complain about trace amounts of a plastic. That’s pretty namby pamby.

        • Eyebrows McGee (now with double the baby!) says:

          @the-wanderer: From your wikipedia link:

          Dose (µg/kg/day) – effect – study date
          2.5 “Breast cells predisposed to cancer” 2007
          10 “Prostate cells more sensitive to hormones and cancer” 2006

          Reading comprehension FTW!

    • marsneedsrabbits says:

      @the-wanderer:

      It’s a darned shame that you quit caring about BPA, because the story of BPA isn’t over by a long shot.

      For example, did you know that “A retired medical supply manufacturer who considers bisphenol A to be “perfectly safe” gave $5 million to the research center headed by the chairman of a Food and Drug Administration panel about to rule on the chemical’s safety.”?

      Gift to Center Headed by FDA Panel Chairman Raises Questions [www.washingtonpost.com]

  15. ArgusRun says:

    Bad response by Toys R Us, but as a business owner “chronic pain” is basically code for “give me money.”

    Chronic pain is what you have when an accident does not produce any physical injury that can be documented and yet you still feel like you are entitled to get as much cash as you can out of the business.

    Couple this with outraged blogger syndrome, and you have the potential for EPIC lawsuit fail.

    If she was seriously hurt, I’m sorry. But I can’t help but feel that even if Toys R Us did everything right, we’d still be hearing about the bathroom of death and the unfeeling corporate giant that screwed the poor little mom blogger.

    Own a commercial property for six months, and you’ll know where I’m coming from. Drunks who walk through glass doors, a broken fingernail on a brick wall, child running across wet floor that is clearly marked. No one thinks it’s their fault. They assume you can afford it and find a lawyer who hangs out next to the day laborers outside of Home Depot to sue you.

    • floraposte says:

      @ArgusRun: It is tough, and it’s frustrating for people who do suffer that some conditions aren’t as neatly documentable as others and are thus prone to being falsely claimed.

      But I also think it’s reasonable to assert that bathroom walls shouldn’t fall on people, and that there’s a reasonable obligation of property owners to keep their walls from plummeting onto shoppers.

    • Verucalise (Est.February2008) says:

      @ArgusRun: My mother suffers from severe Rhuematoid Arthritis. Now, I know this has little bearing on the situation in the article, it does when it comes to chronic pain. I’ve seen what it’s done to my mother…

      Anyone suffering like that shouldn’t be dismissed. Her situation wasn’t the result of a faulty bathroom stall, but the pain is quite real. Toys R Us didn’t even have the balls to call her back, they lied and sent a letter. She only got mad when they lied to her.

      Shame on them.

    • mizmoose says:

      @ArgusRun: Holy cripes I hope you’re not a medical professional.

      “Chronic pain” can be caused by a variety of things, not just injury: arthritis (rheumatoid and osteo), fibromyalgia, lupus, diabetic neuropathy, certain endocrine disorders, etc.

      The thing is, “chronic pain” is real. People think it’s bullshit because it’s an invisible thing. (“But you don’t look sick!”) It can cause and/or exacerbate depression and other mental illnesses, it can actually make other physical conditions work. It’s living hell.

  16. Rhayader says:

    Anyone else seeing weird behavior from the “reply” links?

    I keep clicking to reply to people, and I am just sent to the top of the page. Weirdness.

  17. joeblevins says:

    She is a professional plantiff. Toys-R-Us are learning now what it is like dealing with a sue happy lady with questionable issues.

    The OP says she has developed Chronic Pain from the incident? Really? Isn’t that for the trial? Everyone other minor trip/fall becomes life ending when it makes it to court.

    While Toys-R-Us sucks, I don’t like supporting plaintiffs in these kinds of big money suits. How much is she asking? Actual treatment and reasonable pain and suffering? Or really cranking up the numbers?

    Too much drama.

  18. tbonekatz says:

    I’m not saying Toys’R’Us wasn’t wrong,and I’m not tying to blame the OP, but if her life is so hideous now, why did it take 3 years to file suit?

    • IT-Chick says:

      @tbonekatz:

      It sounds as though she was trying to work it out with Toys R Us, perhaps they were giving her the run around, and she does mention it was in mediation.

  19. IT-Chick says:

    Yeah, a Wii fit for someone who can’t move properly.

    Chris, as hilarious as that picture of Geoffrey in a stall is, I think you should change it to the OPs pic in her blog of the actual fallen stall door. (if you can) I really couldn’t imagine the magnitude of it until I saw that picture. I don’t want to know how much that would hurt, the fear I would have with a young toddler with me, and the anger I would have at no one caring, when this is a very preventable accident.

  20. pecan 3.14159265 says:

    Rhayader: Yes, many people are having problems with the reply link.

  21. Terraxsu says:

    Playing devil’s advocate here…
    Bathroom stalls are made out of relatively light plastic or particle board. How much could that possibly hurt a person? It isn’t as if the Toys’R’Us marquee sign fell on her or an aisle shelving unit full of toys collapsed on her. I’m acknowledging that she was quite possibly injured in the ‘Action Toilet Stall’ assault, just seems unlikely that it was a life altering, depression-inducing sort of injury. But who am I to judge, since I’m not there.

    • IT-Chick says:

      @Terraxsu:

      I don’t know, heavy enough to crush a phone and pin her on a wall so two people have to lift it off her?
      I’m no stall expert though, I have never thought about it’s weight. Just sounds painful.

    • Eyebrows McGee (now with double the baby!) says:

      @Terraxsu: The blog post discusses stalls briefly. About the one that fell on her: “The bathroom stall was 1″ thick, and we later estimated its weight at at least 65 pounds, probably more. Falling onto me – a five-foot, one and one-half-inch, 110-lb. mother carrying a toddler.”

      • floraposte says:

        @Eyebrows McGee: Add to that the question of how fast it was going and how much of her took the weight while she was in a strained position guarding her kid. Probably her cell phone did her a favor by slowing it down.

        Think of a 65 lb. television falling off a shelf and onto your back and shoulder while you were leaning over. Yeow.

        • formergr says:

          @Eyebrows McGee: That’s a good point– those kind of fake complaints really do ruin it for the people in actual, debilitating pain.

          I think another problem is how subjective pain is. Different people have different levels of pain tolerance. It doesn’t mean someone with a higher tolerance is “better”, or the person with lower tolerance is “wimpy”.

          But the fact remains that if you have two people with the exact same injury and level of pain, one may very well be able to go to work every day despite it, while the other will be hard pressed to even get out of bed. Makes it hard to set parameters around disability claims and such.

          • formergr says:

            @formergr: And by “these”, I don’t mean the woman in the post (we don’t know if it’s true or not), I mean the people you describe claiming fake fibro because it worked for their friend.

      • formergr says:

        @Eyebrows McGee: Interesting. I can definitely see this being legitimate, but there are all sorts of red flags on this case. Her developing the pain more than 1 year after the injury, lack of definitive medical information, etc. And I’m not too impressed by the door weighing 65 pounds. Bathroom doors are at most only about a foot off the ground, and if you are in the stall you are at most 18 inches from the door. If it fell off and against you, there’s not a lot of momentum for it to do significant damage in most circumstances.

        I also hate all the references to her toddler. Thankfully, the child wasn’t injured. Which I really am very glad about. But because he wasn’t injured, his presence in all this is irrelevant in light of her injury claim.

        • Eyebrows McGee (now with double the baby!) says:

          @formergr: I also found the way she told her story offputting. But I’ve seen similar cases where something quite a bit lighter-weight fell on someone, not very far or fast, and did a LOT of damage. (And, of course, cases where you’re amazed the person walked away from the falling-thing incident NOT DEAD.)

          While I’m not a fan of frivolous lawsuits, this is EXACTLY what courts are for — to decide if the injury is legit, if it resulted from the bathroom collapse, and how much, if any, liability Toys R Us has. And as Toys R Us has obviously NOT been playing straight with her, I think she’s right to take her case there.

        • floraposte says:

          @formergr: Just to clarify, her pain was sufficient to send her to the doctor the Monday after (which seemed like it might have been the nearest business day, but it’s not totally clear); it’s the Consumerist summary that makes it sound like the pain was a late complication.

  22. Rectilinear Propagation says:

    I want to know when pain stopped being important.

  23. Sarah Vaz says:

    Seriously? This was a freak accident. Suck it up! What a nation of whiners and drama queens we’ve become. We refuse to accept that sometimes bad things happen to us and its not anyone’s fault! Besides– c’mon, how heavy are those metal bathroom stall partitions? I don’t get how they inflicted debilitating injury upon anyone, even a child! When I was 5 a barrell of concrete mix rolled over my leg. I barely had a scratch. Not saying injuries never happen but get a grip! I find this whole account hard to believe.

  24. pecan 3.14159265 says:

    nevets68: Also to add to what jurijuri and floraposte said…this woman had a really young child, and probably anticipated all the active lifestyle changes that she was going to have to adopt to keep up with her child. And suddenly, she finds that she is physically unable to do a lot of it…it’s debilitating, and scary, and it’s understandable how upset she is.

  25. Ben Miner says:

    I bet her husband can/will also sue for loss of consortium. This is a perfect example of it.

  26. Pylon83 says:

    Sarah Vaz: I agree wholeheartedly. Bad things don’t just happen to people anymore, opportunities to profit handsomely happen to people. Even if a true ACCIDENT occurs on private property the plaintiff’s bar lines up to file suit against the negligent and irresponsible property owner. Suddenly any and all medical problems the person is suffering from were caused by the accident, they are now in complete debilitating pain all of the time, and if a Doctor says they aren’t, they find a Doctor who will agree with them.

    • floraposte says:

      @Pylon83: Does this mean you think there’s never any such thing as negligence–that we should all be pretesting our peanut butter and assessing the walls in stores–or just that it should be a stricter standard?

      • Pylon83 says:

        @floraposte:
        I suppose you could say I think it should be a stricter standard. Though, I hesitate to say that because I feel like the “Standard” we have now is sufficient if properly applied. The problem is the “Reasonable Person” standard gets twisted and, in some cases, ignored in furtherance of the idea that “someone has to pay for this”.

        • floraposte says:

          @Pylon83: I would agree that there have been problematic outcomes in lawsuits and that there are problematic lawsuits filed, but I also think it’s a legitimate recourse that can serve its purpose. To me this would seem to be an appropriate use of the court unless one thinks she’s misrepresenting the extent of her suffering. And since I don’t think we can really know that.

  27. nakedscience says:

    You’re an ass, nevets68.

  28. Pylon83 says:

    @Ben Miner: The problem with a Loss of Consortium claim is it opens up the husband to lots of very personal, intimate and invasive questions. Would you want to sit on the stand while the defense lawyer asks you how often you and your wife have sex, in what positions, how gratifying it is for you and if you’ve been completely faithful to her? That’s exactly what happens and probably acts as a deterrent to such suits.

  29. TrueBlue63 says:

    Her story, on her site omits going to the store manager and filling out an accident report. That might have expedited matters some, either way Toys should have been more responsive.

  30. TEW says:

    The way I read this article she developed the pain years after the accident. She has no case if the pain started a year after the accident. I do feel sorry for her because pain is one of the worst things to have to live with. Toys R Us is doing what they need to do to protect themselves from a lawsuit and with this kind of case they need to be careful. This is not a case of bad service or defective product it is a lawsuit that has millions of dollars on the line.

    • floraposte says:

      @TEW: I think you’re just looking at the summary above, not her article–she went to the doctor the Monday after getting hit by the wall because of the pain and swelling in the impacted joint.

  31. Crystal Wojcinski says:

    @Nevets68 I’ve heard of blaming the OP but you take it to a new and tragic level. It is obvious the most stressful thing that has never happened to you was someone spilled your mountain dew. You crossed the line between blaming the OP and are now firmly into troll territory. Other people have raised issue with the OP’s case such as questioning the makeup of the bathroom or the length of time to sue without attacking the victim.

    • nevets68 says:

      @Crystal Wojcinski:

      Crystal -

      I never raised the point about the OP waiting to sue.
      Nor did I mention anything about the “makeup of the bathroom”.

      BTW, I’m not a troll.. I prefer to be called a “lovely lil bugbear”.

  32. Crystal Wojcinski says:

    Apparently reading isn’t your strong point either. I mentioned how other people had issue with the case and gave detail of their issue. This, are you following me now, gives you an idea on how to evaluate the OP’s case without resorting to blaming the victim.

  33. Kaellorian says:

    My review of her blog and this article does not demonstrate any kind of authoritative diagnosis from a physician, neurologist, rheumatologist, orthopedist, or otherwise. The distinct lack of medical opinions cited doesn’t do much for demonstrating a highly compensable claim.

    Were any depositions taken? Were any actual diagnoses made? The term “somatic conversion” comes to mind. Sorry if that seems harsh.

    Subjective complaints will only get you so far with a judge and jury. Toys ‘R Us seems clearly negligent, but you need more than just a “oops, we screwed up” finding and subjective complaints of pain usually aren’t enough.

    All in all, I’d say any hope for a windfall verdict is slim. Chronic pain-causing injuries with mainly chiropractic and pain management treatment do not generally yield large recoveries. Many judges and juries, especially in today’s climate, engender a “suck it up” attitude for injuries without ample medical backing. While I’m not of the opinion that you need a doctor’s explanation/permission to feel pain, a trier of fact such as a judge or jury usually like seeing one. Show them the doctor’s note and they’ll show you the money.

  34. nevets68 says:

    Mn gtt, s ths wmn drm qn r wht?

    ” try nt t lk n th mrrr t th prsn ‘v bcm – shmd f my bdy nd my nwfnd strggl wth wght gn, mbrrssd by my pn, glty f my mptnc. t hs bn dffclt t ccpt nd djst t gng frm hppy, hlthy, physclly ctv mthr t smn wh hs t pck nd chs whch dly tsks cn gt ccmplshd wll ch dy f t ll”.

    f ws Tys R s, ‘d gv hr W Ft (snc sh’s shmd s t wht hr bdy bcm) nd $100 gft crtfct.

    ‘m kddng ctlly * wldn’t gv hr th gft crt*. Hh.

    ‘m srry tht sh gt hrt bt rd hr blg nd t rds lk smn wh gt pmmld by ngry bdgr, hd 3 k trs fll n hr nd thn mckd by Nlsn (f Th Smpsns).

    • juri squared says:

      @nevets68: I’m gonna take a wild guess here: you’ve never lived with chronic pain, have you?

    • floraposte says:

      @nevets68: I think it can be tough to understand how life-altering the experience of chronic pain is. It’s a a debilitating impairment that cripples you mentally as well as physically (the brain actually shrinks, in fact) and sets sudden bizarre limits on your life. And unfortunately the longer it goes on, the less likely it is that it’s going to recede; your brain begins to treat pain as the default, and your body sacrifices other parts of you to try to protect the injured bits, so you end up damaged from attempts at accommodation as well as from the initial problem.

      So it’s a dramatic situation, and I’m therefore inclined to cut her some slack for talking about it dramatically.

    • Pink Puppet says:

      @nvts68: rn’t y jst s spcl, prncss. ‘m sr tht f yr lf ws sddnly nd prmnntly mpctd fr th wrs n wy tht mght nt vr gt bttr, y’d b th chrst lttl grl n th blck, wldn’t y? Y wldn’t hld thng gnst th ppl tht csd t, rght? Bcs y’r jst s grt.

      Nw lt’s ply lttl gm, swt p! t’s clld hd nd g fck yrslf. Srsly. Gv th pr wmn brk, y dch.

      • nevets68 says:

        @Pnk Pppt:

        sns lt f ngr mntng frm y sgr tts.

        Hs bthrm stll frm /Wl Mrt/Kmrt/Sv Mrt/S-Mrt/Chld Wrld r Tys r s flln n y?

        My lf hs bn sddnly nd prmnntly mpctd by rdng yr rspns t m.

        shll s y fr :

        1. nsntng ‘m f th fml gndr.
        2. cllng m p
        3. dfmng my chrctr nd mkng my ptr ptms vtr pst.

  35. Oranges w/ Cheese says:

    One of my friend’s mothers is a sufferer of “chronic pain” and I know hers is because her back (spine) has something wrong with it.

    Surely, the doctors have identified the cause of this woman’s pain and can address it? I mean, there’s GOT TO be a cause they can address right? Your body just doesn’t turn off being functional because you got bashed about a bit.. does it?

    Good luck to her in her suit though, she deserves every penny she can squeeze out of these jackasses!

    • floraposte says:

      @Oranges w/ Cheese: It can, unfortunately. And the correlation to visible disk or spinal irregularities isn’t hugely reliable–now that we can see inside bodies without cutting ‘em open, it becomes clear that some people have herniated disks and no pain, while some people have spinal nerve pain with no obvious disk issues, so sometimes fixing what looks irregular helps and sometimes it doesn’t. Contemporary medicine is still really stumped by the chronic, by and large. I’m afraid that Kaellorian may therefore be right about her chance of proving her injury in a court, though it’s possible that Toys R Us will still get some penalty for what seems to have been a pretty dangerous situation.

  36. Saboth says:

    Always kind of convenient how people are in minor fender benders or have 20 lbs slowly fall on them and develop “chronic pain” for a lifetime.

  37. Crystal Wojcinski says:

    I agree that she does lack some kind of medical documentation to her claim. While there is an expectation that when you go to use a public restroom it will be structurally sound; you have to prove it damaged you in some sense. If this corp tended to make their bathrooms out of silly string and graham crackers you could try for class action for negligence but a one time occurance?

    • bluewyvern says:

      @Crystal Wojcinski: I think her claims of damage are pretty sound. Chronic pain is a bitch, because, yes, it is very hard to evidence. It’s subjective, and doubtless there are those who fabricate and exaggerate their claims, muddying the waters for those with legitimate suffering. But did you see the pictures? It seems reasonable that the stall door could cause that damage. Hell, the quick twist she did to protect her daughter, even if the stall door never touched her, could have wrenched and damaged something pretty seriously.

      So what if it was a one-time occurrence? Do you have to wait for the same catastrophic accident to happen to you two or three times before you seek compensation? No. It happened, damage allegedly resulted, and that’s what companies carry liability insurance for. TRU dropped the ball by giving her the runaround.

  38. Kaellorian says:

    I think her (I hesitate to use this term) bully pulpit helped spurn her desire to pursue litigation. It could be a bit of a loss-leader of sorts for her. She may lose her case, but gets street cred for having attempted to stand up to the powers that be. Besides, she’s invariably retained the services of an attorney that works on contingency (in the regular sense, not the Lionel-Hutz ‘works on contingency? No, Money Down!’-sense) What does she have to lose?

  39. lolababy says:

    I’m kind of confused why people are finding her injury so hard to believe.

    I mean, it’s not just the decent amount of weight of the partition falling on her that’s injuring her. When you know that you are about to be injured and there is nothing you can do about it (ie, a second before a car crash, right after stumbling into a hard fall) your body involuntarily tenses up, bracing yourself for the impact. It’s a survival instinct.

    But just because you survive doesn’t mean the combination of your muscles contracting, your body contorting, and something heavy impacting your body can’t cause serious amounts of damage. It’s not just x number of pounds being handed to you, or being thrown and catching x number of pounds.

    Fighting a large company in order to get them to admit that they wronged you is not as fun and lucrative as it sounds like. It just seems to me like this woman is missing great years with her daughter, has gone through the proper channels, been ignored, and has had it. I’d be mad as hell, too.

    • Eyebrows McGee (now with double the baby!) says:

      @lolababy: I think people are reacting the way they are because certain ailments — chronic pain, chronic fatigue syndrome, sick building syndrome, fibromyalgia — lend themselves particularly well to being faked in workers comp and disability benefits cases. They are HORRIBLE problems to have that are absolutely debilitating .. but they’re also tricky to diagnose and rely quite a bit on subjective descriptions of pain.

      There’s definitely a class of people that runs around going, “Chronic incurable condition with vague diagnostic criteria that will prevent me from working AND get me money? SIGN ME UP!” That makes it very difficult for those who DO suffer from these problems to be taken seriously.

      We were hearing, anecdotally, from some other lawyers that there’s been a spate of SSDI claims for disability all focusing around fibromyalgia locally. One person successfully got a claim through, and apparently told all her friends. They doctor-shopped until they got diagnoses (from the same few doctors) and then this large number of people all from the same couple of neighborhoods ALL started claiming they couldn’t work and required disability. Either we’ve got a bunch of lying, scamming jerks, or we’re about to make the environmental toxin/illness connection of the century. :P (And given that this is a poorer neighborhood, I bet plenty of them DO have health problems from lack of health care, and some of them probably feel too rotten to work, and could be easily treated and are pursuing their claims in something like good faith because they can’t get treatment, so disability is the next best thing. But it’s not fibromyalgia.)

      But the thing is, the next person who ACTUALLY has fibromyalgia and has to interact with that office is going to get laughed out of the building. Which sucks.

    • IT-Chick says:

      @lolababy:

      Agreed, and well put.

  40. matt1978 says:

    Wow, two separate disemvoweled commenters! Is this a hot thread, or what? I don’t really understand chronic pain, so that means I don’t dismiss it out of hand. I also can’t wrap my head around people with no experience in a subject broadcast their opinions as fact.

  41. ionerox says:

    Of course Toys’r’us has some liability on this- she got hurt in their store by a poorly maintained fixture.
    She wasn’t climbing up racks of toys, or hanging on a door while swinging back and forth. It’s not so different than having a rack of shelving fall on you as you walk by.

    This is why companies carry insurance. They should have just agreed to take care of this in the first place.

    • Pylon83 says:

      @ionerox:
      While I agree that the store has insurance for things like this and should have just taken care of it, I disagree with your conclusion that they have liability just because she got hurt. You don’t know that the stall was improperly maintained. Are you familiar with the proper maintenance procedures for the type of stall in question? Are you familiar with the maintenance history of the particular stall in question?

  42. plutonyum says:

    What’s the opposite of “Blaming the OP?”

    We need a term/phrase for “automatically taking the side of any private citizen who is up against a Big Bad Corporation.”

    Not saying the woman in question is right or wrong, but just because it’s David vs. Goliath in cases like this doesn’t mean David is always representing all that is good and right. We’re necessarily only treated to one side of the story in situations like this.

  43. Borax-Johnson says:

    May I buy a vowel please?

  44. Ninjanice says:

    Let me start off by saying how I hate litigious people. However, I think it’s disgusting how Toy’R’Us dealt with this situation and I hope she cleans them out. This woman doesn’t strike me as someone trying to get rich. She strikes me as someone who’s trying to get a company to pay for their negligence. I think some of the people here that are posting things about her being sue-happy or looking for a payday need to read her story. Then maybe they’ll see why so many people here are supporting her.

  45. Pylon83 says:

    @Ninjanice: The problem I have with stories like this, and the comments that follow, is that people throw around words like “negligence” without really knowing what it means. Negligence is a legal conclusion that only a judge or jury can make, based upon the facts presented. For you or others to just decide, based upon only 1 set of biased facts that Toys ‘R Us was negligent is just irresponsible. The fact something bad happened in their store doesn’t automatically make Toys ‘R Us negligent. Further, her story does have some holes in it, which gives a reasonable person grounds to call it suspect.

  46. Applekid ┬──┬ ノ( ゜-゜ノ) says:

    @matt1978: My favorite part about disemvoweled posts is trying to reconstruct the original post.

    My holy grail of posting will be to find a disemvoweled post and be able to reconstruct an “original” post that’s both completely different from what was originally posted and amusing.

    • ZekeSulastin says:

      @Applekid: Trying to reconstruct the post is the worst part. Flag it or delete it and its follow-ons, but don’t make me waste my damn time trying to figure out what was said that made everyone else give their comments.

    • MostlyHarmless says:

      @Applekid: heh heh heh just what I was thinking really. Its nice fun for when you have some down time to while away. I might actually do that while at the gym cycling away (or whatever it is that they call those machines.)

      Also, did this thread just set the record for the most disemvovelments within a single thread? I have never seen 3 before. maybe 2 at max. Anyone have a record?

  47. handyr says:

    Its amazing how often people develop “chronic pain” when big concerns are involved. The restroom is the only spot in the store not covered by a camera so it would be very easy to stage an accident.

    • rasbach says:

      @handyr: I was kind of thinking the same thing. Especially when you consider what she does for a living- she would be quite familiar with this process. But hey, it could’ve happened.

  48. Chris Walters says:

    Some quick points to address the intense skepticism I’m seeing in the comments. For the record, I don’t know the OP, and yet I think her track record on consumer advocacy, and the level of detail she offers in her original post, affords her some level of credibility.

    - She began seeking medical advice within a couple of days of the injury, because the pain wasn’t going away. Statements that she waited three years to complain, or that she didn’t go to the doctor right away, are simply inaccurate, which one would know if one read the original post (or my summary).

    - The OP runs a well-known blog that has strongly advocated for child safety and parent advocacy for several years. It’s clear from the original story that she has intentionally never mentioned this before because she has been trying to settle this privately. Now a court date has been set, and for whatever reason she feels she can now share info on it.

    - None of us knows what she’s seeking from TRU, so wild accusations about her character based on assumptions about her goals are out of line. They make you look like you don’t have basic reading skills, which you do have, right? I mean, you did read the original article before posting your verdict on the OP and her cause? Right? [crickets chirping]

    - She and her husband estimated the door to weigh about 65lbs. That may or may not be a correct assumption, but my point is this detail is written in her original post.

    - It’s entirely correct that she should write about this on her blog, not for attention or because she’s a “drama queen,” but because her blog is about safety and consumer advocacy.

    - You’re not reading a brief for the court or an exhaustive study of the issue. This is one party’s story, and of course it’s going to tell the event from her point of view. That’s not a flaw or an error; that’s what one party’s story is. Certainly Toys R Us has lots of ways it can put out its own version of events. We are not responsible for that, and unless Toys R Us provided some damning evidence of fraud–like video footage of this woman being a bad consumer and vandalizing the stall so it would fall on her–we probably wouldn’t bother running a post on it. We’re about the consumer’s story, not the company’s and we’re not going to waste our time being an outlet for PR flacks.

    - Along those same lines, this post and the original post are really about how the accident changed her life, and how she’s determined to fight a corporation over it. These are hugely important elements to consumer advocacy and safety.

    - If you don’t have empathy for chronic pain, hooray for you. That almost certainly doesn’t make you an expert on chronic pain, so at the very least give the woman the benefit of the doubt

    - Before attacking someone’s character or motive, or saying a story is full of holes, read the original article. If you don’t have time, move on, you can comment on something else.

    - Don’t feed the trolls; assume Roz will hunt them down. (Thanks, Roz!)

  49. TanKill3R says:

    On a side note; I don’t think even the store manger could have prevented this. Who would have guessed the bathroom bolting would have broken and fell on someone. Checking out if your building is constructed strongly is not a normal thing store manager looks for. Crazy bad thing alright.

    In any case, I hope she sue’s the **** out of them for not calling her back and offering to pay for and her child’s med treatments.

  50. Corporate_guy says:

    This story just sounds way too convenient. As long as that stall was mounted correctly the only way it is going to fall is if someone tears it down. Plus when anyone claims some kind of chronic pain from something that obviously would not cause it, there is a problem. That thing falling on her would have not even done as much injury as if she slipped on a puddle and fell onto a concrete floor.

    In the end Toy’s R US sells toys. They do not manage bathrooms. A separate company set that stall up. Random people go in and out all the time and many people do treat bathroom stalls like crap by beating on them and slamming them. For all we know the fatal damaged was caused 10 minutes before she went into the bathroom.

    If the cleaning staff regularly reported issues with the stall doors and had things fixed, then this woman should be SOL. Also she did not immediately go to a doctor, so whatever caused her chronic pain could easily have been caused by something else later on. But I have a feeling the pain is all in her head.

  51. HogwartsAlum says:

    My first thought when I saw the picture of the fallen stall was “Holy shit! That would HURT!”

    I read the original article, and she doesn’t sound sue-happy or “exited to blog the trial” to me. She sounds as if she is at the end of her rope. If this happened to me, I would be furious if the store did not at least pay my medical bills.

    If indeed they KNEW the stall was loose and did nothing to maintain it – that is the question no one has asked. It seems to me that it’s the first question their lawyers would address.

    I had a similar incident happen to me once. A phone booth in the parking lot of the apartment complex I lived in had a sliding door that had come off the track. The complex called the phone company repeatedly to come fix it, and they didn’t. One day I went to make a call and the door shut and trapped me inside. I pulled the door to try and get out, and it flew back and hit me in the face, cutting me over my eye. I had to have four stitches in the emergency room.

    I wrote them a letter, and they paid the bill. The very next week, they took out the booth and put in a free-standing phone.

  52. HogwartsAlum says:

    *excited, rather :P

  53. downwithmonstercable says:

    @Applekid: Kinda like playing telephone!

  54. ZoeSchizzel says:

    I work at a children’s gym, and you’d think we’d be a magnet for lawsuits, but we haven’t been sued. Ever. In seventeen years. We have had some injuries, of course, but they happened in the natural course of athletic activities, and the parents have all seemed to understand the risk that gymnastics, and physical play entails. Now, if we had a bathroom stall fall on a customer who was sitting on the crapper, I expect that we might be sued…or we might not, because we treat our customers with compassion and gratitude for their patronage. We have strict guidelines on how to deal with injuries and follow up as well. I’m surprised that a company as large at Toys R Us doesn’t have some fairly straightforward policies and procedures on how to deal with in-store injuries in a way that minimizes the kind of bad faith feelings that lead to lawsuits.

  55. Pylon83 says:

    @Corporate Guy: I think she also has a problem in the fact she didn’t report it to the store management at the time it happened. I imagine if I worked in their risk management department, and I got a call about an accident that occurred days before that went completely unreported at the time it happened, I’d be suspicious too.

  56. Pylon83 says:

    @Floraposte: It’s an inference from the blog post. She doesn’t say she reported it, and that’s a pretty big detail to leave out if she did. I will admit that it’s a big inference, but I don’t think it’s an unreasonable one. To me, that seems like a huge part of the story: how the store manager handled it when it was reported to him. Her omission of that fact was either a huge, accidental omission, or an omission because it simply didn’t happen. If she did indeed report it, obviously my above statement is moot.

  57. MooseOfReason says:

    How’d she get the stall door open the first time without it falling over?

  58. Namilia says:

    Geez, I stop coming to Consumerist for a few months and return to a plethora of disemvoweled posts in addition to the “blame the OP” that filled the commenting section when I left. Also, is Consumerist no longer run by Gawker Media? I see the tag at the bottom says “Consumer Media LLC”…

    Chronic pain is nasty, my father has it from an incident while he was in the military.

    • MostlyHarmless says:

      @Namilia: Yeah, Gawker sold off Consumerist. As for the “Blame the OP”, its has been on the decline really. Certainly not as much as it was before. This thread has a disproportionate number of OP blamers. I think it is because maybe they dont know what a damper chronic pain is.

  59. Chris Walters says:

    Seriously, like, over half of y’all seem to think she’s lying, which even for our blog is a pretty extreme number. Is it because her post isn’t as precise or structured as you like, but rather jumps around chronologically and focuses as much on her emotional journey as on the accident? Otherwise I can’t fathom the hostility toward her in the comments today.

    @Pylon83, not, it’s not a big detail to leave out. For all you know, she may have gone through a dozen different procedural steps and only reported a couple of them. It’s quite obvious that the post is not meant to be a comprehensive step-by-step recount of the accident and its consequences. She is not making a case for you against TRU in the post. She is explaining, in broad strokes, what happened to her, and announcing that in June she’ll be going to court over a very personal case, which is relevant to her and (we assume) her readers, and (I assumed) our readers, because it’s so similar to the content covered by her blog and ours.

    I don’t think you and the other give-her-no-quarter skeptics are deliberately misreading her post, but I do suspect that you’re not reading it as it’s intended, and that you’re looking for content that was never promised and that’s clearly not there–and as a consequence, you’ve decided she somehow doesn’t have a case.

    She may or may not have a case, but assuming the basic facts are true–that a bathroom stall fell on her, that she required assistance to get it off of her and her kid, and that pain started after that and has yet to be properly diagnosed and treated–I’d like to think Consumerist readers are fair-minded enough to at least give her the benefit of the doubt. The idea that all chronic pain and undiagnosable injuries are scams is phenomenally stupid to me–just a few articles over the brain-body connection alone (read “The Itch” in the New Yorker 4-5 months ago, e.g.) should indicate otherwise.

  60. matt1978 says:

    @ZekeSulastin: It’s public humiliation, man! Don’t try to fill it in, it was worthless to begin with.

  61. Pylon83 says:

    @Chris Walters: I suppose you and I will have to agree to disagree on that point. In my opinion, and judging from the comments a few other peoples as well, there is a convenient omission of details concerning certain events or non-events. She is extremely detailed with regard to what happened when it suits here story, and omits details or is vague when it does not. I don’t fault her for this, it’s exactly how one writes persuasively.

    That said, I’m not persuaded and I don’t think we should be expected to take her at her word just because she runs a blog, is a consumer advocate, etc. If you’ll carefully read what I have written, I’ve not said explicitly whether I think she has a case or not. I’ve said I don’t think it’s a lock, and that there are some holes she’ll have to deal with. I haven’t said TRU wasn’t negligent. The reality of it is she’ll probably get a sympathetic jury to give her some money regardless of whether it’s deserved. I do not believe enough details have been provided for me to make a clear judgment with regard to whether or not TRU was negligent in this case. What I refuse to do is blindly take her side of the story as the truth and proceed to bash TRU for their negligence and irresponsibility.

    Forums like this are useful for debating issues and discussing the details (or lack thereof) of the posts. All of that said, there are a number of comments on here that are indeed out of line. But I don’t think those of us who are simply questioning the details of her account, or opining as to whether or not there might be liability, is out of line. A few people have automatically jumped to the conclusion that TRU was negligent, and I think they should be called out on that. I don’t think calling those people out is out of line, and I think doing so contributes to the discussion.

  62. redkamel says:

    My red flag is when she blamed Dr. Brown for exposing her baby to carcinogens through the bottle. I doubt Dr. Brown makes her baby bottles.

  63. Pylon83 says:

    @redkamel: Dr. Brown doesn’t make baby bottles, he makes time machines out of Deloreans and stolen plutonium.

  64. Rebecca Brown says:

    I’m so done with these broken reply links. Please fix them, someone!

  65. mariospants says:

    I’m not surprised they didn’t throw the “upon entering our store, you unconditionally accept to have any claims against us heard and decided via arbitration of our choosing.”

  66. Subsound says:

    Is this really the message they want to be sending? That if something bad happens the customer can go screw themselves…not even an apology? I mean what would have happened if just the kid was in there?

    I’m keeping any kids I have out of these stores just because now I know they don’t give a crap about anyone or anything but their bottom line.

  67. Solange82200 says:

    I can sympathize with this lady in regards to all the skeptics that start commenting anytime anyone dares make a complaint against those innocent, saintly corporations.

    I placed a complaint on Planet Feedback about Victoria’s Secret, in regards to their website opting me into some stupid travel package when I made a purchase, resulting in a 100 dollar charge on my debit card a month later for the “travel membership”.

    Anyway, I called the travel company and they told me I could cancel and get a refund, but I was still upset that a company like Victoria’s Secret took advantage of the fact that I was buying something from them, and let another company charge me 100 bucks for some stupid membership for something totally unrelated. Planet Feedback commented on my complaint, stating that I had a valid complaint because V.S. had been doing what is called an “opt-out”, as opposed to having to opt-in to the program, which is deceitful and a bad business practice.

    My point is, regardless of how valid a complaint I had, and how even Planet Feedback agreed, I had no shortage of people calling me out for trying to “get a free lunch” and all kinds of things like that. There was no proof whatsoever that I was lying, people just like to assume things without even considering that it might have actually happened. You don’t have to automatically assume everyone is telling the truth, but you guys should give people the benefit of the doubt. Are you telling me it’s that hard for you to believe that a company might actually be wrong? Do we not read Consumerist?

  68. MissPiss says:

    When my gay buddy & were in the military, he was the safety advocate of our department. We’d go out for drinks & he’d send me home in his car trashed so he could leave with another hot man! The nerve!