By Georgia D. Koutouzos, J.D.
Once released into the environment from a torn cover, the fire-retardant glass fibers allegedly can cause serious personal injury and extensive property damage.
A couple who allegedly had been forced to move out of their home after their child’s mattress allegedly released extremely large amounts of dangerous glass fibers that caused serious injuries to their family of five and destroyed thousands of dollars’ worth of their personal property filed a putative class action suit against the mattress manufacturer, Zinus, Inc., as well as the retailers that sell the mattresses, including Amazon.com. Among the causes of action asserted in the couple’s complaint are design defect, failure to warn, and negligence/gross negligence claims against the mattress maker, as well as fraudulent concealment/omission, unjust enrichment, and breach of implied warranty claims against the mattresses’ manufacturer and distributors (Chandler v. Amazon.com LLC, March 11, 2020, Daly, R.).
An Illinois couple purchased a Zinus memory foam mattress from Walmart for their child in the summer of 2019 that contained a removable outer cover equipped with a zipper. A mattress tag that read in part "62% Glass Fibers" was attached to the outer cover. About six months later, the consumer removed the outer cover to launder it with other items in a newly purchased washing machine. After washing, the cover was draped over a couch to dry underneath a ceiling fan. During this process, the couple’s two sons had fun playing jumping games on the mattress.
Injuries. The following morning, the boys’ father immediately noticed his skin was very irritated and extremely itchy. His sons also began crying that their whole bodies itched. Shortly thereafter, he discovered his whole body, as well as his spouse’s and sons’ bodies, were covered with little, hard-to-see shards of glass. The glass fibers from the subject mattress caused extreme pain and suffering to the couple’s family by cutting the skin of each family member, causing dermatitis. The boys’ father had several shards of glass fibers surgically removed from the back of his neck and has been unable to return to work as a result of his injuries. In addition, the severity of the couple’s and their children’s injuries are unknown because each family member likely inhaled significant amounts of glass fibers.
Property damage. The couple also noticed that their home had been blanketed with the same little shards of glass. Tiny shards of glass were embedded in all parts of their home—both inside and out—including their clothes, bedding, towels, appliances, carpet, tile, walls, tools, electronics, and inside their cars. Since early February 2020, the couple and their family have resided at a hotel because they are unable to return to their home due to glass fiber contamination.
Affected classes of consumers. The couple filed a putative class-action suit against Zinus and the retailers that sell the subject mattresses, Amazon.com LLC, eBay Inc., Target AABC Corporation, Walmart, Inc., and Wayfair, Inc., on behalf of the following: (1) a proposed nationwide class of consumers who purchased the affected mattresses; (2) a proposed nationwide class of adults injured by glass fibers from the affected mattresses; (3) a proposed nationwide class of minors injured by glass fibers from the affected mattresses; (4) a proposed nationwide class of individuals who suffered personal property damage by glass fibers from the affected mattresses; and (5) a proposed nationwide class of individuals who suffered real estate property damage by glass fibers from the affected mattresses.
Product defect. At the time that the subject mattresses were designed, manufactured, and sold by Zinus, they were defective in design and unreasonably dangerous, the couple maintains, stating that the mattress’s defective and unreasonably dangerous condition was a direct and proximate cause of the couple’s injuries. The defects regarding the mattresses include, but are not limited to, the equipped zipper on the outer cover that invites users to open it, which potentially exposes them to highly dangerous glass fibers. Furthermore, to the extent that Zinus attempts to rely on any standards or regulations of the federal government, such standards or regulations were inadequate to protect against the risk or accident and/or injuries that occurred in this accident, and/or Zinus withheld or misrepresented information to the government regarding the adequacy of the safety standard at issue, the couple contends.
Failure to warn. According to the couple, Zinus knew of the defects for at least eight months but failed to adequately warn or notify consumers. In 2019, a consumer posted the following message on the manufacturer’s website: "Can I wash my Zinus mattress cover?" to which the company responded: "Our mattresses are self-contained wonder delivery systems! Removing the mattress cover could jeopardize that system. The mattress cover isn’t washable, and removing it could inhibit the fire safety barrier, so please always leave the cover on." That warning fails to mention terms like fiberglass, glass fibers, or contains glass, or the potential consequences that can occur if the removable outer cover is removed, the couple asserts, adding that the warning fails to explain that "removing [the cover] could inhibit the fire safety barrier" which then may cause thousands of glass fibers to release from the mattress, potentially resulting in serious injuries and property damage.
Other claims. The couple’s complaint also alleges a breach-of-warranty claim against all defendants under the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act that warrants equitable relief as well as a claim for fraudulent concealment/fraudulent omission in that the companies failed to disclose material facts related to the products’ alleged defects in public statements and communications that were designed and intended to reach consumers. The companies were unjustly enriched by virtue of their tortious or fraudulent conduct, and in the alternative to the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act claim, the complaint alleges. Finally, in addition to the products liability causes of action, Zinus committed acts of omission and commission that collectively and severally constituted negligence and/or gross negligence that proximately caused the consumers’ injuries.
Sought-after relief. Demanding a jury trial, the couple is seeking actual, compensatory, and/or statutory damages as well as punitive and exemplary damages, plus fees/costs and pre- and post-judgment interest. In addition, the couple asked the court to issue a declaration that: (1) the affected mattresses are defective as described in their complaint; (2) the defects are safety-related; and (3) the defendants be financially responsible for notifying all class members of the defects present in the affected mattresses. The couple also wants an order requiring the manufacturer and sellers to desist from further deceptive distribution and sales practices with respect to the affected mattresses.
The case is No. 20-cv-265.
Attorneys: Christopher F. Cueto (Law Office of Christopher Cueto, Ltd.) for Amanda Chandler and Robert Durham.
Companies: Amazon.Com LLC; eBay Inc.; Target AABC Corp.; Walmart Inc.; Wayfair Inc.; Zinus, Inc.
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