Law Office of Lowell Steiger

Paper Shredders Putting Kids and Pets at Risk of Major Injury

Author: Lowell Steiger

Published On: January 25, 2009

Yesterday I received an e-mail from a parent whose young child lost 3 fingers in a home paper shredder. It happened in a flash. The poor mother did everything she could to save the child’s little fingers but, alas, to no avail. Fingers are no match for the blades of a paper shredder. The fault of the parent? I think not. Can she sue someone for the injuries sustained by her child? Yes. Should she sue someone for the injuries sustained by her child? Yes. Read on.

Manufacturers of paper shredders, whether for home or business use, are aware of the potential dangers of their products. It’s not rocket science that a child’s fingers, or a dog’s tongue, are small enough to find there way into the paper entry chute. Very few manufacturers have addressed this issue. Later in this article you will find information on two manufacturers that provide paper shredders with built in safety features designed to prevent injuries to kids and pets.

The Consumer Product Safety Commission published an article on this very subject. Paper Shredder Safety Alert says “From January 2000 through September 2005, CPSC received 50 reports of incidents involving finger amputations, lacerations, and other finger injuries from paper shredders. The majority of injuries were to young children under age 5.” The incidents happen so quickly that they can occur even in the presence of adult supervision! They offer the following safety tips:

  • Never allow children to operate paper shredders, even under adult supervision. Paper shredders can pull children’s fingers into the shredder mechanism.
  • Place the paper shredder in an area less accessible to children.
  • Unplug the paper shredder power cord when the shredder is not in use.
  • Do not place hands or fingers in the shredder opening.
  • Do not operate a paper shredder while wearing loose fitting clothing that may enter the shredder opening.
  • Keep hair and items, such as a tie or a long necklace, away from the shredder opening.

The Consumer Product Safety Commission wrote an extensive article on the evaluation of paper shredder related finger injuries. Read CPSC Evaluation of Finger Injuries. This article is in .pdf format. If you can’t open it, click here to download the free Adobe Acrobat Reader.

Child Loses Fingers in Shredder

BS News aired a video about the tragic story of Lisa Broadfoot’s little boy Talan who “screamed, and then was begging me to get his hands out of this machine, saying, ‘Please, Mommy, please, Mommy, get my hand out.’ He was just screaming and crying and begging.” She rushed him to the hospital with the shredder still attached. He lost 3 fingers and, to this day, keeps asking his mommy when they’re going to grow back. Watch the video here.

Dog Shreds Tongue in Shredder

Kids aren’t the only beings vulnerable to the possible horrors of the home paper shredder. I found several instances of dogs shredding their tongues when trying to lick the paper shredder. Shred the tongue to much and the doggie is a candidate for euthanasia because dogs use their tongues to drink water. A doggie horror story was aired on ABC News. Click here to watch the video.

Paper Shredder Horror Stories has an article devoted to paper shredder horror stories too gruesome to discuss here. You can go directly to their article on the web by clicking here or to the .pdf version of the article by clicking here.

Child and Pet Safe Paper Shredders

A little research revealed that horrifyingly few manufacturers provide child or pet safe shredders. I found two (2) such manufacturers: Fellowes and Royal. Fellowes DS-1 and DS-2 both have the same SafeSense feature that turns off the blades if the paper entry slot is touched, thereby preventing fingers, tongues and tails from finding their way into the grasp of the life-changing blades. Fellowes manufactures several other safe paper shredders including the Powershred P-57cs and SB-97cs models.The Royal PX 110 MX paper shredder, with its patented throat safety guard, is also designed to protect children and pets from injury.

Please note that I have not personally used these shredders and am only reporting what I’ve been reading on the Internet. In other words, I can’t vouch for the viability of the safety claims made by these manufacturers. You’ll need to do your own research before purchasing any of these shredders.

Can You Sue For Paper Shredder Related Injuries?

Yes. Injuries related to bad design or manufacture of a product fall into the product liability category. If an injury is sustained as a result of bad design or manufacture, then everyone in the chain of commerce (i.e., manufacturer, distributor, retailer) can be held liable for that injury or injuries. When you buy or use a product, it is reasonable to assume that the product will be safe when used for its intended purpose. It is also reasonable to assume that the product will warn you of any potential dangers. If the product is then unsafe for use or if you have not been warned of its potential dangers, and if an injury occurs, then you have the legal right to take everyone in the chain of commerce to task. Will they put up a defense? Yes. Are you guaranteed to prevail? No. However, an attorney experienced in the area of product liability will analyze the facts as they apply to the law and determine whether you have a viable case and proceed from there.

What type of compensation are you entitled to? The injured person is entitled to compensation for medical expenses, loss of earnings, future medical expenses and loss of earnings, and pain and suffering.

Read more about product liability in the Case of the Exploding Wine Bottle.

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