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Toys Government The Courts United States

U.S. Gov't Still Fighting the Man Behind Buckyballs; Guess Who's Winning? 555

Posted by Soulskill
from the interfering-with-natural-selection dept.
usacoder writes with news of Craig Zucker, former CEO of the company behind Buckyballs, the popular neodymium magnet toys that were banned by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission in July 2012. Zucker ran a brief campaign to drum up opposition to the government's ban, but it didn't turn out to be enough. Unfortunately for Zucker, the story didn't end there. Despite the magnets being labeled as not for kids, the Commission filed a motion to find him personally liable for the costs of a product recall, estimated at around $57 million. "Given the fact that Buckyballs have now long been off the market, the attempt to go after Mr. Zucker personally raises the question of retaliation for his public campaign against the commission. Mr. Zucker won't speculate about the commission's motives. 'It's very selective and very aggressive,' he says. ... Mr. Zucker says his treatment at the hands of the commission should alarm fellow entrepreneurs: 'This is the beginning. It starts with this case. If you play out what happens to me, then the next thing you'll have is personal-injury lawyers saying "you conducted the actions of the company, you were the company."'"
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U.S. Gov't Still Fighting the Man Behind Buckyballs; Guess Who's Winning?

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  • Re:Sounds good to me (Score:5, Informative)

    by Xicor (2738029) on Saturday August 31, 2013 @05:56PM (#44726591)
    no, thats NOT good. that means that you can be personally sued for anything that goes on with the company. imagine you had a startup ladder company and you personally got sued for 100M dollars because your ladder caused injury to some dumbass who set it up upside down. you think im being silly? you do know why they have all those stickers on the ladder telling you how to use it dont you? it is because the companies LOST a lawsuit for that very reason. it would be totally ridiculous to fine a person for the actions or products of a company, even if that person created or is in charge of the company.
  • by BLKMGK (34057) <morejunk4me&hotmail,com> on Saturday August 31, 2013 @06:13PM (#44726683) Homepage Journal

    DealExtreme.com - it's where I've been getting mine from since this asshattery started.

    http://dx.com/s/magnet+balls [dx.com]

  • by BLKMGK (34057) <morejunk4me&hotmail,com> on Saturday August 31, 2013 @06:22PM (#44726739) Homepage Journal

    I played with a Bow and Arrow as a child - target arrows at least. I would fire them straight up in a field and then run to where they fell. firing them across a field was also fun and I played with large numbers of BlackCat firecrackers too. Looking back sure there was potential for stupidity and injury but it never happened. Why must we wrap kids in bubblewrap now?

    As an aside - I had a magnet collection as a child. All sorts of shapes, sizes, and some were VERY strong. Never once did it ever occur to me to place them in my mouth or swallow them, I was taught better than that. Why are kids today so damned stupid? Teens swallowing these trying to imitate piercings is plain retarded...

  • by the eric conspiracy (20178) on Saturday August 31, 2013 @06:40PM (#44726865)

    Originally the idea of corporations as people was NOT a privilege. It was a liability in that it made corporations subject to legal action.

    If they were not people they weren't subject to legal action in court, you could not sue them and you certainly could not regulate them or hold them to a contract.

    Now of course it's been taken too far and corporate people have become bestowed with more and more attributes of personhood as time goes on. Citizen's United is the most famous recent aspect of this.

  • Re:Sounds good to me (Score:5, Informative)

    by Attila Dimedici (1036002) on Saturday August 31, 2013 @06:55PM (#44726943)
    No, the company was told to come up with a corrective action plan to deal with the danger which the Consumer Product Safety Board thought that the product posed The CPSB gave them a two week deadline or face a lawsuit. In the meantime, contrary to precedent, the CPSB contacted retailers directly. The CPSB filed lawsuit the morning after the corrective action plan was filed (meaning the CPSB had not had time to review the plan before they submitted the lawsuit).
    In response to the lawsuit, the CEO of the company launched a PR campaign to attempt to raise public awareness and political pressure to save his business. When the PR campaign failed, the CEO dissolved the company (since the CPSB had essentially outlawed their only product). Oh, and by the way, my understanding of the legality of the situation is that it was legal to continue selling the Buckyballs until the CPSB got a court ruling in their favor.
  • Re:Sounds good to me (Score:5, Informative)

    by Attila Dimedici (1036002) on Saturday August 31, 2013 @06:58PM (#44726959)
    Except that the government had not banned them. The government started the process of banning them. There were still several steps to go before it actually banned them. The company had no customers by the time the government had actually banned them.
  • Re:Sounds good to me (Score:5, Informative)

    by phantomfive (622387) on Saturday August 31, 2013 @07:01PM (#44726973) Journal
    The sad thing is, it wasn't marketed towards children, yet it seems safer than party balloons, which are marketed towards children.

    One of the few injuries (not deaths, like we have with balloons) from Buckyballs was the ingestion after someone put them on a cake. At some point you need to give up trying to protect people......
  • Re:Sounds good to me (Score:5, Informative)

    by ShanghaiBill (739463) on Saturday August 31, 2013 @07:24PM (#44727109)

    I don't believe hand grenades have the same warning on them.

    As a former Marine, I have some experience with hand grenades, and I can assure you that every case of grenades comes with an entire booklet of warnings, written in dense legalese.

  • by Bengie (1121981) on Saturday August 31, 2013 @07:32PM (#44727163)
    My kid once shot himself
    My kid once stabbed himself
    My kid once poured acid in his eyes
    ....

    Yep. Not bogus at all.
  • Re:Sounds good to me (Score:2, Informative)

    by Mr. Slippery (47854) <.tms. .at. .infamous.net.> on Saturday August 31, 2013 @07:58PM (#44727305) Homepage

    Speaking of personal responsibility, they're holding him personally responsible for his actions.

    ...and we certainly can't have that! It undermines the whole basis of corporate capitalism.

    This guy is an asshole. Anyone who bottles and resells tap water has a place in the special hell. Anyone who profits from exploiting the name of a great thinker ("Bucky"balls?) has a place in the special hell. He dissolved the company in order to avoid paying for the recall. Special hell.

    Some more neutral coverage than the WSJ's:

  • by dk20 (914954) on Saturday August 31, 2013 @08:12PM (#44727397)
    I'm in complete agreement with you. Ever since the early 90's the world has moved towards a "its not my fault because" type attitude. Its not my fault that little sally is a b*tch and failing school, she has ADHD/Aspergers....

    I've got three kids, and one had a set of buckyball magnets. I gave them to a 15 year old as he was old enough to know he shouldn't eat them. When they were in the "everything goes into the mouth" phase i didn't give them powerful magnets. I bought age-appropriate toys to avoid this exact problem. It should be common sense that at a certain age you need to watch the kids and protect them from themselves.

    Combine the "it wasn't my fault attitude" with the ability to sue for a lot more then if you won an average lottery and you have a real mess on your hands.
  • by BronsCon (927697) <social@bronstrup.com> on Saturday August 31, 2013 @08:39PM (#44727563) Journal
    He marketed them as toys for adults, clearly labeled as not for kids.
  • by Jstlook (1193309) on Saturday August 31, 2013 @08:44PM (#44727583)
    Three points (from the article itself):

    1) Zucker did not market buckyballs. The company, of which he is CEO, marketed them.
    2) Zucker may have been the CEO of the LLC, but under the current laws there is no excuse for the regulatory commission going after a single person, rather than the company that he ran.
    3) The company clearly *did* consider the risks of this product, as they originally marketed them as 13+. His company went on to be even more clear when it became obvious that idiots cannot comprehend what problems magnets can cause.
  • by FullCircle (643323) on Saturday August 31, 2013 @09:38PM (#44727827)

    McDonalds was clearly guilty of serving dangerously hot coffee but the media spun it as frivolous.

    McDonalds specified coffee to be 180 to 190 degrees Fahrenheit. That's hot enough to cause third degree burns and require skin grafts.

    Read some of the details or watch the documentary. The burns were horrifying and yet the poor lady gets crucified in the media.
    http://www.hotcoffeethemovie.com/default.asp?pg=mcdonalds_case [hotcoffeethemovie.com]

  • by greenbird (859670) on Saturday August 31, 2013 @09:49PM (#44727885)

    The box had a warning label, but not the product, and unlike drain cleaner the product does not stay in the box, it's designed to be stuck to things.

    Neither do tacks or dozens of other things that aren't for children. Isn't it pretty common knowledge that if it will fit in their mouth count on a kid eating it? I don't have kids and I know that. If the frigging box says not for children I'm going to take it out of the box and THEN assume it's safe for children. That's ridiculous. From what I've seen of buckyballs there isn't room to put the warning on the balls themselves where it would actually be readable.

    In addition they then enhanced the buckyball line by introducing a range of candy colours, (oranges, pink, red, blue) from memory, the orange looked particularly delicious. The drugs industry goes to some effort to try to differentiate their pills from candy, buckyball were going in the opposite direction, it was asking for trouble.

    Yeah, he made colors so more kids would eat them. I don't understand the logic here. The colors mean you can do more interesting things with them. Heaven forbid they add value to there product. They do the same thing with tacks.

    Also having watched adults play with buckyballs, they often try and make an earring, so I can imagine the following , kid A places a ball either side of their ear "look lets scare mom that I got a peircing" kid B goes one better and places one either side of their tongue"

    THE BOX SAID THEY ARE NOT SAFE FOR CHILDREN. So who's fault is it when the parent gives them to the kids?

    Given this I understand why they product was banned, they were potentially dangerous

    Damn near everything is potentially dangerous. These are no more dangerous than thousands of other things out there. Know how many kids are killed in cars every year? Yet no one does a damn thing to address that problem. It's always just an accident, someone else's fault.

  • by DrkShadow (72055) on Saturday August 31, 2013 @11:51PM (#44728373) Homepage Journal

    http://www.ncausa.org/i4a/pages/index.cfm?pageid=71 [ncausa.org]

    "Brewed coffee should be enjoyed immediately!
    "Pour it into a warmed mug or coffee cup so that it will maintain its temperature as long as possible. Brewed coffee begins to lose its optimal taste moments after brewing so only brew as much coffee as will be consumed immediately. If it will be a few minutes before it will be served, the temperature should be maintained at 180 - 185 degrees Fahrenheit. It should never be left on an electric burner for longer than 15 minutes because it will begin to develop a burned taste. If the coffee is not to be served immediately after brewing, it should be poured into a warmed, insulated thermos and used within the next 45 minutes."

    Sounds like McDonalds was doing it right. I guess the woman that burned herself was unfit to experience coffee. Are you?

  • by drinkypoo (153816) <martin.espinoza@gmail.com> on Sunday September 01, 2013 @09:19AM (#44730259) Homepage Journal

    Sounds like McDonalds was doing it right.

    That is only because your reading comprehension is somewhere below a third-grade level. You're trying to claim that coffee should be served at the brewing temperature, but nowhere on that page does it actually specify a serving temperature, only a brewing temperature. Further, NCAUSA is not qualified to hold forth on serving temperatures as is related to public safety; they are an industry shilling organization, not a public safety organization. Perhaps if you were interested in tracking down a reputable citation instead of trying to prove what you already believed (I too once believed, briefly, that a woman who got seriously burned because of McDonalds' incompetence and greed was at fault) then you'd be able to come up with something more reliable, like Calculating the optimum temperature for serving hot beverages. [nih.gov] (Brown, Diller). e.g. "The preferred drinking temperature of coffee is specified in the literature as 140+/-15 degrees F (60+/-8.3 degrees C)".

    You're also neglecting to remember that McDonalds was using a styrofoam cup which was significantly thinner than average, which became excessively deformable at these temperatures; not really a cup at all, more of a sort of coffee envelope. This was the cause of the spill. If McDonalds were less greedy, they would use either a more substantial cup (like literally everyone else) or less excessive serving temperatures.

    In short, you know nothing about this, and yet you are still trying to come up with reasons why McDonalds should be permitted to sell dangerously hot coffee for no reason other than their greed, because you are dead wrong about coffee serving temperature. Why are you so sure that you have something valuable to add to this conversation when you are in fact in a position of utter and complete ignorance?

  • by westlake (615356) on Sunday September 01, 2013 @10:38AM (#44730693)

    Sounds like McDonalds was doing it right. I guess the woman that burned herself was unfit to experience coffee. Are you?

    Abstract:

    Hot beverages such as tea, hot chocolate, and coffee are frequently served at temperatures between 160 degrees F (71.1 degrees C) and 185 degrees F (85 degrees C). Brief exposures to liquids in this temperature range can cause significant scald burns. However, hot beverages must be served at a temperature that is high enough to provide a satisfactory sensation to the consumer.
    This paper presents an analysis to quantify hot beverage temperatures that balance limiting the potential scald burn hazard and maintaining an acceptable perception of adequate product warmth...
    Recent data from the literature defines the consumer preferred drinking temperature of coffee. A metric accommodates the thermal effects of both scald hazard and product taste to identify an optimal recommended serving temperature. The burn model shows the standard exponential dependence of injury level on temperature.
    The preferred drinking temperature of coffee is specified in the literature as 140+/-15 degrees F (60+/-8.3 degrees C) for a population of 300 subjects.
    A linear (with respect to temperature) figure of merit merged the two effects to identify an optimal drinking temperature of approximately 136 degrees F (57.8 degrees C). The analysis points to a reduction in the presently recommended serving temperature of coffee to achieve the combined result of reducing the scald burn hazard and improving customer satisfaction.

    Calculating the optimum temperature for serving hot beverages. [nih.gov]

    Burns, The Journal of the International Society for Burn Injuries, August 2008

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