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

Soulskill posted about a year ago | from the interfering-with-natural-selection dept.

Toys 555

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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Sounds good to me (1, Insightful)

AmiMoJo (196126) | about a year ago | (#44726557)

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.

So there is a chance companies will no longer get pathetic fines and be pretty much unaccountable for this misdeeds. Individuals who made decisions within the organization will be held responsible.

Good.

Re:Sounds good to me (4, Informative)

Xicor (2738029) | about a year ago | (#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.

Re: Sounds good to me (3, Insightful)

turbidostato (878842) | about a year ago | (#44726645)

...because he set it upside down.

So the problem is not the liability but the stupidness of the judicial system that allows for bogus claims. Correct the problem, not something that happens to be vagely related.

As long as he gets utterly rich if everything goes according his plans, he must be the one cleaning the mess if his company throws shit to a fan

Re: Sounds good to me (-1)

Shavano (2541114) | about a year ago | (#44727063)

My kid ate one or your magnets and had to have his bowel removed is not necessarily a bogus claim.

Re: Sounds good to me (5, Insightful)

someone1234 (830754) | about a year ago | (#44727097)

Who gave that magnet to the kid?

Re:Sounds good to me (3, Insightful)

calidoscope (312571) | about a year ago | (#44726735)

no, thats NOT good. that means that you can be personally sued for anything that goes on with the company.

Since the lawsuit was filed by the Federal Government, let's carry this a bit further. If any employee of the Federal government (this includes judges) can be shown to have caused harm through malfeasance or negligence, then that employee can be held personally liable for the decision. Think anyone would want to work for the government under those conditions?

Re:Sounds good to me (2)

Stumbles (602007) | about a year ago | (#44726775)

That would be a good thing. There are far to many brainless people working in government, this commission is just one example.

Re:Sounds good to me (1)

onepoint (301486) | about a year ago | (#44726929)

While this might ( most likely ) be off topic, didn't Scientologist act upon and prove this already when they slammed the IRS with multiple lawsuits. I forget the outcome but I believed it was negative to the IRS.

Re:Sounds good to me (3, Insightful)

ShanghaiBill (739463) | about a year ago | (#44727047)

... let's carry this a bit further. If any employee of the Federal government ...

Zucker was not "any employee". He was the founder, CEO, and primary beneficiary of the product's former success. I am not saying he should be liable for the full cost of the recall, but I am saying your analogy is silly.

Re:Sounds good to me (1, Insightful)

AmiMoJo (196126) | about a year ago | (#44726767)

What has your example got to do with this situation? The company was told to stop selling a product because it was dangerous. The CEO personally decided to carry on selling it anyway, instead of stopping and then fighting the ruling.

It has nothing to do with the stupidity of the user, and everything to do with the CEO personally making a decision he had been warned could lead to people being hurt, and then some people got hurt. Feel free to debate personal responsibility all you like, but it is irrelevant here. No matter how stupid the government's decision to ban the product was failure to comply with the ban makes him liable.

Re:Sounds good to me (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44726937)

He didn't continue selling them. He put on a campaign to try to get the ruling overturned. The company no longer exists. The issue now is that they want him to pay for a recall of all of the sets sold.

Re:Sounds good to me (5, Informative)

Attila Dimedici (1036002) | about a year ago | (#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 (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44727081)

When the PR campaign failed, the CEO dissolved the company (since the CPSB had essentially outlawed their only product).

This right here might be the grounds to sue him, did he dissolve the company before the company was held liable for the costs of the recall? If the company runs out of funds that's OK, but if you funnel money out that is not. People here complain about companies shielding bad deeds, but there are there to absorb the liability, if you end the company who gets the liability?

Re:Sounds good to me (4, Insightful)

JWSmythe (446288) | about a year ago | (#44726983)

... stop selling a product because it was dangerous

You say that as if he were selling fireworks, caustic cleaning supplies, or surplus hand grenades.

He complied, labeling the product as not for children, and not for ingestion. The same kind of warnings that show up on fireworks *and* caustic cleaning supplies. I don't believe hand grenades have the same warning on them.

Well it seems that there is a warning on smoke greandes"DANGER-DO NOT USE HC IN CONFINED OR ENCLOSED AREAS- PERSONNEL MUST WEAR THE PROTECTIVE MASK IN ANY CONCENTRATION OF HC SMOKE" [googleusercontent.com] It doesn't say you can't feed it to children though.

Next time you hear about a child getting hurt with a firework, household cleaning supplies, or falling off a bicycle, be sure to remind them to sue the CEO for selling dangerous items. Don't forget to sue the CEO of every company along the entire distribution chain too.

Re:Sounds good to me (5, Informative)

ShanghaiBill (739463) | about a year ago | (#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.

Re:Sounds good to me (2)

Shavano (2541114) | about a year ago | (#44727075)

What has your example got to do with this situation? The company was told to stop selling a product because it was dangerous. The CEO personally decided to carry on selling it anyway, instead of stopping and then fighting the ruling.

It has nothing to do with the stupidity of the user, and everything to do with the CEO personally making a decision he had been warned could lead to people being hurt, and then some people got hurt. Feel free to debate personal responsibility all you like, but it is irrelevant here. No matter how stupid the government's decision to ban the product was failure to comply with the ban makes him liable.

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

Re:Sounds good to me (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44726595)

It would be good, if only they were applying it to a company that actually did misdeeds, instead of this one.

Re:Sounds good to me (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44727015)

Those companies made enough money to afford to bribe people in power.

Re:Sounds good to me (0)

Xicor (2738029) | about a year ago | (#44726601)

there are a ton of lawsuits against companies, and hardly even a small percentage of them is misdeeds. the vast majority are frivolous lawsuits, where, if a person had to pay the fines, they would be ruined instantly

Re:Sounds good to me (5, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44726653)

"the vast majority are frivolous lawsuits" cite sources
This has been studied extensively. Every study I have read on this shows that judges tend to toss out the frivolous lawsuit and that the majority of cases that got to trial actual have some merit.

Re:Sounds good to me (5, Insightful)

BronsCon (927697) | about a year ago | (#44726613)

Except that this, the very case that's "starting it all", is also the exact reason why this is not the right way to do things. Somewhere in the middle, perhaps, as sometimes it is the actions of one person which need to be punished, but it is more often the actions of the company as a whole, the culture behind how the company operates, that needs to be addressed.

This man did nothing wrong; he sold a product that was not safe for kids to use and labeled it as not safe for kids to use. He should not be liable for the actions of the employees of the toy stores who sold them to kids, nor for the actions of the employees of the distribution houses that sold them to the toy stores who hired employees who then sold them to kids. He didn't sell them to kids himself, and he didn't sell them to toy stores where he'd only reasonably expect that they'd be sold to kids. He labeled them as not safe for kids and clearly did not intend for them to be sold to, or used by, kids. Blame all of the irresponsible parties for any children harmed by these things, for sure; let's start with the parents who bought these for their kids or left their own set where their kids could get to them (they're labeled quite clearly and should be locked away from young children, and only used by older children under close supervision, just like any other dangerous item), then the purchasing agent at the toy store who thought it would be a good idea to sell an item labeled as not safe for children in a place where things are bought primarily by and for children, then the distribution house employee(s) who thought selling unsafe items to toy stores would be a great way to make a buck. And that's where it should stop.

Re:Sounds good to me (2)

Darinbob (1142669) | about a year ago | (#44726787)

If they didn't go after buckyballs, they'd have to waste time going after other products which are labeled as unsafe for kids, like caffeinated alcohol drinks, or alcohol in general (you really think all those kids puking their guts out at spring break are of legal age?). Cigarettes are still being sold to kids despite the labels, so maybe recall them also?

Re:Sounds good to me (4, Insightful)

Alef (605149) | about a year ago | (#44726811)

Hypothesis:
1. Manufacturers generally get sued for all kinds of crazy reasons, when people have been stupid while using their products.
2. Manufacturers slap on "not safe for kids" and similar labels all the time, just to be safe.
3. The label loses any semantic meaning, since it is always there. People start to ignore it, and try to rely on their own judgement.
4. Parents see a box of funny little magnets. How can they be dangerous? There is lack of imagination as to what happens with more than one of those in a small child's intestines.
5. ...
6. Visit to the ER.

Re:Sounds good to me (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44726847)

I don't see any problem with having them in toy stores. If your child is not 'with it' enough to recognize the fact swallowing inedible objects is really really stupid and dangerous then they need constant supervision at all times. I realize this sucks to have to be on top of your really stupid 13 year old... but... if they are that stupid... it is what it is. WATCH THEM.

I think most kids would be smart enough by the age of 6 to know better than to swallow inedible objects. In fact I think a lot of 4 and 5 years olds are smart enough not to swallow such things. I remember being aware of this danger at age 4. It's not just bucky balls that can cause serious harm.

I'm actually more tempted to encourage people to leave these things around the house of people with kids over the age of 6. It'll get rid of all the idiots who propose such bans in the first place.

The only way I can see liability for such things is if a toy store sold them to a 4-6 year old. However you'd have multiple liable parties in that case. A 4-6 year old generally shouldn't be left to wondering with a wad of cash in there pocket. Maybe you can leave them alone at home for a little while.. but at a toy store where there is no adult watching after them? And then I'd at least expect the sales person to reasonably think the buyer could read the warning. I'd rate these things for 9+. And yea- I realize not all 9 year olds are smart enough not to do stupid things like leave them out. But thats why you have parents and younger kids should be supervised at all times.

Re:Sounds good to me (4, Informative)

phantomfive (622387) | about a year ago | (#44726973)

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 (1)

Alef (605149) | about a year ago | (#44726621)

That kind of voids the idea of limited liability, though. And it gets even more problematic if you were to extend it to the individuals hired by the company to make the actual decisions (i.e. not the owners) -- suppose for example that some engineers employed by Samsung would be required to pay a billion dollars to Apple for patent infringement, personally, because they were the ones that chose to implement certain features. Suddenly it becomes extremely risky to make a career in R&D.

Re:Sounds good to me (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44727009)

Limited Liability and the Corporate Veil doesn't extend to 'willful and negligent disregard'. Case in point probably twenty five years ago the owners of a recycling business hired a bunch of Polish refuges to work for their chemical recycling business, a bunch of those guys were poisoned by cadmium, due to willful violations of OSHA regulations. The reason they hired hired non-English speaking Poles was partly because they worked cheap and partly because they didn't understand OSHA regulations and wouldn't complain. Anyway when OSHA found out they shut down the company and the Justice department filed criminal charges against the owners. Lawyers for the owners of course argued (as did the Wall Street Journal editorial page, if I remember correctly) that the corporate veil should shield the owners from liability. The owners drew long prison sentences. As was right and proper.

Craig Zucker should be thankful they're only suing him.

In case anyone wonders, if a small child swallows some buckyballs it's a medical emergency, as the small magnets will stick together and cause a blockage of the child's small intestine, which if not treated will result in necrosis, infection and death. The upshot is that buckyballs are extremely dangerous around small children. Selling them as a toy, is in total violation of product safety regulations, and frankly immoral.

Re:Sounds good to me (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44726665)

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.

So there is a chance companies will no longer get pathetic fines and be pretty much unaccountable for this misdeeds. Individuals who made decisions within the organization will be held responsible.

Good.

I hear what you are saying, but if you're looking for that landmark case that is going to start locking up all the greedy, corrupt bastards in business today, I can think of a hell of a lot of corporate assholes far more evil than someone leaning heavily on common sense when marketing a product with magnets.

(Sorry, after reading how teens were "victims" of this product, it's quite clear that common fucking sense is sorely lacking here. Don't eat magnets, dumbass.)

Re:Sounds good to me (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44726711)

Yeah, sure, why go after the wallstreet sharks that fund politics when you can stage an example on a one-man-company.

Score: -17, you're a fucking moron.

Re:Sounds good to me (5, Insightful)

Jane Q. Public (1010737) | about a year ago | (#44726719)

"So there is a chance companies will no longer get pathetic fines and be pretty much unaccountable for this misdeeds. Individuals who made decisions within the organization will be held responsible. Good."

Um... NO.

First, you have to identify actual misdeeds. Buckyballs were NOT sold as children's toys! They were labeled that they were NOT for children.

The fact that Buckyballs were recalled at all is what is pathetic. But also of great concern. Because if the government were to win, then any company that makes cleaning products that kids get hold of and poison themselves with... or car manufacturers... or makers of power tools... anybody who sells things that are NOT children's toys could be prosecuted simply because someone let their children play with them (or negligently gave them access).

The criminals here were the adults who let children play with unsafe objects. Hell, makers of children's toys who include a label that says "Warning! Contains small parts. Not for children under 4 years old." is exempt from this kind of government harassment. Yet you're seeing someone being pursued for this when they weren't even selling children's toys! It is OUTRAGEOUS.

This is an extremely dangerous precedent and the government must lose this case. Otherwise, anybody could be prosecuted for anything, merely if some child gets hold of it. Bad, bad, bad.

Re:Sounds good to me (3, Insightful)

AmiMoJo (196126) | about a year ago | (#44726905)

According to Wikiepdia:

Buckyballs launched at New York International Gift Fair in 2009 and sold in the hundreds of thousands before the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission issued a recall on packaging labeled 13+.[2] According to the CPSC, 175,000 units had been sold to the public. It is not known how many sets were actually returned. Buckyballs labeled "Keep Away From All Children" were not recalled.

Subsequently, Maxfield & Oberton changed all mentions of âoetoyâ to âoedesk toyâ, positioning the product as a stress-reliever for adults and restricted sales from stores that sold primarily children's products.

So apparently they were being marketed as "toys" at some point.

Because if the government were to win, then any company that makes cleaning products that kids get hold of and poison themselves with... or car manufacturers... or makers of power tools... anybody who sells things that are NOT children's toys could be prosecuted simply because someone let their children play with them (or negligently gave them access).

I don't know how you do it in America but in the UK the law generally works on the basis of what a "reasonable person" would think and assume. Clearly a reasonable person would not consider a cleaning products, a car or a power tool to be a suitable toy. What a reasonable person does think is ultimately up to a jury though.

It's also worth noting that cleaning products usually do have prominent warnings on them. Cars need a license to drive that isn't available to children and also come with pages of warnings in the manual (since they don't come in a box). Power tools also have warnings on them. Remember that Buckyballs were being marketed as "toys" quite specifically.

Re:Sounds good to me (2)

fustakrakich (1673220) | about a year ago | (#44726987)

Remember that Buckyballs were being marketed as "toys" quite specifically.

But they were never marketed as "food", specifically or otherwise. It is notable that a "reasonable person" needs to be reminded of the distinction.

Re:Sounds good to me (1)

sycodon (149926) | about a year ago | (#44727021)

RTFM. Sold for 13+, when the definition of "Child" changed, they raised it to 14.

Re:Sounds good to me (5, Insightful)

phantomfive (622387) | about a year ago | (#44726991)

Because if the government were to win

Unfortunately, the government already won. The case is over, the company closed down.

Now the worst part is the government wasn't satisfied with that, and they are suing the creator for basically everything he owns, despite very few injuries, and no deaths as a result of these balls.

Re:Sounds good to me (4, Insightful)

Zero__Kelvin (151819) | about a year ago | (#44726743)

Actually, that isn't even close to a logical conclusion. What it says is that nobody will be able to start a new company unless they are very, very rich. It also says that nobody will want to start a company, since if they are very rich they have little to gain and everything to lose.

Re:Sounds good to me (-1, Troll)

AmiMoJo (196126) | about a year ago | (#44726827)

To everyone modding me troll: I'm not saying the decision to ban these magnets was correct, I'm saying that if the CEO personally decides to go against the ban and people get hurt then he has to accept some responsibility.

I'm not arguing that people should not be personally responsible for the use of these magnets and for keeping them away from children and teenagers and other vulnerable people. I'm just saying that the government banned them and he carried on selling them, so there is at least a case to answer.

Also, -1 Troll is not a substitute for -1 Disagree. Post comments, mod others up, but don't be dicks and mod stuff you disagree with down.

Re:Sounds good to me (4, Informative)

Attila Dimedici (1036002) | about a year ago | (#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.

Innocent until proven guilty? (2)

Kohath (38547) | about a year ago | (#44727083)

Please explain why the principle of "innocent until proven guilty" shouldn't apply in this case.

the last line rings true... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44726565)

""""you conducted the actions of the company, you were the company.""""

If you go by the decision of Citizens United with Corporate Person-hood... it REALLY should be...

However I want this more to be the case for large company's who do shit on PURPOSE and with intent and not small start-ups that don't account for the average humans capacity for stupidity (IE letting kids play with them and swallow them).

CAP: hoodwink

Re:the last line rings true... (2)

Etcetera (14711) | about a year ago | (#44726603)

However I want this more to be the case for large company's who do shit on PURPOSE and with intent and not small start-ups...

This doesn't make sense. The larger a company is and the more persons in decision-making roles throughout the org, the *less* likely a company is acting with sufficient imperative to justify piercing the corporate veil.

In reality, you seem to just be saying that Big Companies are Evil. Sorry, that doesn't fly. Limited Liability, and Corporate Personhood generally, are both there for reasons.

Re:the last line rings true... (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44726639)

Corporate personhood is *not* a good thing, no matter what you corporate sycophants think. Elevating a corporation to the same level in the law as an individual is a recipe for abuse, and it's rife in the USA.

Corporations should have a set of *limited* and *enumerated* rights that are secondary to individuals, not personhood.

And, yes, there is a reason corporate personhood exists... it's because robber barons in the 1800s wanted that way. Corporate rights aren't sent to us by God.

Re:the last line rings true... (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44727055)

Corporations are made up of people. Reducing the rights of a corporation reduces the rights of the people who belong to one.

Re:the last line rings true... (3, Insightful)

wiredlogic (135348) | about a year ago | (#44726691)

Citizen's United didn't create the concept of corporations as people. That has been a longstanding principle carried over from common law. Note also that companies are not the same as corporations and the former does not have the privileges of personhood.

The company in question is Maxfield & Oberton Holdings LLC. The limited liability aspect should be enough to protect the owners from a rapacious civil servant but clearly some people are more interested in furthering their careers with safety-nazi crusades than properly observing the law.

Re:the last line rings true... (3, Informative)

the eric conspiracy (20178) | about a year ago | (#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:the last line rings true... (4, Interesting)

whoever57 (658626) | about a year ago | (#44726969)

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.

I even read (or heard on the radio) some expert claiming that shareholders did not "own" companies, because companies were persons and laws against slavery prevent people owning other people. Yes, really! His argument was that shareholders only owned an entitlement to some share of future profits. Nothing more.

Those magnets sure were fun (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44726573)

I wish I could buy more.

Re:Those magnets sure were fun (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44726647)

Lawn Darts were fun too.

What were my parents thinking of when they bought them for me.

Re:Those magnets sure were fun (3, Informative)

BLKMGK (34057) | about a year ago | (#44726739)

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...

Re:Those magnets sure were fun (4, Informative)

BLKMGK (34057) | about a year ago | (#44726683)

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

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

Re:Those magnets sure were fun (1)

BLKMGK (34057) | about a year ago | (#44726831)

Oh and there WAS another company selling these made in the USA. They swore up and down they were going to fight this and they were apparently squashed too last I read their site. Long story short - these are easily available in many sizes and in great quantity you just cannot buy them from the American company that came up with the idea of using them as a toy...

Re:Those magnets sure were fun (1)

AmiMoJo (196126) | about a year ago | (#44726919)

Just out of interest, what do you actually do with them?

Re:Those magnets sure were fun (2)

BLKMGK (34057) | about a year ago | (#44727139)

At work we have all sorts of fun with them. Hanging them from the lights and seeing how many can dangle - they nearly touch the floor. Making obscene sculptures out of them (some of the ones I have are as big as superballs). Pretty much it's just an idle distraction and some fun showing people the differences with magnetic polarity and whatnot. Leave a pile on your desk or hanging from something and you'll find that people cannot resist picking them up and making things with them. Mindless fun really although as a child they would have kept me entertained for hours I'm sure - I had a collection of magnets and I'd sit there for hours getting paperclips and other magnets to dance.

Re:Those magnets sure were fun (1)

phantomfive (622387) | about a year ago | (#44727003)

It's somewhat disturbing that you can buy them so easily, and yet the government is still attacking the person who already complied with regulation and shut it down.

Selective enforcement (-1)

girlintraining (1395911) | about a year ago | (#44726581)

I rather like the idea of corporations being held responsible for releasing defective products that cause harm to others. I think most people would agree that this happens far too rarely. Were any banks prosecuted for their defective financial products that nearly destroyed the world economy a few years ago? Nope. A few low-level employees were selected to be slaughtered on the alter of public opinion, but the people truly responsible are still out there, reaping the rewards of our broken and disenfranchised middle class. How about the oil companies, responsible for countless ecological disasters, and whose fines often amounted to only a few days' wages?

This is not about whether we want the government going after corporations. We do. We really, really do. But we want them going after the big-time criminals, the people who represent the bulk of by-proxy harm of our society, not these small-time entrepreneurs who simply might not have known any better. This guy made a mistake. It hurt some people, and he should be held accountable. But I don't think it was malicious. I don't think it was reckless.

What the banks did, and what they're still doing right now, today, is. It's malicious, it's intentional, and it is with a callous disregard for the lives being destroyed by their actions. They're the financial equivalent of pouring cyanide into the water supply -- they're terrorists. And we're letting them go free, because they're too big to fail, and apparently too big to jail too.

So yeah, I support this action. But I also think it's like going after the ant problem in the kitchen while the house is on fire.

Re:Selective enforcement (5, Insightful)

sycodon (149926) | about a year ago | (#44726679)

1. The product was not defective.
2. No harm was done that I have read.
3. No, the banks were not prosecuted, which makes this even more egregious.
4. He didn't make a mistake.

This is the out of control Feds doing what they do best, punish people who are creative and trying to get ahead. It is about control.

Re:Selective enforcement (1)

phantomfive (622387) | about a year ago | (#44727135)

2. No harm was done that I have read.

The article mentions that in one case, someone ate a ball that was used for decorating a wedding cake. In another case, a toddler ate one that was stuck to a refrigerator. No one has died from these.

Re:Selective enforcement (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44726685)

You can thank Chicago politics for this. Core up shun.

Re:Selective enforcement (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44726687)

The shot-callers at the banks who are causing all this harm are wildly rich. Same with the oil companies. And of course that matters because everyone in government service wants a piece of that pie, and the way they get it is by allowing the harm to continue unabated.

We can pontificate about how government should serve the greater good all we want, and the saying of these words will not have the slightest impact on the actual incentives that governors face, nor on the mechanisms by which selfish bastards rise to power. Musing about how things should be will not make anything become that way.

So, asking the government to do things will never yield the desired result. Force is the only language these sociopaths understand. Unless sufficiently-large numbers of people wise up to how government actually works, we will never be able to mount that force.

In that regard, Snowden has done more good than all slashdot users combined, over slashdot's entire history.

Re:Selective enforcement (1)

the_B0fh (208483) | about a year ago | (#44726763)

Who did his products hurt? According to the article, not one person. And he folded his company like they wanted.

What more should he have done?

Re:Selective enforcement (0)

sycodon (149926) | about a year ago | (#44726779)

Crawled on his knees and begged forgiveness from our Federal Overlords. A heft campaign Contribution to the current Lord and Master probably would not have hurt either.

Re:Selective enforcement (1)

BLKMGK (34057) | about a year ago | (#44726803)

Or maybe in this case a little personal responsibility? Like if you're a teen don't put them in your mouth to try and look cool? Decorate a wedding CAKE with them? Why would you put something that had warning labels all over it about ingestion IN or ON a piece of FOOD? I have purchased these, I own a bunch of them - I like magnets. I don't give them to children to play with because I'm not a moron and I've never placed them in my mouth - they aren't food. Lots of things are magnetic and we see them every day, why are these somehow special and in need of a product ban? Lawn darts these aren't and frankly even those were something I and others played with responsibly as CHILDREN without hurting anyone.

Of, by, and for the powerful elite (5, Insightful)

wiredlogic (135348) | about a year ago | (#44726585)

What's the sense in having laws if you can't apply them selectively and perniciously.

But its for the kids (4, Insightful)

nurb432 (527695) | about a year ago | (#44726611)

Just shut up and take it.. Ask for more. How dare you create a product that could be misused if used inappropriately.

Now, joking aside this is really scary that the government is doing this.

Re:But its for the kids (1)

westlake (615356) | about a year ago | (#44727011)

Just shut up and take it.. Ask for more. How dare you create a product that could be misused if used inappropriately.

The ingested BuckyBall is from a geek's desktop toy --- and banned because the geek couldn't keep them out of the reach of his own kids. Couldn't see the danger in these things even when it was staring him in the face.

Can be used an educational tool for children; Also a good gift for a friend.

[The Inevitable Disclaimer Follows]

Keep Away From All Children!

Do not put in nose or mouth. Swallowed magnets can stick to intestines causing serious injury or death. Seek immediate medical attention if magnets are swallowed or inhaled.

Black Bucky balls Magnets Supraballs [supramagnets.com]

The one and only NeoCube! The fun never stops! The is the HOTTEST toy in 2010. It's a super-strong magnet, it's a toy & it's a stress reliever. This rare earth magnetic toy gives you and your loved ones hours of fun to build endless objects.

You can snap, pull, mold, squeeze and construct an endless variety of shapes with the 216 pc set. Each spherical magnet is made from a rare-earth, super-strong magnetic metal known as neodymium.

With these magnetic balls, you can create many cool shapes. You can play "darts" on your refrigerator even. Or just use them as small, but strong magnets for displaying photos or holding papers.

NeoCube [lingosbox.com]

How about (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44726617)

How about the parents who gave their [now dead] children (read: under 13) the thing be charged with manslaughter, unless giving them other things they shouldn't have which results in death [the list is is quiter long, but includes firearms, cutlery, chemicals, etc.] is also okey-dokey.

Re:How about (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44726707)

Guns don't kill kids. Kids kill kids. Ban kids, not guns.

Re:How about (0)

AmiMoJo (196126) | about a year ago | (#44726849)

Keep in mind that they were originally sold as toys. I know it's an unpopular view in the US but as an EU citizen I would expect any box labelled "toy" and sold by a reputable retailer to be safe for children. Of course I accept responsibility for my kids, but I also expect my government to test products to make sure they are safe, which is why we have laws for that kind of thing. I'm kinda surprised it was even legal to sell them without a warning in the first place.

Re:How about (3, Insightful)

Attila Dimedici (1036002) | about a year ago | (#44726979)

Excuse me, they were always sold as toys FOR ADULTS.

Re:How about (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44727019)

Apparently the original box had a label indicating they were toys but also for people aged 13 and above.

If a box says "toy", do you assume it's safe for a 2 year old child? 5 year old? 15 year old? There's quite a difference between them. A paintball gun is a toy, and so is an RC helicopter. I still wouldn't want a 3 year old kid near those but they might be pretty safe for a responsible 12 year old with supervision.

Re:How about (1)

fermion (181285) | about a year ago | (#44727031)

Having a child accidentally die is a tragedy, and sometimes the parents are to blame. Like when they leave a loaded gun around a 5 year old. Or leave a pot of boiling water with the handle sticking out. Our toxic household chemicals on a low shelf. These are very preventable deaths.

But with buckeyballs it was a product that was very fun, and the cause of injury was not immediately apparent. That is, the kid has to swallow more than one and they had to coincidentally be in the GI tract at the same time but in different locations. Even I am not sure how this happens since they are magnets and tend to stay together. I guess eating them about an hour apart? In fact it seems that less than 30 children were injured and no died. For comparison, the about the same number die every year from ingestion of household products, and 143 children dead from gun violence.

So there are many things that parent might be charged for murder with, but buckeyballs are not one of them. They are not the reason kids die. But the lack of toys like buckeyballs is the are the reason kids grow up stupid and uncreative. yes, let give them star wars themed lego where they can just copy what other have done. They are safe, empty of all adventure.

So when is Tony Hayward of BP going to jail? (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44726667)

As long as were piercing the corporate veil, shouldn't we go after the CEO's that have cost the US taxpayers billions of dollars first? Or are government rules and regulations, and punitive actions only applicable for the little guy?

Thanks again, NSA (0)

93 Escort Wagon (326346) | about a year ago | (#44726671)

Thanks to your shenanigans, now we have to listen to every conspiracy theory anyone throws out there.

Re:Thanks again, NSA (1)

Zero__Kelvin (151819) | about a year ago | (#44726761)

What conspiracy theory?

First rule for living in a totalitarian state: (1)

GbrDead (702506) | about a year ago | (#44726693)

Do not stick out.

Goverment is now punishing winners (5, Insightful)

Brymouse (563050) | about a year ago | (#44726703)

If it was me and I had my life's work taken from me, and now being forced into bankruptcy and poverty, I'd hold the CPSC leaders responsible.

A government without fear of the people is not a republic. Time to put the fear back into them.

Re:Goverment is now punishing winners (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44726971)

If it was me and I had my life's work taken from me, and now being forced into bankruptcy and poverty, I'd hold the CPSC leaders responsible.

A government without fear of the people is not a republic. Time to put the fear back into them.

Your terroristic threat has been noted, Citizen. Patriotic agents will soon stop by to collect you; please do not resist. Resistance is futile.

Re:Goverment is now punishing winners (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44726993)

Where is Timothy McVeigh when you need him?

More to it? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44726721)

Methinks there is more to the story than what he's telling...

Erm :( Bring em back FFS! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44726727)

Goddamn it! Why did you guys have to post this? :( Now I get to be pissed off again at absurd overseas shipping charges for fucking magnets. "Fucking awesome magnets"! I don't have kids and luckily I don't have a taste for rems I'm more of a tortured baby cow burger kind of guy. "Someone will get it."

This is what you get! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44726731)

This is what happens when you sell super strong candy coated magnets to children. That's what happened, right?

Sensationalist headline? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44726737)

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

I guess Buckyballs?

The wording is clue to my verdict, "U.S still Fighting the Man Behind Buckyballs"

I rest my case.

Critical Thinking (2)

Phasedshift (415064) | about a year ago | (#44726757)

Buckyballs were labeled as for adults and not for kids before the commission came after him. However, because they are so similar to a "toy" it was labeled as a concern by the government. In my opinion, this action removes personal responsibility from the parents (the product was clearly labeled), and there should have been no actions against Buckyballs as long as they were properly labeled. There are many other products out there that are far more dangerous which look like toys which do not have these concerns.

Further, it begs the question:

Is it the norm for similar cases where the owner/company simply went out of business (without doing a recall) on an unsafe product, for the owners to be held liable for the cost of a potential recall after the fact?

  If he is held personally liable, but a large number of other cases had companies which went out of business and the owners were not held liable - it seems likely there was some type of bias on his case.

One last item:

Protection from personal liability when you are a shareholder/officer of a corporation isn't absolute (you can still be held legally personally liable in certain cases.) Certain people here advise they don't like this fact, as they feel people should be personally liable. However, to be frank - fewer people would take risks if they faced personal ruin due to a lawsuit. A better option would be to revoke a company's incorporation status and in repeat offenses remove the ability for people to be part of another corporation perhaps. This would have the positives, without the negatives.

Re:Critical Thinking (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44727073)

Protection from personal liability when you are a shareholder/officer of a corporation isn't absolute (you can still be held legally personally liable in certain cases.) Certain people here advise they don't like this fact, as they feel people should be personally liable. However, to be frank - fewer people would take risks if they faced personal ruin due to a lawsuit. A better option would be to revoke a company's incorporation status and in repeat offenses remove the ability for people to be part of another corporation perhaps. This would have the positives, without the negatives.

This is at first glance a great idea, but I suspect the offending parties would abandon ship like a bunch of rats, selling the the downgraded corporation to some other new corp. They already do this when they go bankrupt, leaving investors in the muck to just continue business as usual under a new enterprise name.

I'd say that a possibly better solution would be a rule which demanded prison time of the responsible corporate leadership as well as personal seizures of their paychecks and bonuses, etc., when things go wrong legally. That would give an incentive to keep the company clean. It might make them less willing to take risks, but then reckless risk-taking is the problem to begin with, isn't it?

Maybe a 13 year old kid ate their bandwidth! (3, Interesting)

Zero__Kelvin (151819) | about a year ago | (#44726785)

ROTFLMA. The servers at www.cpsc.gov are broke:

Server Error in '/' Application. Runtime Error Description: An application error occurred on the server. The current custom error settings for this application prevent the details of the application error from being viewed remotely (for security reasons). It could, however, be viewed by browsers running on the local server machine. Details: To enable the details of this specific error message to be viewable on remote machines, please create a tag within a "web.config" configuration file located in the root directory of the current web application. This tag should then have its "mode" attribute set to "Off". Notes: The current error page you are seeing can be replaced by a custom error page by modifying the "defaultRedirect" attribute of the application's configuration tag to point to a custom error page URL.

The purpose of corporations (2)

_Ludwig (86077) | about a year ago | (#44726791)

Corporate personhood, entrepreneurship, big business vs. small, selective enforcement, none of those are the issue here. The issue is that corporations exist specifically to protect the personal assets of the individuals behind them. Otherwise no one would invest in anything, since that would expose all their worldly goods to liabilities incurred by the company, instead of just the amount they invested. (Lloyd’s of London is a notable exception; investors pledge all their personal assets. But that’s a special case.)

Now, criminal wrongdoing is a different matter. Obviously you don’t get to form an LLC to rob banks and then enjoy immunity. But that’s not what’s happening here.

Re:The purpose of corporations (2)

whoever57 (658626) | about a year ago | (#44726941)

(Lloydâ(TM)s of London is a notable exception; investors pledge all their personal assets. But thatâ(TM)s a special case.)

They are not "investors", they are called "Names", since they don't actually put their capital into Lloyds, they pledge their assets to pay any losses. There is huge risk, but the rewards can also be great since the assets that are pledged can be invested elsewhere for profit.

Lets see some bureaucrats become liable (1)

russotto (537200) | about a year ago | (#44726793)

So they find that he sold a defective product (given that the judge and the persecuting agency are one and the same, that's a foregone conclusion), they find him personally liable, they take everything he owns and everything he'll make in the future... maybe he should hold the administrative judge and the particular CPSC bureaucrats involved personally responsible.

If I made guns or bullets... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44726807)

.. I'd be rushing to defend him..

Just Goes To Show You (2)

Greyfox (87712) | about a year ago | (#44726821)

He should have just marketed a real gun for kids. He'd probably still be in business, and some court would probably have ruled that neither he or his company could be sued for damages resulting from the use of his product. Perhaps his next venture should be buckyguns.

Re:Just Goes To Show You (2)

russotto (537200) | about a year ago | (#44726915)

He should have just marketed a real gun for kids. He'd probably still be in business, and some court would probably have ruled that neither he or his company could be sued for damages resulting from the use of his product.

That's true, for good reason. You see, the CPSC is explicitly denied jurisdiction over firearms and firearms ammunition. Know why? Because in 1975, Handgun Control Incorporated tried to get the CPSC to ban handgun ammunition; HCI went so far as to get the US District Court for the District of Columbia to order the CPSC to consider it. Then Congress stepped in (no doubt large bags of money were involved) and explicitly took the power to regulate firearms and ammunition away from the CPSC.

Re:Just Goes To Show You (0)

CrimsonAvenger (580665) | about a year ago | (#44726981)

Then Congress stepped in (no doubt large bags of money were involved) and explicitly took the power to regulate firearms and ammunition away from the CPSC.

Either that or it was that pesky Second Amendment.

Oh, in case you didn't know, the Supremes ruled back in the 1700's that printer's ink, being essential to the Free Press, couldn't be regulated/taxed like other stuff. A similar logic says that banning bullets would violate the Second,

Re:Just Goes To Show You (1)

phantomfive (622387) | about a year ago | (#44727017)

He should have just marketed a real gun for kids.

Well you've got that. [crickett.com]

I think I see where his thinking's gone wrong. (1)

mosb1000 (710161) | about a year ago | (#44726823)

It's not the government's place to say what has value and what doesn't in a free society.

Every home should have some buckyballs! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44726853)

if little johnny is stupid enough to eat magnets.. little johnny doesn't get to have kids of his own.

It's win win for the human species!

Fuck my generation had lawn darts! Sharp pointed metal things we threw at each other! And dammed if the vast majority of us didn't make it. Because we weren't stupid enough to stand under them.

America needs alot more potentially dangerous stuff for kids to play with. It weeds out the fat, slow, and stupid really well.

Our thug President and his thug exec agencies (-1, Offtopic)

hsmith (818216) | about a year ago | (#44726855)

Did anyone really expect different from a Chicago politician? Punish with impunity anyone who dare question you.

INC. LLC??? (1)

The Grim Reefer (1162755) | about a year ago | (#44726859)

Isn't this the reason for LLC (limited liability company) and incorporating? So only the company can be sued and the companies assets are all you can go after; and not the private property of the owner and it's officers & employees?

I could be wrong, but wasn't this a company and not some guy selling these things out of his garage.

Does this work both ways ? (1)

Alain Williams (2972) | about a year ago | (#44726913)

If he wins his case will the individuals at the Consumer Product Safety Commission be personally liable to pay his costs & the Commission's legal bill ? After all: they were the ones who made the decision to engage in reckless litigation!

No: I thought not.

Haliburton CEO (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44726925)

And guess what? The government is not suing the Haliburton CEO when it destroyed evidence in the BP oil spill that cost 11 lives.

Finally we can get rid of guns. (1)

thegarbz (1787294) | about a year ago | (#44726939)

You can't mess with the 2nd amendment but I wonder how long gun manufacturers would last if the CEOs of all companies which sell products in the United States which could possibly injure someone are held liable.

Oh what guns are ok but Buckeyballs are not because a child swallowed one? What if a child swallowed some ammo? That contains lead!

Oh the hypocrisy.

Anti-progress is the new black. (1)

VortexCortex (1117377) | about a year ago | (#44726945)

Some day you will curse the world you live in for giving the finger to Darwin and natural selection. Some day you'll realize that parenting skills are somewhat hereditary, and those that let kids eat magnets are to blame, not the magnets. If your ancient ancestors could have legally blame shifted as you do, you'd have gone extinct long ago.
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