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The Kagoshima District Court ruled on Tuesday that Namco Bandai Games' Banpresto unit must pay 26 million yen (about US$250,000) to a child who suffered brain damage after choking on a plastic capsule. The capsule was used to hold a prize from the company's Gashapon vending machine line. The legal representatives for the child and his parents had asked for 180 million yen (US$1.7 million).
The male child was two years old in August of 2002 when he was running around in his Kagoshima City home with a spherical plastic capsule, four centimeters (about 1.57 inches) in diameter. The capsule got lodged in the child's mouth and his mother was unable to extricate it. A local hospital was able to extricate the capsule with medical apparatus, but by the point, the child had suffered severe damage in his brain due to low oxygen.
The capsule was used to hold a toy prize, usually based on an anime character, from Banpresto's Petit Pon Collection Gashapon vending machines. Users can insert a 100-yen (US$1.00) coin into a Peit Pon Collection machine to get a chance at winning one to three prizes at a time. Banpresto's legal representation argued that Gashapon capsules fulfilled the Japan Toy Association's safety standards, which only call for a 31.8-millimeter (1.25-inch) diameter to prevent choking.
However, the court's decision said that it is reasonable to expect that children under three will play with a capsule after the prize is removed, and therefore the company should consider that scenario by having capsules larger than four centimeters. The court further suggested that the capsules should have multiple holes to prevent suffocation and a less spherical shape for easier extrication. It also said that the industry association's safety standards are not enough to guarantee the sufficient safety. Namco Bandai's public relations staff told the Asahi Shimbun paper on Tuesday that the company could not comment since it had not received the ruling's text yet.
Source: Asahi Shimbun