(CN) – A Colorado company must recall small but powerful magnets that can cause fatal injuries when swallowed, a federal judge ruled Monday.
U.S. District Judge Christine Arguello previously issued a preliminary injunction that prohibited Zen Magnets and its owner, Shihan Qu, from selling any more of the magnets, which are commonly marketed as “sculptural” desk toys.
According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission, when a person ingests more than one of the magnets, the magnets are attracted to each other in the digestive system, creating the potential for serious damages to intestinal tissue trapped between them or even death.
As recounted in court documents, Shihan Qu bought 917,000 of the magnets at a substantial discount from another company that itself was about to enter into a recall agreement with federal regulators.
Judge Arguello noted that Qu knew when his company purchased the magnets in July 2014 that the seller was about to enter into an agreement with commission to recall the magnets, and that as a result of the recall, it would be illegal to sell them.
The company argued that by placing the magnets in different packaging and selling them under different names, the magnets were no longer covered by the recall.
Arguello rejected that argument, saying that Zen Magnets’ interpretation “would allow manufacturers and importers of consumer products to simply circumvent (and effectively disarm)” the Consumer Product Safety Act “by merely repackaging recalled products as they saw fit.”
She also noted that Zen Magnets ignored repeated warnings from the commission, and continued to sell the magnets until the court issued the preliminary injunction last year.
Arguello said allowing consumers to return the magnets “will reduce the likelihood that such consumers are injured by those products.”
She also ordered the company to provide refunds to consumers who return the magnets, and directed Zen Magnets to destroy the remaining magnets in the company’s inventory.
Zen Magnets is separately challenging a rule issued by the Consumer Product Safety Commission that prohibits the sale of magnets or magnet sets that are small enough to be swallowed and that have a high degree of magnetic attraction. That rule went into effect and applies only to magnets sold after April 1, 2015. That case remains pending on appeal.
Arguello gave the commission until April 6 to submit a brief on recommended civil penalties.
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