PHILADELPHIA (CN) - A missing safety warning on a pet cage led to disaster when an infant was attacked and bitten by ferrets who escaped from the cage, her guardian claims in court.
Amazon, Petco and several other companies are liable for not disclosing that ferrets are "biting animals" prone to escape and that a mesh and nylon cage was not a safe place to house them, according to a lawsuit filed Thursday in the Philadelphia County Court of Common Pleas.
The alleged negligence resulted in a 1-month-old baby having "25 percent of her face chewed off" by the ferrets, leaving her "horrifically disfigured" even after several surgeries, the complaint states.
Courthouse News will not name the child due to the severity of the "devastating and catastrophic injuries" she suffered, which the lawsuit says includes "complete nasal obstruction and a virtual total loss of her nasal airway."
The ferrets allegedly lacerated her eyelids, nose and cheeks so deeply that she needed "life-saving surgery" just to "be able to receive the amount of oxygen necessary to breathe," according to the complaint.
The minor's guardian, Nicholas Orloff, says the infant was restrained in a car seat when the ferrets chewed through the cage's zipper and fabric and climbed onto her face, leaving her "unable to protect herself from the sharp claws and teeth" of the animals.
The child's mother, who allegedly left her in the seat right next to the ferret cage, is also named as a defendant in the complaint. Orloff was appointed as the infant's guardian ad litem by a Philadelphia-area juvenile court after the incident. .
Purchased on Amazon.com, the cage was reportedly delivered to the family's home without any sort of warning labels instructing users on appropriate usage or inherent risks.
Product manufacturer MP Pet Supply even stated on its website that the cage is "'NOT recommended for chronic chewers,'" but took no steps to ensure that the cage was equipped with such a warning when it reached consumers, according to the complaint.
Nor did Amazon issue any such notice, despite a written promise that the product information for anything sold on its website would include "a digitized image depicting the product and any warnings," the lawsuit claims.
Petco, meanwhile, allegedly misled the public about the true nature of ferrets and did not education the child's parents on their "chronic chewing and violent propensities" when they sold them the animals.
They're accused of mischaracterizing ferrets on their website as "'incredibly social animals' with 'extreme curiosity' although in reality they are carnivorous hunter-killers" historically used for hunting rodents and rabbits, says the complaint.
"Although the PETCO defendants warn to keep important objects like car keys out of the reach of these 'sneaky critters,' they do not warn that these...animals are not safe or suitable with children and can eat their faces off," Orloff wrote in the complaint.
As of Friday, an informational article on Petco's website describes ferrets as "delightful to watch and play with" and says that they make "wonderful pet companions," but also cautioned that "it's highly recommended for them to always be supervised, especially when around children."
A screenshot from a local news report on the incident depicted the infant plaintiff's car seat sitting directly next to the ferret cage. Her mother is at fault for placing her daughter so close to the "potentially ferocious" animals and leaving her at risk to be mauled, the lawsuit says.
Orloff, on behalf of the infant, seeks an unspecified amount of compensatory and punitive damages from all defendants for alleged negligence. The lawsuit also makes claims against Amazon and MP Pet Supply for product liability, stating that they "knew or should have known" that the cage wasn't ideal for ferrets and there was a high likelihood disaster could ensue.
Amazon.com representatives did not respond to a request for comments submitted through an online request form on Friday morning, nor could they be reached by phone.
A message seeking comment from an MP Pet Supplies representative was also not returned.
Petco's media relations representative said via email that it is the company's policy not to comment on pending litigation.
The infant, who is now 11 months old and allegedly remains disfigured from the accident, is represented in the lawsuit by Robert Mongeluzzi of Philadelphia firm Saltz, Mongeluzzi, Barrett and Bendesky.
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