New York State Attorney General Barbara Underwood on Thursday sued Target, Walmart and toy importer LaRose Industries in Albany County Supreme Court over what her office said are continuing "violations of multiple New York laws governing the safety of children's toys sold in the state."
At issue are "Cra-Z-Jewelz" craft kits that contained parts with lead levels up to 10 times higher than the federal limit of 100 parts per million; the attorney general's findings had resulted in a 2016 nationwide recall of the toys, according to a press release from Underwood's office.
Both Target and Walmart told Retail Dive that they pulled the kits from shelves when they were first notified of the recall in 2016. LaRose, which didn't immediately return Retail Dive's request for comment, maintains a notice of the recall on its website.
New York is alleging that the retailers and their vendor violated laws "related to selling hazardous toys, as well as deceptive acts and false advertising — by importing, distributing, selling, or holding for sale thousands of Cra-Z-Jewelz kits in New York between 2015 and 2016." The suit seeks civil penalties from them, along with the assurance that they won't "again sell children's toys containing high levels of lead in New York."
"No parent should have to worry that their child's toy may be toxic. As we allege, these companies imported and sold toys with dangerous levels of toxic lead — jeopardizing the health of New York's children and breaking the law," Underwood said in a statement. "Our lawsuit seeks to hold these companies accountable for the failures that allowed lead-contaminated toys on store shelves, while forcing them to take responsibility for the safety of the products they sell."
The retailers seemed surprised that this remains an issue, however. In a phone interview, Walmart spokesperson Randy Hargrove told Retail Dive that the retailer had already discussed the matter with the New York Attorney General's office years ago "and will address the allegations and demands with the court."
"We take our customers' safety seriously and require our suppliers to meet all safety standards," he said. "As soon as LaRose Industries made us aware of the product recall nearly three years ago, we removed the items from our shelves and online and haven't sold them since."
In an emailed statement, Target spokesperson Kali Dingman similarly said that Target had responded when the lead levels were first brought to its attention. "As soon as the New York Attorney General let us know about the allegations with this product after its testing back in 2016, we immediately and voluntarily pulled the bracelet kit from our stores," the statement reads. "We're committed to providing high quality and safe products to our guests and we require all of our vendors to follow safety laws and [Consumer Product Safety Commission] guidelines for the products they sell at Target. Any additional questions can be directed to LaRose, the manufacturer of this product."
This story will be updated if Retail Dive hears back from LaRose.