31 May 2018
Toddler With Life-Changing Injuries After Drinking Drain Cleaner Wins Damages From Shop Which ‘Should Have Kept it Out of Reach’
A shop has been ordered to pay damages after a toddler suffered life-changing injuries when he drank from a bottle of drain cleaner.
Ayman Faisal, who was just two years old at the time, was left with severe burns to his mouth, throat and stomach after he managed to open a bottle of caustic soda from the bottom shelf while his mother’s back was turned.
Since the incident in January 2013, he has been unable to breathe without the aid of a tracheostomy, cannot speak and needs a feeding tube in his stomach so he can eat and drink.
Following an investigation, the manufacturer – Active Brands Concept Ltd – admitted that the child-resistant cap had been faulty. Now SAFA Superstore in Moss Side, Manchester, has also been forced to accept responsibility after a judge found that the bottle should have been stored on a higher shelf. The owner also did not have the correct licence to sell the toxic substance which was clearly marked ‘keep out of reach of children.’
Saira, who is mum to Ayman, now seven, also suffered chemical burns to her hands and feet as she desperately tried to help her son.
Recalling the moment she realised something was wrong, she said: “Ayman was strapped into his pushchair and I was reaching to get something. It was only for a few seconds, but when I turned back I saw his lips had gone purple and blue and there was blood coming out of his mouth.
"I didn't know what it was or what had happened at first, I just knew it was something bad.
"I remember screaming at the staff to phone an ambulance while I tried to get as much as I could out with my hands. I was terrified. All I kept thinking was 'please don't let me lose my son."
Ayman spent around a month in intensive care and a further six weeks on a general ward at Royal Manchester Children’s Hospital before being allowed home.
But four years on and he still needs round-the-clock care in case his tracheostomy becomes blocked and stops him from breathing. He now attends Lancasterian School in Didsbury and is learning to communicate using his iPad and sign language.
Saira, 38, from Rusholme, said: “It has been a struggle and I’ve had my moments, but when it comes to Ayman I just have to carry on.
“I am so proud of him for what he has been through and I try to stay positive and make sure he does too.
“He does ask questions like when his tracheostomy is going to come out and I do try to be honest with him. That’s when it upsets me and I don’t think that will ever go away.”
Manufacturer Active Brands Concept Ltd admitted liability after Saira’s lawyers, Slater and Gordon launched legal action and will have to pay two-thirds of the damages. The shop owner, however, continued to deny responsibility even after a court found they were at fault, but an appeal hearing at Manchester Civil Justice Centre last month ruled that it must cover the remainder.
“On the facts as found, a dangerous product which should have been kept out of reach of children was being stored somewhere children could reach. It could easily, and without cost, have been put on a higher shelf,” the appeal judge said.
While a financial settlement will not be reached until the long-term effects of Ayman’s condition are known, the defendants have agreed to fund a trip to Cincinnati Children’s Hospital, an international centre of excellence for paediatric medicine in America, to see if anything more can be done.
Saira added: “I would love to get my son back to normal. It would be a dream come true just to hear his voice again, just to hear him say mum.
“I just hope this serves as a warning to other shops and manufacturers to put chemicals out of reach of children. I don’t want another family to have to go through what we have been through.”
Alicia Rendell is a serious injury specialist at Slater and Gordon and also represents another child who suffered serious injuries after an incident involving caustic soda manufactured by the same company.
She said: “It has been a long road for Saira to get justice for her little boy but now, finally, she has the security of knowing that he will be given the best care possible and the very best chance of getting better.
“These types of products are deadly and those who manufacture and sell them need to take seriously their duty of care.”