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SJC upholds $20.6m verdict in pool slide death

The judgment was entered in a suit filed against Toys “R” Us.

Mel Evans/Associated Press/File

The judgment was entered in a suit filed against Toys “R” Us.

The state’s highest court has upheld a $20.6 million judgment against Toys “R” Us in a lawsuit brought by the widower of a woman who died after an inflatable pool slide she was using collapsed.

Robin Aleo, 29, died after fracturing her neck while using the slide in 2006 when she was visiting relatives in Andover.

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Her husband, Michael, sued and won in Essex Superior Court. The jury awarded compensatory damages of $2.64 million and punitive damages of $18 million.

The Supreme Judicial Court said Friday in a unanimous opinion written by Justice Barbara Lenk that it could “discern no error” in the lower court judge’s rulings.

“We conclude that there was sufficient evidence to support the jury’s findings of negligence, breach of warranty, and gross negligence,” the ruling said. “We conclude as well that the jury’s award of punitive damages does not exceed constitutional limits.”

In 2012, Walmart and Toys “R” Us, in cooperation with US Consumer Product Safety Commission, said they were recalling about 21,000 Banzai water slides like the one Aleo used. Noting the Aleo case, the commission said the slide could deflate, allowing the user to hit the ground and become injured. The commission also said the slide was unstable and could topple over, and that it carried inadequate warnings.

Martin Finucane can be reached at mfinucane@globe.com.
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