Jeffrey’s father gave 2-year-old Jeffrey a popular Mini-Jel candy as a special treat. Jeffrey began to choke. His father tried to remove the candy from Jeffrey’s throat but could not dislodge it. Jeffrey suffered serious brain damage and died two weeks later.
We had the candy tested in a laboratory and learned that it contained an ingredient called “konjac gel” — an ingredient derived from plant root. We consulted with Dr. Henry Heimlich, inventor of the familiar Heimlich maneuver for dislodging food stuck in a windpipe. He looked at the lab tests and declared that even his maneuver would not jar loose a candy made with konjac gel.
We uncovered documents proving that the manufacturer knew that the candy was dangerous for young children, but deliberately marketed it to children anyway. When the manufacturer refused to answer our questions concerning those documents, we obtained a court order preventing the defendant from further defending the case.
The judge awarded $50 million to Jeffrey’s parents, commenting that this was “exactly the type of case punitive damages were designed for.” After the case made national headlines, the Food & Drug Administration banned the further import of konjac gel candy into this country.