Inflatable Flamingo Costume for Spanish Town Mardi Gras gave Her Acid Burns

Carnival-goers dressed as pink flamingoes flock to Baton Rouge's Spanish Town Mardi Gras parade every year, but an East Baton Rouge woman who attended the raucous event last year says her costume left her with acid burns that put her in the hospital.

In a complaint filed Friday in federal court, plaintiff Nicole Waldron alleges battery acid from an inflatable pink flamingo costume she bought off Amazon leaked onto her skin, causing severe chemical burns.

Waldron is suing Amazon and Guangzhou KOOY Jewelry, the Chinese supplier that made the costume. Fujitsu Limited and FDK Corporation, Tokyo-based technology companies that designed and manufactured the batteries, are also named as defendants in Waldron’s lawsuit.

The civil claim was originally filed Feb. 22 in the 19th Judicial District Court. Jeremy Grabill, a New Orleans attorney representing Amazon, motioned Friday to have the case transferred the U.S. Middle District Court of Louisiana.

Waldron is suing for damages in excess of $75,000 for medical expenses, lost wages, physical pain and mental anguish. She says the burns caused permanent scarring and disfigurement.

"The batteries leaked, they got on her skin and caused third-degree burns," said Waldron'sattorney, Joseph Ritch. "She was a traveling nurse under contract, and she ended up missing some work and didn't have her contract renewed."

Attorneys representing Amazon and Fujitsu did not respond to calls and emails seeking comment Monday. KOOY Jewelry and the FDK Corporation had yet to be served notice of the suit, court records indicated.

Since the parade’s inception in 1981, pink flamingoes have been mascots of the annual Mardi Gras celebration that courses through the historic Spanish Town neighborhood, attracting thousands of revelers to downtown Baton Rouge. Organizers say the quirky birds have come to represent the “kitschy” parade’s mantra: “Poor taste is better than no taste at all.”

In her claim, Waldron says she used Amazon’s online store to purchase her flamingo outfit on Feb. 5, 2022 — three weeks before the parade. The inflatable, polyester getup was advertised as a durable, reusable and “premium quality” costume suitable for cosplay parties, festivals and other events.

The costume required four AA batteries to power the fan that inflated it. The plaintiff says the alkaline batteries she purchased on Amazon’s site were advertised as “leak free” with guarantees of a 10-year shelf life. She also indicates Amazon marketed the batteries as a product made in-house as part of the Amazon Basics product line.

In actuality, Fujitsu Ltd. designed the batteries and the FDK Corporation manufactured them, the lawsuit says.

Waldron contends both the costume and the batteries were defective. Acid leaked from the battery pack while she was wearing the costume and burned her stomach, her attorney said.

“It started to burn and then it kind of went away, so she didn’t think anything of it," said Ritch, the plaintiff attorney. "Because what it really did was it killed the nerve endings in that area.”

Friends and co-workers who went to the parade with Waldron immediately noticed the burn marks on her stomach when they tried to change the batteries. They took her to the hospital for treatment.

Ritch said Waldron had to undergo three months of remediation at a burn center and still has to use lotions for the severe burn marks.

"It was pretty bad. It left scars on her and she had some necrotic tissue that had to be treated from this," he said. “It’s just one of those things she’s going to have to deal with for the rest of her life.”

Amazon is liable because the company misrepresented the safety of the products and failed to give adequate warnings, the lawsuit claims.

While Amazon may not have made the batteries themselves, the company's name was on the box, not the Japanese merchants it partnered with, Ritch said. He argues that leaves the global e-commerce titan on the hook under the Louisiana Products Liability Act.

“Usually, Amazon’s just the seller. But Amazon’s actually gotten into the manufacturing business with batteries,” he said. “Kudos for Amazon for trying to get into that market, to kind of cut out the middleman and make themselves the manufacturer. But when they do put their name on the product, they become the manufacturer under Louisiana law, we think. So it’s an interesting legal point to make.”