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Family Sues after Leash Injures Daughter

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Dallas News: Dereka Williams vividly recalls the day last April that she went out to walk her dog and returned home blinded in one eye, the victim of a faulty retractable dog leash that since has been recalled.

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"I was in the driveway and my dog was kind of running and I was trying to pull her and the leash broke," said Dereka, a seventh-grader at Ferguson Middle School. "I was screaming."

SlyDog, the inexpensive retractable leash Dereka's father bought to keep track of Diamond, the family's 25-pound blue pit bull terrier puppy, had recoiled without warning. It struck Dereka in her left eye and tore the retina.

"She kept saying, 'Mommy I can't see, I can't see,' " said her mother, Joy Williams. "I thought she was exaggerating. Her eye was bloodshot. You could see the metal piece sticking out of her eyeball."

On Wednesday, Dereka's family filed a lawsuit in U.S. district court in Fort Worth accusing California-based Worldwise Inc. - SlyDog's manufacturer - of causing the 13-year-old girl's injuries. The lawsuit seeks unspecified damages.

Because of her injuries, Dereka has undergone three eye surgeries, wears specially made glasses and sometimes struggles to maintain her balance while walking. She still has only partial vision in the damaged eye but soon will visit a retina specialist in hopes of fully restoring her sight.

"She is affected for life - not just in terms of disfigurement," said Shelby Bobosky, a Dallas attorney for the family.

Stephen Drinnon, another attorney for the family, said: "Worldwise Inc. produced a dangerous product that we know has injured many people, including innocent children."

Drinnon said that Slydog, which the company recalled in September in cooperation with the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, should have been recalled months before Dereka was injured.

"There were incidents before," Drinnon said. "We at least know there were injuries to teeth and the face. It took a nationwide recall to protect the public, but by then it was too late for my client."

"I think it was a prudent response," Worldwise Inc. spokeswoman Christina Gray said Wednesday. "We did this as a precautionary response to take the product off the market."

Gray said that she had not seen the Williamses' lawsuit.

Dollar General, the only store that sold SlyDog, also was named in the lawsuit. According to the lawsuit, the company failed to properly warn the public about hazards associated with the product.

Dollar General spokeswoman Tawn Earnest declined to comment.

In addition to missing the remainder of her sixth-grade school year, Dereka lost out on a chance to compete for coveted Advanced Placement courses, her family said.

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