Broken toothbrush sparks B.C. lawsuit

A B.C. woman who claims a toothbrush broke in her mouth, causing her severe pain and thousands of dollars in dental and legal bills, is suing the Colgate-Palmolive Company.

Woman acts as own lawyer against corporate giant Colgate-Palmolive

A Surrey, B.C., woman is suing corporate giant Colgate-Palmolive Co., claiming one of the company’s toothbrushes broke in her mouth, causing her severe pain and ongoing medical issues.

Saliha Alnoor said the toothbrush broke in two locations while she was brushing her teeth in October 2006, slicing into her gums and injuring her so seriously that she fainted.

"It was a deep cut and as a result, it started bleeding and before I knew it, I hit the ground," said Alnoor.

Her brother, Abe Alnoor, told CBC News outside B.C. Supreme Court in Vancouver Tuesday that he came to his sister’s aid when he heard her fall.

"When I opened the door, she had passed out and she was against the wall," he said.

Saliha Alnoor said she wrote to Colgate-Palmolive about her experience with their toothbrush, adding that she had lost her appetite and developed gingivitis.

In response, the company sent her a $20 coupon, she said.

Alnoor told the company that response wasn’t acceptable and 13 months after the incident, the company offered to settle for $500.

"Basically [they] provoked us into taking legal action against them because they didn't care," Alnoor said.

None of the allegations in Alnoor's statement of claim have been proven in court.

Engineering study

Alnoor said in her statement of claim that she hired an engineering firm to examine the broken brush and others of the same model and concluded it had a design flaw that caused the brush to break.

She has spent $6,000 on dental work as a result of the incident and has spent thousands more on lawyers, Alnoor said.

She is now representing herself in court, up against a Vancouver law firm representing Colgate-Palmolive.

"It's extremely unfair," said her brother outside court Tuesday. "It's like David and Goliath."

In its statement of defence, Colgate-Palmolive said its product was safe to use, denies Alnoor suffered any injuries or expenses for which the company is responsible.

The company said if Alnoor was injured, it is because she didn't use the toothbrush in a reasonable or prudent manner.

The trial is scheduled for four days.

With files from the CBC's Kirk Williams