On April 12, 2019, the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) reported that Fisher-Price recalled all 4.7 million of its Rock ‘n Play sleepers from stores after more than 30 infant fatalities were reported relating to use of the product. Specifically, the children were reported to have rolled from their back to their stomach or side and tragically suffocated after being stuck against the padding.
In its recall statement, the company absolved itself of any responsibility, and instead cited “medical issues” and product “misuse.”
Fisher-Price claims that these tragedies could have been avoided had parents properly followed warnings and instructions. They say the Rock ‘n Play manual is clear that parents should “ALWAYS use the restraint system.”
However, in our experience handling similar cases, we’ve seen that when a product is defectively designed, no amount of warning or instruction will protect users because the product doesn’t function as intended. When a defect results in a dangerous product, commonsense safety precautions can be just as ineffective.
Unsafe at Any Age
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) led the charge to shelve the Rock ‘n Play after an earlier, April 5th statement by Fisher-Price in which the company recommended that parents stop using the product once their baby is able to roll over.
Though most children develop the ability around 3 months, no parent can predict the exact moment their kid will figure it out.
But the AAP didn’t criticize Fisher-Price for their statement’s lack of utility. Rather, the group contends that an inclined sleeper is unsafe at any age. The AAP cautions against using any product that requires restraining a baby while they sleep because it can cause suffocation or strangulation if the baby rolls into an unsafe position and is unable to break free. Tragically, Consumer Reports found that suffocation was the cause of death for some of the 30+ infants.
Dr. Rachel Moon, chair of the AAP Task Force on SIDS, explains further. “[The Rock ‘n Play] does not meet the AAP’s recommendations for a safe sleep environment for any baby. Infants should always sleep on their back, on a separate, flat and firm sleep surface without any bumpers or bedding.”
According to a 2016 report by Moon’s task force, if an infant falls asleep in a sitting device – or anywhere that isn’t firm and flat – he or she should be removed and placed onto a flat surface as soon as possible.
The AAP’s contention received support from the April 27th announcement that Kids II is recalling its 700,000 inclined sleepers from stores after the deaths of 5 infants who, like the Rock ‘n Play babies, had been placed into their sleepers unrestrained.
Justice for Your Loss
Though Fisher-Price and Kids II intended their inclined sleepers to be as safe as traditional bassinets, the products’ incline design and associated restraint requirement posed unnecessary risks to infants, some of whom lost their lives as a result.
No doubt Fisher-Price will cast blame on the consumers claiming the failure to follow safety warnings and instructions, but as we’ve seen, defective warnings and guidelines are ineffective at preventing injury from a product that was defectively designed and inherently dangerous.
That said, proving a design defect requires a great deal of skill. If you or a loved one has been harmed by a product that was carelessly designed, you should seek the help of a qualified attorney to demonstrate the extent of the harm suffered and to show that the product was not only unreasonably dangerous but also that there was a safer alternative design.
Our attorneys are experienced in handling design defect claims and have the expertise and compassion to ensure that you receive the justice you deserve.
For a Free Consultation with one of Passen & Powell’s top-rated personal injury lawyers, call us at 312-527-4500.