Defective Infant Product Linked to Numerous Infant Deaths

defective infant product

Fisher-Price recalled their Rock ‘n Play sleeper amid tragic reports of more than two dozen infant deaths associated with the defective infant product.  In what many believe to be an attempt at avoiding a recall, the company initially issued a joint statement with the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) addressing safety concerns.

The joint statement was roundly condemned by consumers and the media alike.  The overarching opinion was that the safety warning was not enough to warn parents and prevent additional injuries or deaths.

Defective Infant Product Recall Information

After numerous sources came forward to urge Fisher-Price to recall the Rock ‘n Play Sleeper, the company has recalled 4.7 million sleepers.  This applies to all models of the inclined rocking bassinet.  Information related to the sleepers includes:

  • The sleepers have been on the market since 2009.
  • Consumers paid from $50 to $150 for the defective product.
  • Recent purchasers can expect to be fully refunded.
  • Those who have owned the sleeper for more than 6 months may apply for a voucher from Fisher-Price towards a different product.
  • Consumers can expect returns to take 12 to 16 weeks.

The CPSC says parents and caregivers should stop using the sleeper immediately.  The CPSC has requested families who have used the defective product to report any injuries or deaths that may be related to the sleeper.

A Safety Warning Was Not Enough

Despite the unthinkable tragedy of this defective infant product, Fisher-Price’s initial reaction was not to issue a recall.  Some sources also question the company’s transparency.  For example, Fisher-Price incorrectly stated that only 10 infant deaths were related to the sleeper.  Also, the company insisted that the infants who died should not have been sleeping in the product because they were over the age of 3 months – the point when most infants learn to roll over.

The Fisher-Price safety warning suggested consumer misuse was the true cause of these tragedies.  The company warned parents that the sleeper should only be used for children younger than 3 months who could not yet roll themselves over.  Their statement went on to assure consumers that the sleeper was a safe sleeping surface for children under the age of 3 months if the child was properly strapped in with the safety restraint according to the device instructions.

Independent Study Revealed More Deaths

The consumer watchdog group, Consumer Reports, expressed skepticism of Fisher-Price’s statement and conducted their own independent analysis of the deaths associated with the Rock ‘n Play sleeper.  The results they found were distressing.

More than three times the number of infants died than what Fisher-Price originally acknowledged in their safety warning.  Consumer Reports found that 32 infants have died while using the defective infant product.  Some of the victims were younger than 3 months old, which contradicted Fisher-Price’s statement that the sleeper was safe for that age group.

After the Consumer Reports investigation, numerous other groups came forward.  The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and the chairwoman of a U.S. Senate subcommittee focused on consumer protection spoke out against the initial warning saying that it didn’t go far enough to warn parents of the dangers their children faced due to the dangerous product.

More than simply virtue signaling, the AAP pointed out the inclined design of the sleeper, and called it “deadly.” Elsewhere in the world, such as in Australia, this defective infant product is not only no longer available for purchase but also was never marketed as an infant bed.  Rather, in international markets Fisher-Price referred to the product as a “soother”.

Outcry from organizations and the public finally led Fisher-Price to issue a full recall of the sleepers.  The recall came within a week of their initial safety warning.

A Regulation Agency Enabling Defective Products?

Perhaps the most baffling detail in this story is the CPSC’s level of involvement from start to finish.  The mission of the CPSC is to evaluate and regulate consumer products and to collaborate with manufacturers and distributors to keep consumers safe from defective products.

Arguably, their most important function is to serve as a trusted platform for information about hazardous products.  As a federal agency, Americans are inclined to trust the CPSC.  That is why it is so surprising that the CPSC would join with Fisher-Price, in issuing a safety warning, and then coming to an agreement with the company a week later about recall procedures.  Americans are left wondering why the agency permitted the safety warning in lieu of a recall at all.

In their coverage of this bizarre and tragic chain of events, The New York Times suggested a “shifting” culture of regulation within federal agencies that leans more towards issuing warnings in preference recalls.

The CPSC has the power to force companies to issue recalls, but that is not what took place with regard to this defective infant product.  The CPSC will force a recall when the risk of danger is obvious, severe, and could potentially affect many consumers.  All the elements were in place for the federal agency to force a recall, but they did not.

When interviewed by the New York Times, a former director of the CPSC suggested that a safety warning is not an appropriate response for any defective infant product associated with infant death.  In this case, not only did the initial warning fail to convey a sense of urgency to consumers, but it also underreported facts, which made it seem like the product was not as deadly as the data shows it to be.

A Dangerously Flawed Design

Having committed to the recall, the CPSC launched an investigation for other sleepers with a design similar to the Rock ‘n Play.  The CPSC suspects some infant deaths were the result of the sleeper’s inclined surface, which is not considered a safe place for a very young infant to sleep.  Many other models of sleepers use an inclined design, and the CPSC has pledged to investigate each product for its potential danger.

Not a Safe Sleep Environment

In the case of the Rock ‘n Play Sleeper, the defective infant product is dangerous for multiple reasons.  First, an inclined surface is not recommended for infants because a sagging or drooped head can crush or collapse a baby’s trachea while they sleep.  The AAP has recommended for years that babies sleep on their back, and only on a flat and firm surface.

Next, not only did the sleeper prop up infants at an incline, but it also created an easier environment for babies to roll onto their stomachs or sides, which is also a hazardous sleeping environment for an infant.

Sympathetic Product Liability Attorneys

Companies that make and sell products for children have an obligation to offer products parents can trust to be safe and effective.  Fisher-Price’s cavalier attitude about the death of so many infants is unacceptable.  Their safety warning was an insult to every parent or caregiver whose charge passed away while using their defective infant product.

When companies know that their product can be deadly, they have a duty to make the danger clear to the public, and to stop additional sales.  Fisher-Price failed in that duty and betrayed the trust of American consumers.

If your child was harmed while using the Rock ‘n Play Sleeper, please accept our condolences.  At Drug and Device Watch, our goal is to help consumers be informed about their legal rights and options.  Contact our team of attorneys to learn more about how we can help you.  Contact us online or call 1-888-458-6825.