Online tools like product reviews and ratings have made it easier than ever for a consumer to research a product before they buy. Unfortunately, until recently, research of the Fisher-Price Rock ‘n Play Infant Sleeper may not have revealed the product’s alarming history of infant injuries and fatalities. That gross omission may be part of the reason why consumers have continued buying the product for 8 years after the first documented Rock ‘n Play-related fatality in 2011.
Fisher-Price has sold 4.7 million sleepers over the product’s 10-year history. As of April 12, 2019, they no longer sell the Rock ‘n Play product. The company’s decision might seem quick, but it took more than a week after the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) announced a product safety alert:
- CPSC issued a safety alert on April 5, 2019, citing 10 known infant fatalities from incidents beginning in 2015.
- The American Academy of Pediatricians urged the CPSC to recall the product on April 9, 2019.
- On April 12, the CPSC revised the fatality number to over 30.
- Also on April 12, Consumer Reports announced they uncovered a long list of deaths.
- Finally, on April 12, Fisher-Price recalled the infant seat while announcing they “continue to stand by the safety of all of our products.”
What Should You Do If a Defective Product Injures You or a Family Member?
If your child was injured while using a Rock ‘n Play Sleeper, contact a personal injury lawyer with experience in products liability as soon as possible. The law firm of Emroch & Kilduff has exclusively practiced personal injury law since 1970. Our lawyers have successfully settled and litigated complex products liability cases for nearly 50 years, and we have recovered hundreds of millions of dollars in damages for our clients.
If you own a Rock ‘n Play Sleeper, or any defective or recalled product, and someone contacts you before you have discussed your case with a lawyer:
- Never give anyone the defective product. When a manufacturer, or their attorney, representative, or insurance company retrieve a defective product, they often perform destructive testing. If the product is taken away, disassembled, or otherwise changed in any way, your chance of proving the defect diminishes significantly. Product recalls actually assist the manufacturer in this effort. In exchange for the cost of the product and shipping, they regain ownership and control of the defective products they negligently allowed consumers to purchase and use.
- Do not give a statement to anyone. Product liability issues are complex, and it is easy to make a misstatement that may jeopardize your case.
- Do not discuss your case with anyone except your lawyer. Keep all information about your case between you and your attorney. Insurance companies may ask people you know about you, and may use any adverse information to dispute your claims.
- Do not talk about your case or injuries on social media. Insurance companies and attorneys can use social media, regardless of any privacy settings, to help them dispute claims and injuries.
What Is the Rock ‘n Play Sleeper?
The Fisher-Price Rock ‘n Play Sleeper is a seat for infants. Product descriptions available online describe the intended purpose, “Soothe, nap and play in one inclined sleeper with hands-free rocking motion.” Music and “calming vibrations” promote sleep.
The Rock ‘n Play Sleeper should be used on the floor, and includes a three-point belt and clasp restraint. The seat is, “extra deep,” with a “deluxe newborn insert and comfy head support to help baby sleep all night long.”
By designing a cushioned seat that promotes inclined sleeping, Fisher-Price disregarded several established infant safe sleeping guidelines. The American Academy of Pediatricians, HealthyChildren.org, and many other organizations recommend:
- Infants should sleep safely on their backs on a firm mattress
- Infants and babies should sleep on a flat surface
- An infant should not sleep while restrained, such as in a car seat or stroller
- Infants and babies should not sleep with bumpers or bedding.
How Did the Injuries and Fatalities Occur?
The reported infant fatalities were caused by asphyxiation while sleeping in the Rock ‘n Play Sleeper, and usually occurred when an unrestrained child rolled over or shifted positions from their back to their stomach or side. The babies who died did not yet have fully developed rolling abilities or sufficient physical control to prevent asphyxiation.
In the formal recall announcement, Fisher-Price stated that online product information included a safety warning, “Use only with an infant unable to roll over or pull up on sides, whichever comes first.” The original CPSC consumer alert noted that babies typically begin to have the ability to roll at approximately three months. Even so, younger children also died while using the sleeper.
Why Did It Take so Long for Consumers to Find out About Rock ‘n Play?
As with many product defect cases, most consumers were left in the dark until recently. Any parent or caregiver who researched the Rock ‘n Play Sleeper online would have found mostly glowing reviews. On one retail site, the sleeper had 180 customer reviews and a 4.6 out of 5-star rating. Parents called it “A must have life saver!” and “The baby whisperer.” The rare negative comments mostly complained about a power and battery issue that parents say affected the seat’s music and movement.
The now-public infant fatalities were not actually the first indication of problems for this product. Fisher-Price actually issued a 2013 recall to “inspect” the Rock ‘n Play Sleeper for mold issues that allegedly caused infant respiratory problems.
Even though the first known fatality occurred in 2011, no product search until recently would reveal that information, and there is no record of the manufacturer disclosing it to the public.
Why Did the CPSC Have to Force Fisher-Price to Accept Responsibility for Their Defective Product?
Unfortunately, it is not uncommon for manufacturers to attempt to avoid responsibility for their defective products, and it often requires a government agency stepping in to force a manufacturer to take action.
Fisher-Price has been in business since 1930 and parent company, Mattel has manufactured children’s products since 1945. When they received the first notice of a Rock ‘n Play Sleeper-related injury or death, Fisher-Price and Mattel certainly had enough combined experience to evaluate the potential for harm, yet they failed to recall the product. This type of failure often occurs for two major reasons:
Potential Financial Gains vs. Losses
Manufacturers face a risk management issue when they learn about a potential product defect. Companies weigh the money they stand to lose against what they might gain if they proceed with a recall. Manufacturers know that accepting responsibility for a defective product will likely result in substantial financial losses.
Tarnished Reputation and Lost Customers
A company’s reputation also plays a role in their analysis. Companies assess the potential for a diminished reputation and how it may affect customer retention and future profits. Manufacturers know they need to manage their publicity, and that they may lose customers no matter how they spin it.
How Do You Prove a Product Liability Claim?
Under Virginia law, a product must be reasonably safe for its intended use, and entities in the chain of distribution must warn of any foreseeable risks that might not be obvious to the consumer.
A defective product may include one or more of the following types of defects:
- Design defect. The product was improperly conceived and designed.
- Manufacturing defect. The product was improperly manufactured.
- Defective packaging/failure to warn. The product packaging, labeling, instructions, or marketing materials were inadequate, defective, or failed to warn about known dangers.
To prove product liability, a plaintiff must establish the defendant’s negligence with evidence that shows:
- It was foreseeable the product could cause harm.
- The consumer did not change the product, and was using it the way intended.
- The product defect caused damages.
Call Our Virginia Personal Injury Attorneys if the Fisher-Price Rock ‘n Play Sleeper Injured Your Child
If your infant has been injured by the Rock ‘n Play Sleeper, you need an advocate who will work to get justice for your family. The attorneys at Emroch & Kilduff serve clients in Richmond, Petersburg, Tappahannock, Fredericksburg, and the surrounding communities. Contact Emroch & Kilduff today at (804) 358-1568 or online to schedule a free consultation and learn if we may be able to help you.