On April 5, 2019, the Consumer Product Safety Commission (“CPSC”) issued an alert warning consumers that ten infants had died while using the Fisher-Price Rock ‘N Play sleeper.
The CPSC stated these deaths occurred when infants suffocated after rolling over. The CPSC noted that all of the deaths involved infants over the age of three months, the age at which medical literature suggests most infants begin to roll over.
Consumer Reports reported on April 9, 2019, that not only had more than ten deaths been reported with the Rock ‘N Play, several deaths involved children three months or younger and without the ability to roll over. Consumer Reports identified at least 32 deaths associated with the Rock ‘N Play, most of which resulted from asphyxia.
What Do We Know About the Rock ‘N Play Sleeper Lawsuits
The American Academy of Pediatrics (“AAP”), as well as independent experts in pediatrics, recommend that infants be placed flat on their back, free of soft bedding, and not on an incline. This helps minimize the risk of an infant accidentally suffocating during sleep. The Fisher-Price Rock ‘N Play does not comply with these guidelines.
Products with an inclined surface like the Rock ‘N Play should only be used for shorter periods of supervised rest and activity. This is because sleeping on an incline may interfere with an infant’s ability to breathe, and therefore inclined infant sleep products pose an increased risk of infant death by asphyxiation.
The CPSC revealed on May 31, 2018, that it had become aware of infant deaths associated with inclined sleep products in general, and recommended that parents always use restraints and stop using these products as soon as an infant can roll over.
However, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) doesn’t recommend products that rock or require restraints for routine sleep, both of which are features of the Rock ‘N Play. Accordingly, the AAP issued a statement on April 9, 2019, urging the CPSC to recall the Rock ‘N Play Sleeper. AAP also tweeted on April 5, 2019, that “The Rock ’n Play should not be used for routine sleep”.
Fisher-Price officially recalled the Rock ‘N Play on April 12, 2019.
Similarly, on April 26, 2019, the CPSC noted a recall of all Kids II Rocking Sleepers. The CPSC stated that five infant fatalities have occurred in the Kids II Rocking Sleepers after the infants rolled from their back to their stomach while unrestrained or under other circumstances.
The Unfortunate History of the Fisher-Price Rock ‘N Play Sleeper
Fisher-Price originally developed the Rock ‘N Play as a remedy for infants who had trouble sleeping due to acid reflux. The idea was that the 30-degree incline would alleviate acid reflux and allow the child to fall asleep. Experts have countered this notion stating that “there’s no evidence to suggest that being on an incline is helpful for reflux”.
The CPSC issued a proposed rule in 2010 that would require infant sleep products to be firm and flat, with an angle of 5-degrees or less. In response, Mattel (who owns Fisher-Price) pressured the CPSC to create an exception for products with an incline of greater than 10-degrees which would exempt the Rock ‘N Play from mandatory standards that would apply to other sleep products such as bassinets and cradles.
Mattel was successful and products with a greater than 10-degree incline were exempted from the CPSC standards in 2013. Thereafter, Fisher-Price proposed a new category be added to ASTM International voluntary standards for inclined infant sleep products. ASTM formed a committee to develop this new standards category and appointed one of the primary engineers of the Rock ‘N Play, a Fisher-Price employee, as chairperson.
Despite academic guidelines and recommendations to the contrary, and as a result of their gaming the system and bending the regulatory framework, Fisher-Price specifically markets the Rock ‘N Play as a “sleeper” for routine use during naptime and for “all night sleep” in the U.S.
Fisher-Price has received push back from regulatory agencies in foreign markets related to the nature of its marketing of the Rock ‘N Play. When attempting to launch their product in Australia in 2011, Australian regulators informed Fisher-Price that they did not believe the item should be marketed as a sleep product.
In February 2011, Health Canada informed Mattel that they were concerned about the Rock ’N Play sleeper as it did not comport with “Safe Sleep” recommendations issued by Health Canada and the Canadian Pediatric Society.
In February 2011, the Royal College of Midwives in the UK told Fisher-Price that the product was suitable only for short periods of supervised play and that they would not endorse the product as a sleeper.
As a result of these interactions, the Rock ‘N Play is not sold at all in Australia and it is marketed only as a “soother” (Rock ’n Play Soothing Seat) instead of a “sleeper” in Canada. It continues, however, to be sold as a “sleeper” in the UK, despite their objections.
Fisher-Price Rock ‘N Play Sleeper News
Fisher-Price invented a popular baby sleeper without medical safety tests and kept selling it, even as babies died
Fisher-Price developed its revolutionary product based on faulty beliefs about infant sleep, with no clinical research into whether it was safe, and, rather than seeking the advice of pediatricians, consulted just a single doctor — a family physician from Texas whose expertise had already been doubted by judges and who would eventually lose his medical license, according to a review by The Washington Post of thousands of pages of court depositions, emails and medical studies, along with interviews of doctors and regulators. To read more, click Washington Post
Fisher-Price Recalls Inclined Sleeper Accessory Included with Ultra-Lite Day & Night Play Yards Due to Safety Concerns
This recall involves the inclined sleeper accessory sold with all Ultra-Lite Day & Night Play Yards with model numbers CBV60, CHP86, CHR06, CJK24, and DJD11. The product is a portable play yard with inclined sleeper and changing station clutch accessories and a carry bag; the inclined sleeper accessory is the only portion of the product that is being recalled. Consumers should immediately stop using the inclined sleeper accessory and contact Fisher-Price for a refund or voucher. Consumers can continue to use the play yard portion of the product without the inclined sleeper accessory, and can also continue to use the changing station clutch accessory and carry bag. To read more, click Consumer Product Safety Commission