After the tragic deaths of at least 14 infants, federal safety officials are warning parents about yet another baby product that is not safe for infant sleep: baby rockers. Feldman Shepherd attorneys Alan M. Feldman, Daniel J. Mann and Edward S. Goldis represent numerous families who lost their children in inclined sleep products, including the very product that led to this CPSC joint warning.
On June 14, 2022, the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) issued a joint warning with Fisher-Price alerting consumers to at least 13 reported deaths between 2009 and 2021 of infants in the company’s Infant-to-Toddler Rockers and Newborn-to-Toddler Rockers. The warning states: “Rockers should never be used for sleep and infants should never be unsupervised or unrestrained in the Rockers.” Fisher-Price sold more than 17 million rockers worldwide since the 1990s, according to the notice.
On the same day, the CPSC issued a second joint warning with Kids2 for its Bright Starts and Baby Einstein Rockers. According to the warning, there has been at least one reported death in 2019 in the Bright Starts rocker. Again, the warning states that the rockers should not be used for sleep and that infants should never be left unsupervised or unrestrained. Kids2 has sold more than 1.8 million rockers worldwide since 2012, according to the notice.
The rockers, which are often used for inclined infant sleep, violate the recommendations of the American Academy of Pediatrics that infants should be put to sleep on their backs, on a separate, flat and firm sleep surface, without any bumpers, loose bedding or stuffed toys.
If the issue of a baby product that is unsafe for what infants do much of the day (i.e., sleep) sounds familiar, it is because it is déjà vu all over again. For many years, popular baby products such as inclined sleepers, nappers and loungers have silently killed babies without much public attention.
Inclined sleepers position babies at angles as much as 30 degrees, where they can get into a chin-to-chest position in which their airway is blocked. Loungers, which are designed for babies to sit or lie in, often have padded sides, which a baby’s face can sink into, causing suffocation.
In April 2019, Fisher-Price in conjunction with the CPSC recalled nearly 5 million of its Rock ‘n Play Sleepers after more than 30 reported infant deaths. Astoundingly, Fisher-Price executives subsequently admitted in June 2021 in testimony before the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Oversight and Reform, which was investigating infant deaths in inclined sleepers including the Rock ‘n Play, that the company had received 97 reports of infant deaths occurring in its product.
Also in April 2019, Kids2 in conjunction with the CPSC announced the recall of nearly 700,000 of its inclined baby sleepers sold under a variety of brand names and models, citing five infant fatalities.
Other popular baby products that have recently grabbed headlines as posing a hazard for infant sleep include: “Podster” infant loungers, Boppy loungers, and nursing pillows.
In May 2022, President Biden signed the Safe Sleep for Babies Act into law. The new law, which takes effect on November 12, 2022, will ban inclined sleepers that place babies at angles greater than 10 degrees as well as padded crib bumpers. Together, these products have reportedly been linked to nearly 200 infant deaths. The CPSC recently finalized a rule requiring that infant sleep products have a sleep surface angle of 10 degrees or less. The rule goes into effect on June 23, 2022.
Contrary to popular belief, the CPSC does not have the authority to unilaterally recall unsafe products without a company’s cooperation. If a company refuses to cooperate, the CPSC must engage in protracted litigation or administrative proceedings to force a recall. Moreover, if the CPSC wants to notify the public about a hazardous product, it usually must get the company’s permission first. If the company objects, which it most likely will do, the CPSC, again, may be forced to litigate the issue.
On the same day that the CPSC issued its warnings about the Fisher-Price and Kids2 infant rockers, CPSC Commissioner Richard Trumka, Jr., issued a scathing statement on how the parameters of the law prevented the agency from taking more immediate action that could have potentially protected infants from this dangerous product:
“The Gag Rule led to needless delay. When CPSC needs to warn the public about a pattern of death and injury tied to a product, it should be able to quickly issue that warning to prevent further loss of life. Instead, a Gag Rule blocks us from doing so without first seeking permission from the product’s maker. Here, the Gag Rule delayed our message to the public by two months. Even with cooperation from Fisher-Price, we fought an uphill battle to release this information to warn parents and caregivers. Sharing vital safety information should not be this hard. Congress must immediately repeal the Gag Rule. If CPSC cannot issue timely warnings, dangers will remain hidden in people’s homes.” [emphasis in original]
Read more about the legal hurdles that the CPSC faces in its efforts to warn consumers about unsafe products and remove them from the marketplace.
Daniel J. Mann, a partner and product liability attorney at Feldman Shepherd, recommends contacting a product liability attorney as soon as possible if your child has been injured by an infant rocker.
Mann said “these companies knew or should have known of the dangers associated with inclined sleep. There is absolutely no excuse for these products to remain in the marketplace. They should be recalled immediately.”
Mann, along with Feldman Shepherd co-founding partner Alan M. Feldman and partner Edward S. Goldis, have secured substantial recoveries on behalf of infants and young children who have been seriously injured or killed by children’s products, including baby slings, unstable furniture and magnetic toys. The team presently represents in excess of 10 families who lost infants when they asphyxiated while using inclined sleepers, including the family of a child who died in a Fisher-Price Newborn-to-Toddler Rocker.
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