Attorneys Alan M. Feldman, Daniel J. Mann, Edward S. Goldis, and Thomas Martin represented Anthoinette Medley who was carrying her infant twin sons in baby carriers manufactured and sold by Infantino in February 2009. The Infantino SlingRider was a semi-structured bag-type sling worn over the shoulder, represented to be simple and safe to use for carrying newborns as well as babies weighing up to 20 pounds; plaintiff had each twin in a SlingRider worn on each shoulder. While shopping in Center City Philadelphia, plaintiff checked on the twins and noticed that her 7-1/2 week son Nelsir Scott was not responsive. Despite CPR administered by EMTs and immediate transport to Thomas Jefferson University Hospital, Nelsir could not be revived and was pronounced dead.
Feldman Shepherd brought strict product liability and negligence claims against Infantino, alleging that the SlingRider was defectively designed and unsafe for its intended use. The product did not provide any head and neck support for infants carried within it, and caused infants to assume a chin-on-chest position which can impede breathing and cause positional asphyxia. Infantino had never evaluated the design of the product for any potential suffocation risk.
As early as 2004, consumers began posting negative reviews of the SlingRider on the websites of major retailers who sold the product. Mothers complained that the design of the carrier caused their babies to curl into an unsafe “C” position with the baby’s chin on its chest, that babies in the sling became hot and uncomfortable, and that the design of the sling prevented the wearer from even seeing the baby in the enveloping folds of fabric. In October 2006, a woman trained as a pediatric nurse who gave classes in “babywearing” for mothers and other caregivers emailed Infantino to express her concern that the design of the SlingRider presented a significant suffocation risk for newborns. This individual provided informal test results utilizing a pulse oxymeter and described how babies labored to breathe while in the SlingRider. However, Infantino chose to summarily reject the cautionary warnings presented by the nurse, and nothing was done to evaluate the suffocation risks she identified or to determine the validity of her concerns. When it became apparent to the nurse that Infantino was ignoring these safety problems, she shared her concerns with the Consumer Product Safety Commission.
Following the death of Nelsir Scott on February 20, 2009, an infant in Oregon died in the SlingRider in May of the same year. In December 2009, a third infant died while being carried in the SlingRider in Cincinnati. The CPSC insisted that Infantino recall the SlingRider, but Infantino refused. It was not until a fourth baby died in the SlingRider on February 20, 2010 in New York City that Infantino agreed to a recall of the product in the United States and Canada.
The case settled for $8 million in September 2013.