According to a scathing U.S. Congressional report released this week, Fisher-Price continued to market and sell its now recalled “Rock’n Play” sleepers for nearly a decade, while disregarding safety concerns related to inclined sleepers now linked to at least 50 deaths.
The House Oversight Committee report (PDF) was released on June 7, alleging Fisher-Price failed to adequately vet the Rock’n Play inclined infant sleeper for safety before putting it on the market in 2009, and indicating the manufacturer intentionally ignored pre-market warnings and concealed reports of infant deaths to avoid issuing costly recalls.
The Fisher-Price sleepers featured an inclined bed, which was intended to elevate a baby’s head and torso to help prevent acid-reflux or congestion. However, as babies become old enough to roll over on their own, the infant sleeper can become deadly, causing young infants to suffocate or become entrapped against the fabric.
Following years of concerns and reports involving infant deaths, a massive Fisher-Price recall was issued in April 2019, impacting millions of the Rock n’ Play sleepers.
The Congressional report comes after a nearly two-year investigation by the House Committee on Oversight and Reform, which found Fisher-Price failed to consult proper medical professionals on the safety and potential hazards prior to releasing the first-of-its-kind Rock’n Play elevated infant sleeper product in 2009.
The report also revealed Fisher-Price and its parent company, Mattel Inc., were aware of dangers posed by the 30 degree inclining sleepers well before the products were available to consumers. According to the findings, the company’s internal safety committee raised alarms about the dangers posed by an inclined sleeper as early as 2008.
However, rather than conducting appropriate safety testing, the manufacturer ignored the warnings while knowing the products design did not align with safe sleep recommendations from the American Academy of Pediatrics, which put millions of infants at risk of roll-over suffocation risks. The House report indicates no additional research on the safety of the products was performed following the three separate internal safety warnings.
The investigation also revealed Fisher-Price consulted only one physician on the safety of the inclined sleeper design. However, that physician would later lose his license in 2015, and after being sanctioned by the Texas Medical Board for practicing medicine without the proper credentials.
In additional to the failure to adequately vet the products for safety and intentionally ignoring internal safety warnings, Fisher-Price is also accused of concealed at least 32 known infant deaths associated with the Rock’n Play sleepers, while another 18 infant fatalities remain in question.
According to the report, Fisher-Price had documented at least 14 infant deaths in the sleepers by February 2018, which is more than a year prior to publicly recognizing any potential risks to consumers, and allegedly never reported the deaths to the CPSC.
It was not until April 2019, following a Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) inclined infant sleeper warning that the manufacturer initiated the Fisher-Price Rock’n Play Sleepers recall, impacting millions of units sold throughout the United States for use in the home and daycares. The report states the recall was issued far too late, after 32 infants had already died from becoming trapped against the fabric when they rolled over.
By the end of April, CSPC officials recalled 4.7 million Rock’n Play Sleepers and Kids II recalled all 694,000 of its inclined rocking sleepers. Fisher- Price subsequently issued another recall impacting 71,000 of its Price Ultra-Lite Day & Night Play Yards.
Just yesterday, the CPSC issued yet another Fisher-Price 4-in-1 Rock ‘n Glide Soothers inclined sleeper recall instructing consumers to stop placing infants and children in the sleepers immediately after becoming aware of at least four infant suffocation deaths in the sleepers.
Since the recalls, Fisher-Price has been hit with a number of inclined sleeper individual wrongful death lawsuits and at least 10 class action lawsuits alleging the manufacturer knew or should have known about the risk of problems, yet delayed announcing a recall or warning, and knowingly allowed parents to continue purchasing life-threatening sleeper devices.