With a number of class action lawsuits filed against Fisher-Price, over problems with millions of Rock’n’Play infant sleepers recalled earlier this year due to the risk that babies may suffocate and die, the manufacturer is asking a panel of federal judges to consolidated all the cases for pretrial proceedings.
On April 17, Fisher-Price announced an infant sleeper recall, which impacted nearly five million units. The action was taken after the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) urged consumers to stop using the sleepers by the time a child is three months old, at which time they may be able to roll over and suffocate due to the sleeper design.
The CPSC linked the Fisher-Price sleepers to at least 32 infant deaths, and evidence suggests that the manufacturer knew or should have known about the risk of problems, yet delayed announcing a recall or warning. In the aftermath, a number of individual and class action lawsuits have been filed in courts nationwide.
The day after the recall announcement, the parents of a child who died in one of the millions of recalled sleepers filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the manufacturers and distributors.
That was followed by several Fisher-Price infant sleeper class action lawsuits brought on behalf of consumers who purchased the sleepers believing them to be safe, seeking reimbursement for the money they spent buying the sleepers.
On May 25, Fisher-Price and Mattel, Inc. filed a Motion for Transfer (PDF) before the U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation (JPML), calling for all federal claims involving the recalled Rock’n’Play Sleepers (RNPS) to be centralized before one judge in the Central District of California for coordination discovery and pretrial proceedings.
According to the motion, there are currently six lawsuits filed in two different U.S. District courts, but notes that plaintiffs are from a number of different states. The motion states that consolidation would prevent duplicative discovery and conflicting pretrial rulings by different judges.
“All of the Actions allege that Fisher-Price and Mattel were aware of the allegedly inherently dangerous nature of the RNPS, yet purportedly failed to take remedial measures or properly warn consumers about the alleged risks,” the motion states. “All of the Actions also allege that, because the RNPS was allegedly inherently dangerous and not suitable for prolonged sleep, the advertising and marketing for the RNPS was false and misleading, and that Fisher-Price and Mattel breached various duties to the putative classes as well as express and implied warranties.”
If the JPML agrees to consolidate the cases into a multidistrict litigation (MDL), all pretrial proceedings would be handled by one judge, but the cases would remain individual lawsuits. If a settlement agreement is not reached, the cases would be transferred back to their originating districts for trial.