Fisher Price Rock ‘n Play Recall – Will Product Liability Suits Follow?

Benson & Bingham

On April 12, the children’s products manufacturer Fisher Price announced that it was issuing a recall for the popular Rock ‘n Play baby sleeper. The company advised that parents should stop using the product immediately, citing safety concerns. The popular product has been on the market since 2009 and has been linked to 32 infant deaths. This recall affects approximately 4.7 million products. [1]

The Rock ‘n Play has been a popular item on baby registries for years. It reclines, rocks, vibrates, and plays soothing music. Parents swear by it as a fool-proof method for getting even the most energetic babies to fall asleep peacefully. Babies find the motion and the soft noises comforting. In addition to providing a supposedly safe sleeping environment for baby, it allows parents a few moments of freedom to work or relax. Parents may understand that the crib is always the safest environment for an unattended infant, but many babies struggle to fall asleep in a flat, motionless crib. A rocker that mimics the movement of the baby in the womb is more likely to lead to infant slumber. [2]

However, the number of accidents that have been linked to the product is more than a little concerning. Reported fatalities have occurred in Rock ‘n Play sleepers when infants roll from their backs onto their stomachs. Rolling is more likely to occur when parents place the babies in the sleeper without attaching the safety harness. [3]

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, babies are safest when they are put to sleep on their backs on firm flat surfaces, such as a crib with a firm mattress. Pillows, padding, and blankets are not recommended in a newborn’s crib environment, as they can increase the likelihood of injury and suffocation. Babies should share a room with parents, but bed-sharing is not recommended. Wedges and positioners, popular for elevating a baby’s head when he or she is suffering from a cold, are similarly risky. Pacifiers are widely considered to be safe, [4] and many a parent is familiar with the silent choreography of trying to transition a sleeping, pacifier-suckling baby out of arms and onto a sleeping surface without disturbing the child’s impossibly light sleep.

Unfortunately, the injuries related to the Rock ‘n Play are neither isolated nor unexpected. According to a study published in 2017, there has been an increase since 2003 in injuries to young people caused by nursery products. Most serious injuries involved the head, neck, or face, and the vast majority were injuries caused by a fall in the home. When babies fall, they tend to do so head-first. A baby’s head is extremely heavy compared to the rest of his or her body, and neck strength remains relatively weak for several years. The injuries in this study involved a variety of baby products. Walkers and jumpers were associated with 16.2 percent of the injuries noted, 16.5percent of injuries involved strollers, 18.6 percent were caused by cribs or mattresses, and almost 20 percent were associated with soft baby carriers or seat-type carriers. [5]

Stories of infant injury, suffocation, and even death as a result of malfunctioning nursery products are terrifying for new parents. However, most baby products, when used as intended including fastening all safety straps and following infant sleep guidelines, are perfectly safe to use. In order to keep babies safe in the nursery, parents are encouraged to follow the “four Rs:” research the product, check for recalls, register the product, and read the manual. [6]

Once parents have decided on a product to purchase, they should always check online to see of the item has been recalled. When a recall is issued, it means that the government or the manufacturer has become aware of a safety issue. An example might include a baby walker that tips over easily, or an infant bathtub that has an unusual drowning risk. Once the recall has been issued, consumers will be notified of the recall via the company website. Checking the manufacturer’s website is a vital step in researching any project, as it is a reliable way to check if any such recalls have been issued. If you remember to register your baby products as well, you will be notified by the manufacturer if any safety issues arise after your purchase. [7]

Reading the manual is another important step in keeping your child safe while making use of potentially dangerous baby products. While items such as high chairs, rockers, and car seats may seem simple, there are sometimes key safety features that go unnoticed by the average caregiver. Although it may be tempting to skip this step, be sure to take a few minutes to carefully read any safety manual that comes with a nursery product. Check to see that the item is appropriate for the height, weight, and age of your child. Make sure that it is correctly assembled and check to see that all safety features are being properly deployed.

If your child is injured while using a nursery product, check for signs of serious injury, such as a fracture or concussion. Seek appropriate medical advice immediately and find a way to safely transfer your child to emergency care, seeking help if necessary. If you feel that the injury your child sustained was partially or wholly the fault of an unsafe nursery item, contact a personal injury attorney to ask about your rights as an injured party.

[1] https://www.cpsc.gov/Recalls/2019/fisher-price-recalls-rock-n-play-sleepers-due-to-reports-of-deaths

[2] https://www.vox.com/the-goods/2019/4/16/18410583/rock-n-play-fisher-price-recall-baby-sleepers-sids

[3] https://www.washingtonpost.com/business/2019/04/16/parents-dread-life-without-rock-n-play-fisher-pri…

[4] https://www.aap.org/en-us/about-the-aap/aap-press-room/Pages/AAP-Expands-Guidelines-for-Infant-Sleep…

[5] https://www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2017/03/13/520003906/nursery-products-to-blame-for-rise-in…

[6] https://www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2017/03/13/520003906/nursery-products-to-blame-for-rise-in…

[7] https://www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2017/03/13/520003906/nursery-products-to-blame-for-rise-in…

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