At least four class actions have been filed over Fisher-Price Rock ‘n Play sleepers, which were recalled earlier this month following reports of 32 infant deaths.
Mattel Inc., which owns Fisher-Price Inc., announced a voluntary recall April 12 of 4.7 million Rock ‘n Play sleepers, citing risks that infants could suffocate if they rolled from their backs to their stomachs or sides. The recall provides full refunds to consumers who purchased the products as of Oct. 12, at prices that range from $40 to $149, while others would receive vouchers. The lawsuits, the latest of which was filed Tuesday, said the recall is inadequate.
The recall “does not provide justice for the many families who have already experienced injury or death tied to the Rock ‘n Play,” wrote Jonathan Sorkowitz, of Pierce Bainbridge Beck Price & Hecht in New York, in an email. He filed an April 18 lawsuit, in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of New York, on behalf of Samantha Drover-Mundy and Zachary Mundy, the parents of a 3-month-old girl in Delaware who died Sept. 25, just minutes after her mother placed her in a Rock ‘n Play sleeper. “Nor does the recall offer refunds to all of the purchasers of the product with claims, and even those who are receiving something from Fisher-Price may not be getting adequate value. We are also seeking injunctive relief to prevent issues like this from happening in the future and hopefully help reduce the circulation of this product on the secondary market.”
Among those secondary markets are Facebook, Craigslist and Amazon.com, also named as a defendant in the case, where illegal resales of the product are ongoing, he said.
Lauren Kellas, an Amazon.com Inc. spokeswoman, declined to comment.
Mattel, based in El Segundo, California, and Fisher-Price, based in East Aurora, New York, also face class actions in New Jersey and California.
Fisher-Price provided a statement in response to the lawsuits: “Fisher-Price has a long, proud tradition of prioritizing safety as our mission. As a matter of policy, we don’t comment on litigation.”
In a statement released on the day of the recall, Mattel urged parents to stop using the product. Fisher-Price general manager Chuck Scothon also released a video, accompanied by this written statement: “We stand by the safety of our products. However, due to reported incidents in which the product was used contrary to the safety warnings and instructions, we have decided to conduct a voluntary recall of the Rock ‘n Play Sleeper in partnership with the Consumer Product Safety Commission.”
The Consumer Product Safety Commission and Fisher-Price first issued a safety alert April 5 after reports that the Rock ‘n Play was linked to the deaths of 10 infants since 2015, all more than 3 months old, when babies begin learning how to roll over. The alert noted that Fisher-Price warned consumers not to use the product once babies are able to roll over.
Then, on April 8, Consumer Reports published an article that questioned why the product had not yet been recalled, citing its own investigation concluding that 32 infants had died in a Rock ‘n Play. The next day, the American Academy of Pediatrics made a similar recommendation, calling the product “deadly,” and urged parents to stop using the Rock ‘n Play.
Many of the suits alleged that government regulators in Australia and Canada had previously questioned the product’s safety, as had pediatricians, but that Fisher-Price continued to market the Rock ‘n Play for overnight sleep. In addition to deaths, the suits say, the Rock ‘n Play had been associated with babies developing flat heads and twisting their necks.
The suits also target what they called Fisher-Price’s deceptive and misleading marketing of the product for overnight sleep, despite recommendations from pediatricians that babies should sleep flat on their backs.
Sorkowitz’s suit alleged that Fisher-Price and Mattel lobbied the Consumer Product Safety Commission over the years to avoid recalling the Rock ‘n Play. He also represents Rebecca Drover, the Pennsylvania woman who purchased the product as a gift to her daughter, Samantha Drover-Mundy.
The suit seeks to represent a nationwide class of parents whose children died or were injured from the Rock ‘n Play, as well as consumers who purchased the product.
“This child’s death was an unspeakable tragedy,” Sorkowitz said. “Although nothing can fully redress it, it has become clear this product is defective and dangerous and that the parties responsible should be held to account. Our clients are hopeful that their story will serve as a warning to others and effect positive change from an awful situation.”
One day after Sorkowitz filed his suit, Wolf Haldenstein Adler Freeman & Herz filed a class action on April 19 in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of New York on behalf of Cassandra Mulvey, a New York woman who received the Rock ‘n Play as a gift.
“At least 32 infant fatalities and countless other injuries have been associated with the Fisher-Price Rock ‘n Play Sleeper since its introduction in 2009,” wrote Demet Basar, of New York’s Wolf Haldenstein, in an email. Her suit seeks a nationwide class of consumers. “Well-respected organizations such as the American Academy of Pediatrics and Consumer Reports have sought a recall of this product. Despite knowing of its dangers for years, Fisher-Price only recently recalled the Rock ‘n Play. However, as the complaint alleges, the recall is inadequate.”
That suit called the recall “cumbersome, inconvenient, and restrictive, and confusing to the general public,” in part because parents must send in parts of the product to get a refund.
“Limiting full reimbursement to those who owned the product for six months or less is unfair because the product is not expressly sold for short term use and many parents obtained the product assuming they would be able to use it for a subsequent child, or, when their baby outgrew it, to share it with a friend or relative with a younger baby,” Basar wrote. Moreover, she wrote, vouchers are unacceptable because Mattel would benefit from those purchases.
Blair Reed, of Bursor & Fisher in Walnut Creek, California, made similar allegations about the recall’s defects in Tuesday’s suit, filed in U.S. District Court for the Central District of California, on behalf of a Texas consumer. That case seeks to represent a class of consumers who purchased the product on or after April 23, 2015.
The first class action, filed in New Jersey federal court April 11 by attorney Stephen DeNittis of DeNittis Osefchen Prince in Marlton, New Jersey, was brought on behalf of a nationwide class of consumers who purchased a Rock ‘n Play at any time since it was introduced in 2009.