Infant Wrongful Death Woes Not Over: Daycares Still Use Recalled Sleepers

It has been three months since Fisher-Price recalled more than five million infant sleepers due to an alarming number of infant deaths.  Many families have considered their options for wrongful death and other legal claims after discovering their child’s injuries are due to the sleeper.  The Rock ‘N Play Sleeper was known to be a dangerous product, yet Fisher-Price continued to allow consumers to purchase and use the product without warning.

Now, a newly published survey by the U.S. Public Interest Research Group (U.S. PIRG) and Kids in Danger (KID) reveals the shocking truth that about 10 percent of childcare facilities in the United States continue to use these potentially deadly inclined sleepers.

A Wakeup Call for Parents

U.S. PIRG initiated the survey after one of its executive members noticed the Fisher-Price Rock’n Play sleeper still in use in his own son’s daycare.   From there, the agencies combined to launch a multi-state survey to find out how effective Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) recalls are at communicating the urgency of removing a deadly product from the market.

In the case of the Fisher-Price inclined sleeper, the survey found that millions of parents are placing their kids in daycare, wrongly assuming the facilities have the information they need about products used for children and babies.  U.S. PIRG considers this to be a failed recall  because so many infants across the country will remain at risk as long as these dangerous products are in use in daycares.

Confusing Information Contributing to Wrongful Deaths?

Part of the problem with this particular recall, according to U.S. PIRG and KID, is the mixed messages the CPSC and Fisher-Price sent to consumers about the Rock ‘n Play Sleeper.  Initially, the company and the CPSC issued a joint statement in April, but only a safety warning advising consumers that the sleeper was associated with infant deaths.

The statements went on to say the product was safe for infants up to three months if parents use the restraints.  In the following months, however, under the scrutiny of medical experts and watchdog agencies like Consumer Reports, this statement was proven to be false.

A week after the initial safety alert, Consumer Reports published information about the broader hazards of the inclined design of the sleeper.  Consumer Reports correctly pointed out that the device was responsible for many more wrongful deaths than the initial safety alert disclosed.

Within days, the CPSC and Fisher-Price announced the recall of more than five million of the sleepers.  Many have criticized the recall notice because they say it was insufficient to communicate the danger for infants who might use the product.  The incline and design pose a risk of suffocation. That risk is apparent even when parents use the seat and restraints properly.  This caused widespread confusion, and likely accounts for why so many inclined sleepers remain in childcare facilities.

Experts are concerned that the confusion may mean that infants are still at risk in daycare centers, and at home.  In fact, Mattel, Fisher-Price’s parent company, is predicting that only a small number of consumers will return the product because of the recall.  They have issued no statements regarding how many cases of wrongful death they anticipate.

Insufficient Information May Lead to More Wrongful Deaths

Consumers receive so much information on a daily basis that product recalls need to be crystal clear.  Sometimes, they almost need to be dramatic in order to effectively communicate the danger that products may cause.  Consumers met the initial Fisher-Price safety warning with outrage and widespread scrutiny because it did not effectively communicate to parents that their babies could potentially die using the sleeper.  Consumers need a clear and consistent message in order to change their behavior.

According to Consumer Reports, the CPSC’s method of publishing product recalls also contributes to confusion.  In the case of the sleepers, it may very well have led to further instances of preventable wrongful death.   As trivial as it sounds, their website design is dangerously misleading.

As of June 19, 2019, the April safety alert, not the recall itself, was a report under “Latest News”  on the agency’s homepage.  Parents turning to a government agency to get quick information about a dangerous product could be easily misled and confused with tragic consequences.

To their credit, the CPSC responded to Consumer Reports’ critique of their website design and the inclined sleeper recalls are now prominently displayed on their homepage.  Sadly, the damage is done.

Streamlining the System to Prevent More Tragedy

Under the current system, parents and childcare centers must seek out information.  Often, that means parents see recall notices in the media after the fact.  In most cases the groups who most need the information do not receive direct notice from the recalling company.  The system is somewhat baffling considering how simple it would be for manufacturers to identify childcare facilities and parents.  After all, U.S. PIRG and KID found the information easily enough in order to conduct their survey.

Only 18 states have regulations that ban the use of recalled products in daycare centers.

Essentially, this means that announcing a recall will do very little to actually keep children safe if the companies themselves are not directly reaching out to consumers.  For most of the country, daycare centers are under no legal obligation to keep up with product recalls.

Worse, the results show that even in the 18 states with regulations, daycare centers remain misinformed or uninformed.  The results of the survey were fairly similar in every state regardless of whether there were regulations in place.

In almost every state, the recalled sleepers responsible for dozens of wrongful deaths were in use.  Across the nation, that accounts for about 10 percent of daycare centers.  Clearly, people who really need alerts about product recalls from the CPSC are not receiving the information.

What Parents Can Do to Prevent Wrongful Death from Inclined Sleepers

If you have children in daycare, talk to the facility about how they handle product recalls.  Considering the staggering amount of deaths associated with inclined sleepers, it is reasonable to ask what products are used.  Specifically, ask whether there are any Fisher-Price Rock ‘n Play sleepers in the facility.

Keep in mind that the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) warns against the use of all inclined sleepers.  Other recalls are likely.  Sleeping in an inclined position poses an inherent danger to infants.  A tilted head while sleeping can collapse the trachea causing suffocation.  Infants can also roll over and become lodged sideways in inclined sleepers, which also causes suffocation on the soft material.

At this time, consumer safety advocates are calling for withdrawal of all inclined infant sleeping products.  Advocates and health experts are also proposing legislation to ban the entire product category.

Advocate for Your Child

If your child is in daycare, you can’t be there every minute of the day to supervise what happens.  However, you can advocate by providing specific instructions about your child’s care.  Be specific and firm with your instructions about your child’s sleeping arrangements while at the facility.  Make sure they put your baby to sleep in a safe way. Infants should sleep on their back, unrestrained, on a firm flat surface. Beds should have no soft bedding or bumpers.

When you buy a product for your infant, take a few minutes to register the product.  You will be on the list of consumers who will receive notification of a safety alert or a product recall.

Have Questions about Defective Products and Wrongful Death?

At least 30 infants have died while using the Rock ‘n Play Sleeper.  Other similar sleepers are also linked to wrongful death, or deaths that could have been prevented.  As a parent, of course you want to protect your child.  If your family is suffering from a defective product or a wrongful death, contact Birth Injury Guide.

If a defective or dangerous product is the cause of your child’s injuries, you may be eligible for compensation.  To find out if you have an actionable claim, call 1-877-415-6603 for a free consultation.  You can also ask questions or request more information about your legal rights by completing our online contact form.


Meagan Cline

Written By Meagan Cline

Meagan Cline is a professional legal researcher and writer. She lends her expertise to the team at Birth Injury Guide to provide up-to-date and relevant content that clients can count on.