Wolf Haldenstein Announces Important Progress in the Rock ’n Play Sleeper Multidistrict Litigation

Wolf Haldenstein Adler Freeman & Herz LLP, court-appointed lead counsel in In re Rock ‘n Play Sleeper Marketing, Sales Practices, and Products Liability Litigation, is pleased to announce the filing of plaintiffs’ consolidated amended complaint (“Complaint”) in the multidistrict class action litigation against Fisher-Price, Inc., and its corporate parent Mattel, Inc., pending in the United States District Court for the Western District of New York. The litigation arises from Fisher-Price’s and Mattel’s deceptive marketing and sale of their popular Fisher-Price Rock ’n Play Sleeper, an inclined infant sleeper that they promoted as safe for infant sleep, including overnight and prolonged sleep, for nearly ten years. The use of the Rock ’n Player Sleeper by unsuspecting parents has resulted in at least 32 reported infant deaths due to asphyxiation and over 700 skull and neck deformities. A copy of the Complaint can be found here.

The American Academy of Pediatricians (“AAP”) and major consumer groups repeatedly issued warnings about the dangers of inclined infant sleepers, like the Rock ’n Play Sleeper, because the only safe infant sleeping environment is flat on their on backs on a flat surface that is free of any bedding. The Rock ’n Play Sleeper is at a 30% incline, the infant is placed on a padded surface inside the sleeper, and parents are directed to strap the infant in the sleeper, which limits the movement of the infant during sleep. Dr. Rachel Moon, the chairperson of the AAP Task Force on Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, confirms that “[t]he Rock ’n Play inclined sleeper… does not meet the AAP’s recommendations for a safe sleep environment for any baby.” In addition, the Consumer Product Safety Commission (“CPSC”) recently released a scientific study, which concluded that “no inclined sleep products that were examined as a part of this study (which included the Rock ’n Play) are currently safe for infant sleep” and further recommended that the entire product category be banned.

As plaintiffs allege in the Complaint, during the ten years Fisher-Price and Mattel sold their nearly 5 million Rock ’n Play Sleepers, they knew it was unreasonably dangerous and did not comply with infant safe sleep standards, knew it had not been properly tested for safety, and knew infants had died and were injured while in the product.

The Complaint is filed on behalf of 23 plaintiffs, each seeking to represent the interests of a class of consumers in his or her state. Plaintiffs assert claims against Fisher-Price and Mattel for violations of their states’ consumer protection laws, breaches of warranty of merchantability, negligence and unjust enrichment. Fisher-Price and Mattel admit they sold over 4.7 million Rock ’n Play Sleepers in the United States at prices ranging from approximately $50 to over $100 depending on the model. Fisher-Price and Mattel are estimated to have earned over $300 million in sales from the sale of this inherently unsafe product.

On February 2019, after nearly a year of investigation, Wolf Haldenstein sent Fisher-Price and Mattel a letter on behalf of one its clients informing them that she intended to pursue claims against them under California law in connection with their marketing and sale of the Rock ’n Play Sleeper. On April 5, 2019, Fisher-Price and Mattel issued releases admitting they were aware of ten infant deaths from the use of the product.  They did not recall the product, but recommended parents discontinue use of the Rock ’n Play Sleeper when infants begin to roll over or reach three months of age. They also advised parents to always use the restraints provided with the product, as directed. In the release, Fisher-Price and Mattel stated that “[t]he Rock ’n Play Sleeper meets all applicable safety standards,” suggesting that the infant deaths resulted from the negligence of the parents. However, as experts have long stated, there is no evidence that the use of restraints with inclined sleepers can prevent infant deaths, and, in fact, their use in itself can be dangerous. Moreover, the AAP’s safe infant sleep standards apply to all infants, including those who are younger than three months or cannot roll over.

AAP and major consumer groups responded with outrage and concern to the April 5th release.  The AAP, for example, stated that the release did not go far enough to ensure the safety of infants, stating “[t]his product is deadly and should be recalled immediately.”

On April 12, 2019, after mounting pressure from the AAP and major consumer groups, Fisher-Price and Mattel finally recalled the Rock ’n Play Sleepers, admitting that they knew of 32 – not ten, as previously stated – infant deaths from the use of the product. Even then, they insisted the product met all applicable safety standards and continued to point the finger at parents for their babies’ deaths and injuries.

As plaintiffs allege in the Complaint, the recall is woefully deficient because the recall notice does not warn consumers that the product has been pronounced dangerous, including by the AAP, and should not be used under any circumstances. Moreover, participating in the recall is difficult for consumers. It requires parents to disassemble the product and mail in bulky parts that many who purchased the product are likely to no longer possess.  Further, it unfairly limits reimbursement of the purchase price to parents who purchased or owned the product after October 2018 while those who purchased or owned the product before then are only entitled to a voucher for a Fisher-Price product to be selected from a list chosen by Fisher-Price, which Fisher-Price  will determine by the original date of purchase. Alarmingly, there is evidence that the dangerous Rock ’n Play Sleeper is still being used in homes and day care centers, and is also traded and sold through social media and on the secondary market.

Mattel and Fisher-Price are currently under investigation by the House of Representatives Committee on Oversight and Reform in connection with their marketing and sale of the Fisher-Price Rock ’n Play Sleeper.

In addition to seeking full recompense for all consumers, regardless of when they purchased or owned the product, Plaintiffs have asked the Court for an injunction directing Mattel and Fisher-Price to implement a notice program for the wide dissemination of a factually accurate recall notice as well as a corrective advertising campaign in order to protect infants from the dangers of the Rock ’n Play Sleeper.

In addition to lead counsel Wolf Haldenstein, plaintiffs are represented by liaison counsel Connors LLP; an Executive Committee comprised of Bursor & Fisher, P.A., Pierce Bainbridge Beck Price, & Hecht LLP, DeNittis Osefchen Prince, P.C., and Smolen & Roytman; and 11 additional firms representing plaintiffs.

The Wolf Haldenstein team is led by of counsel Kate McGuire.

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