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CORRECTION – Four Families Who Lost Their Infants in Rock ‘n Play Sleepers Join Together to Sue Fisher-Price, Inc. and Mattel, Inc.

/EIN News/ -- NEW YORK and LOS ANGELES, June 14, 2019 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- In a release issued under the same headline yesterday by Wolf Haldenstein Adler Freeman & Herz LLP, please note that in the fourth bullet the name "Elijah Butler" should read "Elijah Kelley". The corrected release follows:

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On June 12, 2019, four families (the “Plaintiff Families”) who lost their infants in Fisher-Price’s Rock ‘n Play Sleepers (“Rock ‘n Play Sleeper”) joined together to sue Fisher-Price, Inc. and its corporate parent Mattel, Inc. (“Defendants”).  The Plaintiff Families are represented by Wolf Haldenstein and Blank Rome LLP (the “Firms”).

The case, Butler et al. v. Fisher-Price et al., No: 19STCV20490 (Cal. Super. Ct., L.A. Co.), is pending in California Superior Court, Los Angeles County, where Mattel, Inc. is located. To read the complaint, click here.    

About the Plaintiff Families:

  • Kiersten Connolly and James Hatch lost their six-week-old twin son Jameson Connolly-Hatch, twin of Dorothy Connolly-Hatch. Jameson died on May 16, 2015 in a Rock n’ Play Sleeper because he could not breathe, four years before the April 2019 Rock ‘n Play Sleeper recall. Kiersten Connolly resides in Suffolk County, New York with her surviving children.
     
  • Amanda and Jon Butler lost their ten-week-old infant daughter Arya Butler. Arya died on January 2, 2019 in a Rock ‘n Play Sleeper because she could not breathe, three months before the April 2019 Rock ‘n Play Sleeper recall. The Butlers reside in Madison County, Alabama with their surviving children.
     
  • Hailey and Ty Hampton lost their thirteen-week-old twin son Liam Hampton, twin of Lennox Hampton. Liam died on February 20, 2019 in a Rock ‘n Play Sleeper because he could not breathe, two months before the April 2019 Rock ‘n Play Sleeper recall. The Hamptons reside in Walker County, Alabama with their surviving children.
     
  • Casey and Steven Kelley lost their fifteen-week-old infant son Elijah Kelley. Elijah died on March 2, 2019 in a Rock ‘n Play Sleeper because he could not breathe, one month before the April 2019 Rock ‘n Play Sleeper recall. The Kelleys reside in Washoe County, Nevada with their surviving children.

Jameson, Arya, Liam, and Elijah are buried in cemeteries nearby their parents and siblings.

What Mattel, Inc. and Fisher-Price Knew:

The parents of Jameson, Arya, Liam, and Elijah experienced every parent’s worst nightmare as they discovered their babies’ lifeless bodies, learned that their babies were dead, and buried their babies just weeks after bringing them into the world. As a result, the Plaintiff Families have sued the Defendants for allegedly causing the tragic deaths of Jameson, Arya, Liam, and Elijah which could have been avoided by Defendants Fisher-Price and Mattel. It is indisputable that Defendants had actual knowledge that their product, the Fisher-Price Rock ‘n Play Sleeper, could cause infant death if used as an infant sleeper, and Defendants continued to advertise their best-selling product as safe for infant sleeping despite that knowledge.

Defendants remained undeterred in the marketing and sale of the Rock ‘n Play Sleeper, despite the following:

  1. Both the Canadian and Australian governments banned the sale of the Rock ‘n Play Sleeper as a sleeper in 2011, and the Australian government stated that it “was particularly concerned that a newborn could succumb to positional asphyxia through the use of the product”;
  2. The American Academy of Pediatrics, as well as numerous other organizations, warned Defendants that the product’s design was contrary to infant safe sleeping guidelines and, as a result of that defective design, infants could suffocate or be asphyxiated;
  3. Parents and pediatricians alike repeatedly warned Defendants that the product could cause infant deaths; and
  4. Over 30 infants died while sleeping in the Rock ‘n Play Sleeper between 2009 and 2019, not including Jameson, Arya, Liam, and Elijah.  

Plaintiff Families Allegations:

The Plaintiff Families bring causes of action against Defendants including strict liability, design defect, failure to warn, negligence, gross negligence, breach of express warranty, breach of implied warranty of merchantability and fitness for a particular purpose, negligent misrepresentation, fraudulent concealment, intentional misrepresentation, violation of the California UCL, negligent infliction of emotional distress, and wrongful death.

“The complaint speaks for itself. We are seeking justice for these four families who tragically lost their children as the result of Fisher Price’s and Mattel’s knowingly false advertising of the Rock ‘n Play Sleepers. It is time for Mattel and Fisher Price to pay for the trauma they have inflicted on countless families,” said co-lead litigators Regina Calcaterra of Wolf Haldenstein and Ryan Cronin of Blank Rome.  

Litigation Background & Rock ‘n Play Sleeper Recall:

Wolf Haldenstein and Blank Rome began investigating the dangers of the Rock ‘n Play Sleeper in early 2018. Our investigation revealed that Fisher-Price’s Rock ‘n Play Sleeper is inherently unsafe as a sleeper and unfit for its intended use. Its use poses a number of serious safety risks that have led to many documented instances of infant deaths and injuries. By positioning an infant at a 30-degree incline, the Rock ‘n Play Sleeper significantly increases the risk that the infant’s head will slip into a dangerous position, tilt to constrict the windpipe and/or cause the infant’s face to become pressed against the padded fabric in the sleeper and block airflow, which the infant may be unable to correct on its own. This increases the risk of death by asphyxiation. In addition, because Fisher-Price advises parents to keep babies strapped in restraints overnight while sleeping on an incline, the Rock ‘n Play Sleeper increases an infant’s risk of developing flat head (plagiocephaly) and twisted neck (torticollis) syndromes, conditions that often require babies to wear expensive head-molding helmets and undergo physical therapy. Nonetheless, Defendants introduced the Rock ‘n Play Sleeper to the market in 2009 and have sold at least 4.7 million units of the product despite knowing the entire time that the American Academy of Pediatricians and other infant sleep safety experts advise that the only safe sleep environment for an infant is in a supine position (wholly on the back) on a firm sleep surface covered by a fitted sheet and without soft materials and other objects near the infant.

On February 21, 2019, Wolf Haldenstein sent a demand letter to Fisher-Price and Mattel setting forth these and other factual allegations and causes of action, putting Defendants on notice of their wrongdoing in the hope that they would take responsibility for failing to disclose the true risks of the Rock ‘n Play Sleeper and halt their misleading marketing of the product. Thereafter, on April 5, 2019, Defendants issued a statement admitting that ten infants had died in the Rock ‘n Play Sleeper since 2015 and recommended that parents stop using the product after an infant reaches three months or is able to roll over, thereby assuring parents that the product is safe for younger infants. However, instead of disclosing the documented risks of using the product, Defendants blamed parents and caregivers, claiming that any deaths resulting from the use of the Rock ‘n Play Sleeper must have occurred because the product was used in a manner contrary to safety warnings. A week later, on April 12, 2019, Defendants disclosed that there were at least 32 infant deaths in the Rock ‘n Play Sleeper since 2011 and “voluntarily” recalled all 4.7 million units of the product and took the product off the market – an admission that the use of the Rock ‘n Play is dangerous regardless of the age of the infant. Nonetheless, in the recall notice, Defendants once again failed to disclose the risks of using their deadly product. As experts agree, the recall itself is inadequate, cumbersome and confusing.

Defendants are well aware of reports that parents still do not understand the potentially fatal dangers of the Rock ‘n Play Sleeper and many continue to use the product, including for babies who are less than three months old. In an effort to protect their business interests at the cost of families that are at risk of losing or injuring their infant, however, Defendants continue to cast the blame on parents and caregivers. According to Chuck Scothon, General Manager of Fisher-Price, Defendants launched the recall “due to reported incidents in which the product was used contrary to the safety warnings and instructions” and that Defendants “stand by the safety of our products.” Wolf Haldenstein partner Regina M. Calcaterra was interviewed by CNN/Headline News concerning the dangers of the Rock ‘n Play Sleeper and the tragic deaths of infants while in the product. To view the interview, click here.

The Plaintiff Families are represented by Wolf Haldenstein partners Regina M. Calcaterra, Jeffrey G. Smith, and Daniel Tepper, and associate Veronica M. Bosco; Blank Rome LLP litigators Ryan E. Cronin, Gregory M. Bordo, Christopher J. Petersen, James Quinlan, Ricky Guerra, and Michael Lupton.

The Firms are thankful to Katharine Cronin, MS, MPH, CPNP, who is a pediatric nurse practitioner at Suffolk Pediatric Associates and a member of Columbia University’s clinical faculty for bringing the dangers and risks of the Rock ‘n Play Sleeper to the Firms’ attention. Wolf Haldenstein filed a federal consumer class action against the Defendants in April 2019. The complaint can be found here.
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Founded in 1888, Wolf Haldenstein has extensive experience in the prosecution of complex class actions in state and federal trial and appellate courts across the country, including before the U.S. Supreme Court.  The firm’s attorneys have expertise in various practice areas, including federal civil rights, securities, antitrust, and consumer litigation.  Wolf Haldenstein’s reputation and expertise in class action litigation has been repeatedly recognized by the courts, which have appointed it to major positions in complex multi-district and consolidated litigations.

Blank Rome is an Am Law 100 firm with 14 offices and more than 600 attorneys and principals who provide a full range of legal and advocacy services to clients operating in the United States and around the world. Our professionals are widely recognized for their leading knowledge and experience across a broad spectrum of industries, as well as their dedication to diversity and inclusion initiatives and pro bono work.

Contact:

Regina Calcaterra
Wolf Haldenstein Adler Freeman & Herz LLP
(212) 545-4660
calcaterra@whafh.com
             
Ryan Cronin
Blank Rome
(212) 885-5204
rcronin@blankrome.com

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