Child Hazard: The Fisher-Price Rock n’ Play Sleeper
If you’re a parent to a young child, you already know that you have an enormous responsibility, and that’s to act as the judge of safety or risky situations for your child. A young child has no conception of what’s dangerous and what’s not, and so is totally reliant on you to make the decisions about what is safe to interact with, and what’s not.
That’s why it’s all the more devastating when you, as a parent, believe that you’ve made a choice that should be safe, and that choice results in the injury or death of a child, but it wasn’t your fault. Your only mistake was in believing a business when it made the unspoken—but legally binding—promise that your choice to use one of their products would be safe for your child.
Unfortunately, this promise has been recently broken by one of the world’s biggest names in child products, Fisher-Price.
The Defective Sleeper
Fisher-Price is normally associated with toys and educational tools for children, but they have also branched into general childcare products. One of their more recent releases has been a product called the “Rock n’ Play Sleeper.” This is for infants, and it is a hammock-like device that vibrates, plays music, and even rocks itself so that a parent does not have to do any of these things. In the USA, it has been marketed as a way to take some of the burdens off parents, by allowing the product itself to take on the duties of a parent rocking a sleeping child.
However, it has now come to light that over the last 10 years since the product has been released, over 30 babies have died as a result of this product being used. Fisher-Price has not commented on the exact details of these infant deaths but has released a general statement indicating that a baby placed in the sleeper, without restraint, may eventually turn to the side, or on the stomach, at which point, there’s a risk of fatal suffocation.
As a result of this, there is now a voluntary recall on this product, since the US Consumer Product Safety Commission has now issued an official warning to all parents to stop using the product. Anyone that does have the product can return it for a refund or a voucher.
And if your family has already experienced harm—or even death—as a result of using the product, even if this isn’t considered a crime, the company can be held legally responsible.
Companies Can Be Accountable
It’s part of American law that when a company creates a product that is made for general consumer use, they must take every reasonable precaution to ensure that the product, when used properly, does not cause harm to those same consumers.
The key words here are reasonable precaution. For example, if someone takes a kitchen knife, plants it in the ground with the sharp end up, and deliberately drives a hand into it, the knife manufacturer cannot be held legally responsible for that, because the knife was deliberately being misused.
On the other hand, a safety device that is supposed to protect people that ends up causing injury or death instead is very much a problem a company has to deal with. The Takata airbag scandal of 2013 is a perfect example of this.
Airbags are supposed to reduce the possibility of serious injury in a car accident by rapidly expanding a bag, like a balloon, to act as a cushion against serious impact. However, the airbags produced by Takata had a dangerous design flaw, where the trigger designed to inflate the bags made parts of the mechanism release into the air, like an improvised shrapnel grenade. It resulted in a situation where sometimes the airbag deployed and injured or killed car passengers, meaning they would have been safer had they taken their chances with the car accident itself.
What You Can Do
If you, or someone you know, has been affected by purchasing a product in good faith, and coming to harm as a result of using that product, then this means you have the choice to go to court either for personal injury or in more serious cases, wrongful death. It is the legal duty of any company to make a product as safe as possible. If there is a dangerous flaw that is inherent to the design, that product is released anyway, even if the company may not have been aware of it at the time, this is still their responsibility. Worse yet, if they were aware of it at the time, but chose not to act upon that knowledge, then the consequences become even more serious.
As a victim of this type of defective product injury or death, you can seek compensation in court, once you get guidance and advocacy of an experienced defective product lawyer.