Chuck Scothon, Senior Vice President and General Manager of Fisher-Price, made the shocking admission that he was aware of 97 infant deaths in the Rock ‘n Play Sleeper during a House Oversight and Reform Committee hearing on June 7, 2021.
That number — 97 infant deaths — is nearly twice what Fisher-Price had ever admitted before the hearing.
It is also 7-times the number of infant deaths in the Rock ‘n Play that the company reported to the government in 2018 when it was fighting against a recall.
After a year-long fight, Fisher-Price recalled all 4.7 million Rock ‘n Play Sleepers in April 2019, but only vaguely admitted to “over 30 infant fatalities” when “infants rolled over while unrestrained, or under other circumstances.”
After a two-year investigation, lawmakers are now accusing Fisher-Price of lying to the American public and regulators to protect profits.
“It is clear that Fisher Price has not been honest with the American public—with American parents—about the danger of this product,” said Rep. Carolyn B. Maloney, the Chairwoman of the Committee on Oversight and Reform, during the June 7 hearing on the Rock ‘n Play.
Chairwoman Maloney blamed “corporate greed and weak federal oversight” for the deaths of dozens of babies.
During the hearing, she explained just how profitable it was for Fisher-Price and its parent company, Mattel, to keep selling the Rock ‘n Play:
“From 2009 to 2018 — our documents confirm that Mattel received $200 million from selling this dangerous product. Your company knew about these deaths in 2012, our documents show. … Mattel clearly had a financial incentive to keep this information under wraps.”
Chairwoman Maloney also demanded complete records on every single death in the Rock ‘n Play Sleeper, as well as other Fisher-Price baby sleepers, rockers, and gliders, whether recalled or still for sale.
Just four days before the hearing, Fisher-Price recalled 175,000 more inclined baby gliders after four infants suffocated to death — the 4-in-1 Rock ‘n Glide Soother and the 2-in-1 Soothe ‘n Play Glider.
Even so, the company admitted that it still has not conducted a safety review of any of its other infant products on the market.
The baby glider recall came one day after the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission approved a major new federal safety standard to ban all inclined sleepers for infants under 5 months old.
The ban on inclined sleepers took the government 11 years since the Rock ‘n Play Sleeper was introduced in October 2009, over 100 tragic deaths, at least 1,100 injuries or close calls, millions of products recalled, and major retailers refusing to sell the products, according to Consumer Reports.
In fact, it was Consumer Reports publishing a report on deaths in the Rock ‘n Play Sleeper that finally pushed Fisher-Price to recall it.
During the Oversight Hearing, Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi explained that Fisher-Price only recalled the Rock ’n Play Sleeper when it was caught red-handed: “It wasn’t the warnings from the health experts and the pediatricians in 2005. It wasn’t the Australian government and the Canadian government that rejected your sleeper in 2010 and 2011. It wasn’t the moms who complained about the safety of your sleeper in 2018. It wasn’t even the deaths, the 97 deaths associated with your Rock ’n Play Sleeper. Instead, what it was is Consumer Reports publishing a report about the deaths. You only acted because you got caught red-handed.”
Before the hearing, the Committee also released a damning staff report detailing the findings of their two-year investigation into the Rock ‘n Play Sleeper recall.
When the Rock ‘n Play Sleeper was released by Fisher-Price in October 2009, it was the first-ever inclined sleeper to be advertised “for all-night sleep” — going completely against expert sleep advice at the time, which was to only use a flat and firm sleep space, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics Task Force on SIDS recommendations in 2016.
Despite the fact that the Rock ‘n Play Sleeper was neither flat nor firm, Fisher-Price did not conduct a single safety study.
Rather than seek the advice of a pediatrician, Fisher-Price consulted with one doctor — a family physician in Texas who would later lose his medical license for “unsafe practices.” He also made outlandish statements to Fisher-Price in 2009, like recommending that babies with reflux sleep in a car seat overnight for months or even a year, according to documents obtained by the House Oversight Committee.
The first pediatrician Fisher-Price hired to evaluate the Rock ‘n Play was 8 years later, as part of the company’s legal defense in a lawsuit.
Fisher-Price is now facing at least 16 federal class actions and wrongful death lawsuits from angry parents and consumers. The cases are currently centralized in a Multi-District Litigation (MDL No. 2903) in New York under U.S. District Judge Geoffrey W. Crawford.
“Had Mattel done adequate research before bringing this product to market, had they conducted interviews with licensed pediatricians, disclosed infant deaths when they learned about them, or agreed to recall it earlier, lives of children would have been saved,” said Chairwoman Maloney in her closing remarks during the hearing.
“With the two new recalls announced just last week, we now know that Mattel left other products on the market that posed the same dangers as Rock n’ Play, and more infants have died. Enough is enough.”