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JPML Consolidates Fisher-Price Rock ’n Play Sleeper Litigation in New York
Chaffin Luhana LLP
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Following the rising concern over the safety of infant inclined sleepers, the U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation ordered the consolidation of all federally filed Fisher-Price Rock ’n Play Sleepers lawsuits in the Western District of New York.

Under pressure from Consumer Reports and the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), Fisher-Price recalled about 4.7 million of these sleepers back in April 2019 because they presented a danger of suffocation and death. After that recall announcement, many parents filed Rock ’n Play Sleeper lawsuits against the company, including a class-action lawsuit, compelling the company to request consolidation.

Some of the plaintiffs supported the idea, but others opposed. The JPML ultimately agreed that consolidation was the best choice to promote the just and efficient conduct of this litigation.

Fisher-Price Rock ’n Play Sleepers Connected with Over 50 Deaths

When the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) announced the Fisher-Price Rock ’n Play Sleeper recall, they noted that since the introduction of the products in 2009, over 30 infant fatalities had occurred after the infants rolled over while unrestrained, and suffocated.

Consumer Reports had alerted parents to the danger before that and now says the death toll to date is at least 53. Following the Consumer Reports investigation, the AAP urged the CPSC to recall the Fisher-Price products and suggested parents immediately stop using them.

Kyle Yasuda, MD, FAAP, president of the AAP, stated in a press release that the products were deadly and “should be recalled immediately,” noting that there was convincing evidence that the Rock ’n Play put infants’ lives at risk.

Fisher-Price Seeks Consolidation in California

In May 2019, shortly after the recall, Fisher-Price filed a motion with the JPML seeking consolidation of pretrial proceedings in Rock ’n Play Sleeper litigation. At the time, the company acknowledged defendants in six nationwide class actions pending in two different district courts.

All the actions asserted similar claims—that Fisher-Price falsely and misleadingly advertised the sleepers as safe for prolonged sleep by infants when it allegedly was not, and that the company failed to warn consumers of other alleged risks.

Centralization, the company argued, would further judicial economy and prevent potentially conflicting rulings. Fisher-Price suggested the Central District of California because one of the actions was already pending there, the location was easily accessible, and parent company Mattel has its headquarters there. A total of six actions were pending in four different jurisdictions in the state.

In contrast, the defendants opposed the Western District of New York, noting it’s “not an ideal forum to transfer the actions,” primarily because of the “overcrowded dockets of the judges in the district, which are over double those of the judges in the Central District of California.”

JPML Chooses New York for Rock ’n Play MDL

In the transfer order, the JPML acknowledged the defendants’ preference for a California consolidation and noted that though some plaintiffs supported that motion, those who had filed in New York opposed it, suggesting the Western District of New York instead. Those who had filed in Colorado and Oklahoma preferred centralization in those states.

The JPML agreed that the claims involved common questions of fact, and agreed with some of the plaintiffs that centralization in the Western District of New York would serve the convenience of the parties and witnesses. Fisher-Price is headquartered in New York, and the “critical events and decisions underlying plaintiffs’ claims” regarding the sleepers occurred there.

The panel also noted that the Honorable Geoffrey W. Crawford of the District of Vermont, who is currently sitting in the Western District of New York as a visiting judge, had not yet had the opportunity to preside over an MDL, and expressed their confidence that he would steer the litigation on an “efficient and prudent course.”

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