Infant Sling Manufacturer Settles Suit Over Child’s Suffocation Death

Anthoinette Medley had her seven-week old twins, Nelsir and Tamir Scott, in two separate Infantino SlingRider infant carriers, which she had purchased in late 2008 at K-Mart and Wal-Mart stores.

The sling-style carrier wraps around wearer’s neck and cradles the child in a curved C-shaped position below the parent’s chest. Medley was shopping while wearing the twins in their slings when she discovered that Nelsir was unresponsive. The baby was taken to the Emergency Room where attempts to resuscitate him were unsuccessful. Nelsir is survived by his mother; twin brother; and five-year-old sister, who were present at the time. Medley and her daughter both suffered severe emotional distress from witnessing Nelsir’s death.

The baby’s body and the SlingRider were transported to the Philadelphia Medical Examiner’s Office, where an autopsy was performed, prompting Assistant Medical Examiner Gary Collins to alert other coroners of his suspicion that the SlingRider might have been related to Nelsir’s death.

Medley, individually and on behalf of her son’s estate and her minor daughter, sued Infantino, LLC in the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas, alleging strict liability design defect and negligence in failing to properly design, manufacture, and test the sling. The plaintiffs contended the sling was defective and unreasonably dangerous in that it created a risk of positional asphyxia. They also alleged that Infantino acted willfully and recklessly in failing to modify the product’s design, despite prior knowledge of the suffocation hazard.

It was further alleged in 2010, after recalling the product, Infantino admitted that the SlingRider presented a “risk of suffocation” when used with infants younger than four months. The plaintiff also alleged that Infantino had not tested the SlingRider for safety before marketing and selling it and that Infantino falsely claimed compliance with industry standards in order to promote SlingRider sales.

The plaintiffs were prepared to show that in October 2006, several years before Medley purchased the sling, pediatric nurse M’Liss Stelzer conducted independent testing, which showed that an infant’s nose and mouth could become blocked when pressed against the sling’s fabric. The test also showed that the SlingRider’s design permitted a child’s head to flop forward into a chin-on-chest position, posing a risk of positional asphyxia. Stelzer contacted Infantino about her concerns and the results of her testing in 2006 and again in 2008, when she spoke to the company’s director of product development. He allegedly told her he would send her an updated prototype based on her findings, but nothing was ever sent.

Other evidence showed that in 2008, Consumer Reports issued a report citing concerns about the suffocation risk posed by soft fabric slings, including the SlingRider, and noting that fabric slings were linked to at least seven infant deaths.

When consumers posted complaints of various retailers’ websites, it was alleged that Infantino chose to ignore the “literally hundreds of negative reviews” detailing the product’s capacity to position an infant in a C-shape, a chin-to-chest position that limited the ability to breathe.

According to a plaintiff’s pretrial statement, Infantino failed to issue a recall until a fourth SlingRider-related death was reported, which was after the infant in this case died.

In addition to damages for lost companionship, pre-death pain and suffering, negligent infliction of emotional distress, and medical and funeral expenses, the plaintiffs sought between $2 million and $3 million in lost future earning capacity. They also sought punitive damages. An $8 million lump settlement payment was agreed upon with allocations to be made between survival and wrongful death claims.

Infantino denied the sling caused Nelsir’s death and argued that the medical examiner found the cause of death to be inconclusive.

How could Infantino ignore the warnings from the nurse and hundreds of negative consumer complaints when the safety of babies is concerned? Seven infants lost their lives due to negligence and recklessness. Feel free to comment on this blog post.  Stop by our website or contact one of our Gacovino Lake attorneys at 1-800-246-HURT (4878).

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