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5 infant deaths prompt CPSC to sue manufacturer of Nap Nanny

The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission staff has filed an administrative complaint against Baby Matters, the manufacturer of Nap Nanny and Nap Nanny Chill infant recliners.

 Baby Matters, the company behind the Nap Nanny products, went out of business last month.Baby Matters, the company behind the Nap Nanny products, went out of business last month.

The complaint alleges that the Nap Nanny Generation One and Two and Chill model infant recliners contain defects in the design, warnings and instructions, which pose a substantial risk of injury and death to infants. The commission voted 3-0 to approve the filing of the complaint, which seeks an order requiring that the firm notify the public of the defect and offer consumers a full refund.

CPSC is aware of four infants who died in Nap Nanny Generation Two recliners; a fifth death involved the Chill model.

To date, CPSC has received a total of more than 70 additional incident reports of children nearly falling out of the product. The staff alleges that the products create a substantial risk of injury to the public.

Baby Matters went out of business last month, which owner and founder Leslie Gudel says is a result of its ongoing battle with the CPSC.

A statement from Gudel on the company's website says, "We do not believe the complaint has merit and stand behind the safety of our product when used as instructed...We at Nap Nanny went to great lengths to make the safest product possible. Nap Nanny has helped thousands of babies and their tired parents the last four years. No infant using the Nap Nanny properly has ever suffered an injury requiring medical attention. The Nap Nanny was designed and constructed for use only on the floor with the harness secured."

 

CPSC said its staff filed the administrative complaint against Baby Matters after discussions with the company and its representatives failed to result in an adequate voluntary recall plan that would address the hazard posed by consumer use of the product in a crib or without the harness straps being securely fastened.

"My heart goes out to the parents and families of children who are injured or lose their lives in incidents associated with consumer products," said CPSC Commissioner Nancy Nord. "Yet not every incident that occurs in the presence of a product was necessarily caused by that product. Properly identifying and addressing a causal link is a key responsibility of the commission. I joined my colleagues in voting to issue the complaint because I believe that the legal theory described in the complaint concerning the reasonably foreseeable misuse of Baby Matters' products deserves a thorough vetting by an administrative law judge. This concept remains nebulous and incompletely defined even as the agency has dealt with it over the years. Should this case come up for the commission's consideration, I look forward to reviewing the facts and considering the legal arguments of all parties."

In July 2010, CPSC and Baby Matters issued a joint recall news release to announce an $80 coupon to Generation One owners toward the purchase of a newer model and improved instructions and warnings to consumers who owned the Generation Two model of Nap Nanny recliners.

At the time of the July 2010 recall, CPSC was aware of one death that had occurred in a Nap Nanny recliner and 22 reports of infants hanging or falling out over the side of the Nap Nanny even though most of the infants had been placed in the harness. Subsequently, despite the improvements to the warnings and instructions, the complaint alleges that additional deaths using Nap Nanny recliners have been reported, including one in a Chill model.

Gene Grabowski, executive vice president of issues management firm Levick, which handles about 60 recalls a year, said he thinks Baby Matters' public statements helped contribute to the company's demise.

"The public statements seemed a little dismissive of consumer complaints, especially when you're talking about five deaths," said Grabowski. "Those kinds of statements whenever you're talking about injury or death alienate parents, and raise concerns about how caring the company is...You must first show that you understand a parent's point of view."

The Nap Nanny is a portable infant recliner designed for sleeping, resting and playing. The recliner includes a shaped foam base with an inclined indentation for the baby to sit and a fitted fabric cover with a three-point harness. Five thousand Nap Nanny Generation One and 50,000 Generation Two models were sold between 2009 and early 2012 and have been discontinued. One hundred thousand Chill models have been sold since January 2011.

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