Infant Carrier Lawsuits
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) states that injuries are the leading cause of death and disability among children 1-4 years and the sixth leading cause of death and disability among infants less than one year. Often these deaths are associated with the use of consumer products, including infant carriers (also called baby carriers).
The U.S. Consumer Product Protection Agency (CPSC) reports that in 2018, there were an estimated 61,400 emergency department-treated injuries associated with nursery products among children younger than 5 years. Infant carriers, along with high chairs, cribs/mattresses, and strollers/carriages, were associated with 68 percent of the total estimated injuries and 88 percent of the fatalities reported.
In 2016, there were a total of 9,000 emergency department-treated injuries involving infant carriers. In 2017, there were an estimated 7,800. Falls were the leading cause of injury, and have been associated with recent infant carrier recalls, including the recall of 14,000 Infantino baby carriers. Falls are particularly dangerous as they can lead to head and face injuries as well as organ injury.
Chaffin Luhana is currently investigating cases in which babies carried in potentially defective infant carriers suffered serious injuries.
What Are Infant Carriers?
Infant carriers are products parents use to carry their babies. They come in a wide variety of shapes and styles and are meant to help parents keep babies close while going about their daily activities. The idea of “babywearing” gained popularity in the 1990s when parenting approaches changed to involve more breastfeeding and parent-child contact.
Most infant carriers can be placed in one of the following five categories:
- Infant Carrier: This soft-structured, padded carrier is worn on the front of the body, though some brands can be adapted for back or hip carrying as well. It typically has padded shoulder straps and waistband, buckled straps, and soft fabric that creates a pouch for the baby. It’s most often used for babies 4-5 months old and older.
- Wrap: This carrier is made of a long piece of fabric the parent wraps around her own body and the baby. By tying the ends, she creates a snug place for baby to rest. It’s typically used for younger babies and can be positioned in a variety of places on the parent’s body, including the front, hip, or back.
- Sling: This is a pouch or strip of fabric typically secured over the shoulder and worn across the front of the body, attaching to the opposite hip. It often comes with two rings at one end that allow for easier tying. Otherwise, it is similar to the wrap and is usually made with woven fabric. It’s most suitable for newborns.
- Hybrid: This option combines features of the wrap and baby carrier. It looks similar to the baby carrier but has two long pieces of fabric meant to be tied around the parent’s body. It also has two shoulder straps and two waist straps. It can be worn on the front, back, or hip, and is suitable for infants six months and older.
- Backpack: This usually has the rigid frames of a typical backpack, and is meant to be worn only on the back. It’s mostly designed for older babies and toddlers that can sit unassisted and have good neck control, and is suitable for long periods of babywearing.
Parents usually choose a baby carrier based mainly on personal preference, but due to recent concerns, it’s now advised that parents be more cautious about the products they purchase, as some may increase the risk of falls and injuries.
Are Infant Carriers Dangerous?
Several scientific studies have shown that infant carriers can cause significant injuries to babies. In March 2017, researchers reported that between 1991 and 2011, nursery-product injuries were most commonly associated with baby carriers. Falls occurred most often, typically resulting in head or neck injuries.
“Greater efforts are warranted to prevent injuries associated with other nursery products,” the researchers wrote, “especially baby carriers…”
Previously, scientists had warned about the danger of infant-carrier-related falls. In 2009, they performed a retrospective chart review of children 18 months or younger who had been injured from a fall between August 2004 and December 2005.
They found that 7.7 percent of all injuries were related to infant carriers and that the infants involved in these falls often sustained serious head injuries and skull fractures. The scientists concluded that falls from infant carriers were common and that they represented “a significant source of morbidity.”
One type of infant carrier—the infant sling—has been associated with infant suffocation deaths. In 2010, the CPSC released a warning for parents in the U.S., urging them to use slings and wraps safely, as the commission had identified 14 infant suffocation deaths with sling-style carriers over the past 20 years.
When babies are contained entirely within the pouch of a sling with the face pressed against the adult’s body, suffocation can occur within minutes. The CPSC urged parents with infants younger than four months of age—or with premature, low-birthweight babies and infants with colds and respiratory problems—to take extra care when using a sling.
“Because of the nature of the product and its use,” the CPSC warned, “some slings tend to keep an infant in a curled, chin-to-chest position, which can interfere with breathing.”
In 2015, the European Journal of Pediatrics published a report from a group of French doctors who had observed 19 cases of sudden unexpected death in infancy (SUDI) linked to infant carriers. Most of the victims were healthy, full-term babies less than three months of age, and suffocation was the most frequent cause of death. “Infant carriers represent an underestimated cause of death by suffocation in neonates,” the scientists wrote.
In examining the question of why these injuries and deaths occur, a group of scientists searched the published literature and three CPSC databases for information. They concluded that based on the data, injuries associated with the use of adult-worn child carriers appeared to come from three general sources:
- Product appropriateness and design
- Product condition
- Product use
Infant Carrier Defects and Recalls
When examining infant carriers for safety, scientists and consumer advocacy groups have discovered product defects that can lead to falls and injuries:
- Faulty straps that can break
- Harnesses with wide leg openings that allow the infant to fall through
- Zippers coming undone or separating
- Cloth or other material tearing
- Hooks or fastening rings breaking
- Stitching unraveling
- Clasps or brackets breaking
Sometimes manufacturers recall products because they’ve learned of defects that are putting babies at risk. The most recent recall as of this writing was from Infantino, which recalled about 14,000 infant carriers in February 2020. The buckles on the infant carriers could break, posing a fall hazard. The company was not aware of any injuries associated with the defect at the time of the recall.
In October 2018, Eddie Bauer recalled about 22,000 infant carriers for the same reason—the buckles on the carriers could break, posing a fall hazard to children. This time, the company was aware of eight reported incidences of broken buckles, but no injuries had been reported.
A month later, in November 2018, LILLEbaby recalled about 6,600 Active Series baby carriers because the chest-clip strap could detach from the shoulder strap, posing a fall hazard. At the time of the recall, the company had received three reports of this happening, including one in which the child fell out of the carrier. Fortunately, there were no injuries reported.
In September 2016, Lenny Lamb recalled about 900 Buckle Onbu infant carriers because the internal stitching was missing, posing a fall hazard. In October 2016, L’echarpe Porte-bonheur recalled about 130 Chimparoo Trek baby carriers because the side strap could loosen unexpectedly from the buckle, posing a fall hazard.
Other products, including the Ellaroo Ring Sling, SlingRider, ZoloWear, and Beco Baby Butterfly carriers were recalled in earlier years because of strap, buckle, stitching, and ring defects. It’s clear from these recalls and other reports of infant carrier defects that these products are not always made to comply with safety standards, and can pose risks to children.
Types of Injuries Associated with Defective Infant Carriers
Improperly designed or defective infant carriers may cause the following injuries:
- Head injuries
- Intracranial injury
- Traumatic brain injury (TBI)
- Skull fracture
- Brain damage
- Neck injuries
- Facial injuries
- Scarring and disfigurement
- Broken bones
- Organ injuries
- Sudden unexpected death in infancy
- Death from injuries or suffocation
How Parents Can Safely Use Infant Carriers
Parents should take the following precautions to make sure their babies remain safe in infant carriers:
- Research the product before purchasing to make sure it is not involved in any recalls and that it is of good quality. Check the recalls website.
- Match the child’s size to the carrier. Even if the weight range on the product label matches your child, make sure that the leg openings are not too large, and that baby is secure when inside. Double-check the weight requirements to be sure the carrier can safely carry your child.
- Read the instructions on the product label to make sure you use it correctly.
- When using a sling, make sure you can see your baby’s face or eyes and that baby can see you. Frequently check the baby’s condition while in the sling, and make sure nothing is blocking the baby’s nose and mouth.
- Check the product’s condition each time before placing the baby inside. Make sure all the straps, buckles, snaps, stitching, and fasteners are working as they should, and that any rips, tears, or loose zippers are repaired.
- Always make sure the child is properly buckled and secured into the carrier.
- Walk carefully when carrying the child with you—some infant fall injuries occur when the parent trips and falls.
- Never place the carrier on a slippery or high surface. Avoid placing it on a soft surface like a sofa or bed as well, as it could tip over and lead to suffocation.
Infant Carrier Lawsuits
In 2013, the mother of a Pennsylvania child who died in a shoulder-sling infant carrier settled her lawsuit with the manufacturer for $8 million. The product was the SlingRider, made by Infantino, and the plaintiff claimed that its flawed design caused her infant son to suffocate.
Other parents who have faced similar tragedies because of faulty infant carriers have also recovered damages in court. If your baby was injured or killed in a defective infant carrier, you may be eligible to file an infant carrier lawsuit. Chaffin Luhana is now investigating these cases and invites you to call today at 888-480-1123.