Crib sheet maker pays $700,000 for infant death

2005 Products Liability Settlement Report

Products Liability: Death of 13-month old asphyxiated by fitted crib sheet

This was a wrongful death case brought by the parents of a 13-month old boy who died from asphyxiation on May 8, 1998 after he became wrapped up in his fitted crib sheet during an afternoon nap. The plaintiffs brought a product liability action against the manufacturer and retailer of the fitted crib sheet alleging that the crib sheet was defectively designed and manufactured in that it was made with insufficient material and allowed to shrink to such a degree that an infant could pull up the corners of the sheet and become wrapped up in the sheet.

The mother of the minor decedent went to wake her 13-month old son from an afternoon nap and found him wrapped up in his crib sheet in his crib. He was blue and not breathing. She attempted CPR and called 911. Paramedics and EMTs responded and attempted to resuscitate the infant, to no avail. He was pronounced dead that evening at Norwood Hospital.

The plaintiffs claimed the fitted crib sheet was defective because it was made with an insufficient quantity of fabric and it was not designed for reasonably anticipated shrinkage from laundering, since repeated washings can shrink a sheet and weaken its elastic causing it to no longer tuck tightly beneath the crib mattress.

The plaintiffs further claimed that the fitted crib sheet was not of merchantable quality and not fit for its intended use because the infant was able to pull the crib sheet loose and become wrapped up in it subsequently resulting in his premature and preventable death from suffocation and/or asphyxiation.

The plaintiffs were prepared to show that there existed, and exists today, a better and safer alternative design. Indeed, the minor’s mother designed a safer "pillowcase" design that covers the crib mattress like a pillowcase and is secured by a velcro strip at the opening. She started a company that still manufactures and sells the safer crib sheet.

The defendants were prepared to show that the fitted crib sheet was reasonably designed and reasonably safe for its intended use when it was sold. The defendants further contended that the crib sheet was not even involved in the death of the infant, but rather he became entangled in a blanket and/or an afghan that was present in the crib at the time.

The defendants also contended that it was not reasonably foreseeable that an infant would pull off a fitted crib sheet and become wrapped up in the sheet resulting in asphyxiation. The defendants were prepared to show that there have been over 20 million similar fitted crib sheets manufactured in the last 20 years, and the manufacturer had no knowledge of any other similar incidents.

The case was settled for $700,000 a few weeks before trial.

Lubin & Meyer attorneys represented the plaintiff in this proucts liabilty lawsuit.

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