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Infant sling death lawsuit ends in $8 million settlement

The mother of a Pennsylvania child who died in a shoulder-sling infant carrier has agreed to settle her lawsuit with the manufacturer of the carrier for $8 million.

Anthoinette Medley, the mother of Nelsir Scott, and Infantino LLC, a maker of products for infants and babies, agreed to settle last week, according to the mother’s attorney. The suit had been filed in the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas.

The SlingRider, an infant carrier manufactured by Infantino, is also responsible for the deaths of three other babies, according to the plaintiff’s pretrial memorandum.

Ms. Medley alleged that the flawed design of the SlingRider caused the suffocation death of her infant son, Nelsir.

On Feb. 20, 2009, Ms. Medley carried her twin sons, then-7-and-a-half-week-old Tamir and Nelsir, in two separate SlingRiders (purchased at K-Mart and Wal-Mart stores, respectively) traveling by bus to an appointment, and then by trolley to the Philadelphia’s Center City afterward, according to the plaintiff’s pretrial statement.

After running into a friend, Ms. Medley noticed several drops of blood on Nelsir’s bib and “immediately went into a restroom to check on him,” plaintiff’s court papers said.

When she realized she could not awaken Nelsir, Ms. Medley ran out of the restroom screaming for help, and entered a McDonald’s where she performed CPR until the arrival of emergency medical technicians, according to the pretrial statement.

After being transported to Thomas Jefferson Hospital, Nelsir was pronounced dead, and Ms. Medley was interviewed by a Philadelphia Police Department detective and a social worker.

Nelsir’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 may have been related to Nelsir’s death.

The official cause of death was concluded to be “undetermined,” according to the statement.

The plaintiff alleged that “the unsafe design of the Infantino SlingRider created a potentially lethal impairment of an infant’s ability to breathe,” and that in 2010, Infantino, after recalling the product, admitted that the SlingRider presented a “risk of suffocation” when used with infants younger than 4 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.

“This claim was intended to suggest to consumers that the SlingRider was safe and thoroughly tested, and that it met applicable safety standards in the United States and Europe. In fact, Infantino knew this claim was false,” the plaintiff’s pretrial statement said.

When consumers posted complaints on various retailers’ websites, according to the plaintiff’s papers, 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 the plaintiff’s pretrial statement, Infantino did not issue a recall until a fourth SlingRider-related death was reported — exactly a year after Nelsir died — on Feb. 20, 2010.

In Infantino’s pretrial statement, it noted that Ms. Medley “violated most, if not all, of the SlingRider’s product instructions on the day in question.”

Infantino also argued that she had testified that she had been carrying the twins in two SlingRiders, but medical personnel who were on the scene testified that Ms. Medley had been carrying the twins in a single SlingRider.

According to Infantino’s statement, the SlingRider was designed to be worn by one person with only one sling, claiming that the product instructions warned to that effect.

Infantino also claimed that the cause of death was ruled to be “undetermined,” and that there was no identification of asphyxia, suffocation or other

The settlement consisted of an $8 million lump sum, with allocations to be made between survival and wrongful death claims.