Ergobaby is ‘Company Doe’ in Product Safety Case

By JENNIFER C. KERR | May 12, 2014

Company Doe is a secret no more.

Ergobaby, a company that makes and sells baby carriers, acknowledged Thursday it is the firm known as “Company Doe” in a lawsuit against the Consumer Product Safety Commission. The company sued over a safety complaint intended for its online database for consumers, Ergobaby came forward after a federal appeals court ordered a lower court to unseal the case.

The 2011 complaint, known as a report of harm, suggested one of its carriers was linked to the death of an infant – something the company disputes and a federal judge in Maryland reaffirmed when he ruled in favor of Ergobaby.

The judge allowed Ergobaby to litigate the case under a pseudonym as the company fought to prevent CPSC from posting the complaint online. It was the first legal challenge to the agency’s database.

The July 2012 ruling was sealed, but a copy was obtained by The Associated Press. In that ruling, U.S. District Judge Alexander Williams, Jr., said the complaint about the death of the 7-week-old infant describes “no sensible relation to the child’s use of the carrier.”

The government appealed but then decided to drop its challenge. Consumer groups, separately, appealed the seal in the litigation. The 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond, Virginia, last month sided with them and sent the case back to the district court with instructions to “unseal the case in its entirety.”

Ergobaby CEO Margaret Hardin said it was an unfortunate coincidence that the infant died while in its carrier.

“For Ergobaby, safety has always been, and will always be, our top priority, and parents should not lose confidence in our carriers based upon one false report,” said Hardin. “We continue to stand by the facts and the court decision that our carrier was in no way related to this tragic incident.”

According to the Maryland court decision, an investigation of the child’s death revealed that he had choked on something while in the carrier, though it’s not clear what that was.

The child’s family was not identified in the decision.

A telephone message asking for comment from CPSC was not immediately returned.

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