A Carroll County woman is suing a Greenwood day care operator and a U.S. toy manufacturer over the 2017 choking death of her infant son.
In a complaint, filed earlier this month in Leflore County Circuit Court, Britny Wiggins Mulvihill alleges that the Learning Tree was negligent in the care of her son, as was Fisher-Price in the manufacture and marketing of the device that Mulvihill claims caused his death.
Also named as defendants are the Learning Tree’s owner, Debbie Ellis; its director, Kathy Schrader; and Fisher-Price’s parent company, Mattel.
The complaint, which is one side of a legal argument, says that on Sept. 19, 2017, Schrader put 2-month-old Easton Wiggins into an inclined sleeper made by Fisher-Price while she fed other babies at the day care. It was the child’s first day to stay at the Learning Tree.
“After an unknown amount of time Ms. Schrader picked up Baby Easton and he was limp,” the lawsuit says. “She noticed he was not breathing and yelled for someone to call 911, and began CPR until the paramedics arrived.”
The child was taken to Greenwood Leflore Hospital, but medical professionals were unable to resuscitate him. The cause of death, according to the lawsuit, was a “catastrophic choking event.”
At the time of the incident, Ellis told the Commonwealth that Easton was being removed from a bouncy chair when an unnamed caregiver noticed he was unresponsive.
The lawsuit alleges that the day care failed to provide a safe environment for the child or monitor him adequately while in its care.
“We are very sorry for their loss,” Ellis said in an email Thursday when asked for comment on the lawsuit.
She provided a 2018 letter from the Mississippi State Department of Health, which regulates day cares and investigated the child’s death, that cleared the Learning Tree of any wrongdoing.
“Based on the investigation it was determined that the facility did not violate state regulations,” said the letter from Shundra Givens, a health program specialist at the state Department of Health. “The facility followed the MSDH Child Care regulations proper procedures for self-reporting this serious occurrence incident/accident.”
Mulvihill’s complaint further alleges that Fisher-Price and Mattel knew that the inclined sleepers they were manufacturing were defective and irresponsibly marketed them.
The companies “knew or should have known that the only safe sleep environment for babies is a firm flat surface with no soft materials, and that car seats, infant carriers, and similar devices should not be used for prolonged sleep, but continued to market and sell the inclined sleepers and advertise them as a safe sleeping device,” it said.
The lawsuit notes that the model of sleeper in which it says Easton was lying before his death, a Rock ’n Play Sleeper, was recalled by the companies earlier this year. The recall, issued in April, of an estimated 4.7 million of the devices was precipitated by reports tying the sleepers to the deaths of at least 32 infants, including some younger than 3 months old.
“We have a long-standing policy of not commenting on litigation matters,” an unnamed Mattel spokesperson said Thursday through an email.
Mulvihill is seeking an unspecified amount of both compensatory and punitive damages. She is being represented by Douglas L. Tynes of Pascagoula.
•Contact Tim Kalich at 581-7243 or firstname.lastname@example.org.