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Ergobaby is 'Company Doe' in product safety case

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WASHINGTON (AP) — 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 the CPSC's online database for consumers, SaferProducts.gov. 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, backed by a federal judge in Maryland, who 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 complaint, filed by an unidentified local government agency in Maryland, said the mother had taken the baby out strawberry picking. She noted the baby was not breathing, called 911 and CPR was started.

The government appealed but then decided to drop its challenge. Consumer groups appealed the seal separately in the litigation. The 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond, Virginia, last month sided with the groups — Public Citizen, Consumer Federation of America and Consumers Union — 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. Hardin said the family had not contacted her company to complain about the carrier.

The CPSC declined a request for comment.

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