By Susan Lasser, J.D.
Toddler’s parents will donate $1 million from the settlement to consumer organizations advocating for more demanding stability testing for dressers.
A $46 million settlement has been reached between IKEA, the Swedish furniture manufacturer, and the parents of a two-year-old California boy who was killed by a tip-over of an IKEA MALM three-drawer dresser. Lawyers representing the child’s parents believe the settlement to be the largest child wrongful death recovery in American history, according to a law firm news release (Dudek v. IKEA U.S. Retail, LLC, complaint filed June 18, 2018).
On May 24, 2017, the toddler’s father found his son in the bedroom where the child had been sleeping pinned between the drawers of an IKEA MALM dresser, which had fallen on top of him. The parents had purchased the dresser in 2008 from an IKEA store in Costa Mesa, California. After removing the dresser from the child, the father began administering CPR while attempting to summon help. The child was eventually transported to a local hospital, where he later died. The official cause of death was identified as asphyxia caused by mechanical compression of the neck.
Complaint. According to an earlier news release by Feldman Shepherd Wohlgelernter Tanner Weinstock Dodig LLP, the law firm representing the parents, issued at the time the parents’ complaint was filed, IKEA was aware of other deaths and injuries arising from furniture tip-overs but failed to take adequate measures to improve the safety and stability of the dressers [see Products Liability Law Daily’s June 25, 2018 analysis]. The firm previously represented the families of three other children who suffered fatal injuries caused by MALM dresser tip-overs. Those cases resulted in a $50 million settlement in which IKEA agreed to redesign its dressers to comply with tip-over stability standards [see Products Liability Law Daily’s January 4, 2017 analysis].
The complaint in the current case alleged that IKEA failed to provide adequate warnings or instructions regarding the known tip-over hazard of its MALM dresser. It also asserted that IKEA had consistently refused to meet voluntary national safety standards for stability of chests and dressers that other American furniture companies have embraced. The complaint alleged claims against the furniture maker for strict products liability, negligence, and recklessness, and sought damages for wrongful death and survival along with punitive damages and damages for negligent infliction of emotional distress. As to the strict liability claim, the parents asserted that the dresser was defectively designed because it was unreasonably dangerous for its intended and foreseeable use. They claimed that as a direct and proximate result of the defective and dangerous design and the manufacturer’s failure to warn consumers, the parents and their deceased child suffered injury and loss.
Recall. The law firm notes that IKEA dressers, including the MALM dresser that caused the child’s fatal injuries in this case, were recalled in 2016 as part of one of the largest consumer recalls in United States history. The recall [CPSC Recall No. 16-204, see Products Liability Law Daily’s June 28, 2016 analysis] occurred only after IKEA had been put on notice following Feldman Shepherd lawsuits stemming from the deaths of three children.
Settlement. The settlement followed a mediation before Rodney Max, a nationally recognized mediator for complex civil cases. In addition to securing $46 million on behalf of the toddler, the following provisions are included in the settlement:
- IKEA will meet with representatives of Parents Against Tip-Overs, an advocacy organization fighting for mandatory stability standards for dressers.
- IKEA has committed to broaden its outreach to consumers about the existence of the recall of MALM and other model IKEA dressers. Feldman Shepherd notes that it believes this campaign must include a social media campaign, emails to their database of contacts, and additional emails to purchasers of the recalled dressers.
- The child’s family will donate $1 million from the settlement to the following three consumer organizations that have been advocating for more rigorous stability testing for dressers: Kids in Danger, Consumer Reports, and the Consumer Federation of America.
The case is No. 171204131.
Attorneys: Alan M. Feldman (Feldman Shepherd Wohlgelernter Tanner Weinstock Dodig LLP) for Joleen and Craig Dudek. Keith D. Heinold (Marshall Dennehey Warner Coleman & Goggin, PC) for IKEA U.S. Retail, LLC and IKEA of Sweden AB.
Companies: IKEA U.S. Retail, LLC; IKEA of Sweden AB
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