January 17, 2017, PLLR E-Newsletter
IKEA settles lawsuits over dressers that tipped over, killing three toddlers
The plaintiffs alleged that the dressers’ design made them unstable and prone to tip over and that IKEA failed to redesign the dressers, despite knowledge of the hazard. The parties reached a global pretrial settlement totaling $50 million. Collas v. IKEA U.S. East, LLC; Borm v. IKEA U.S. West, LLC; and McGee v. IKEA of Sweden AB.
On Feb. 25, 2014, Pennsylvania resident Jackie Collas went to her 2-year-old son Curren’s bedroom to get him dressed for breakfast. Jackie found Curren on the floor, trapped beneath an IKEA “Malm” model six-drawer dresser, which had tipped over onto him. Curren was rushed to a hospital emergency room but was pronounced dead soon after of crush injuries. He is survived by his parents and four siblings, including a sister who was born after his death.
In June 2014, in Snohomish, Wash., Camden Ellis’s father found his 2-year-old son trapped and unconscious beneath an IKEA three-drawer Malm dresser in his bedroom. Camden was rushed to the hospital and placed on a ventilator. Four days later, with no hope of improvement, his parents decided to withdraw life support. In addition to his parents, he is survived by a younger sister.
Nearly two years later, in February 2016, Ted McGee’s mother went to check on the 22-month-old Minnesota toddler during his afternoon nap. She discovered him beneath an IKEA six-drawer Malm dresser, which had tipped over onto him. Paramedics were unable to resuscitate him. He is survived by his parents and three brothers.
IKEA finally recalled the Malm dresser and a number of other dresser designs—totaling 29 million units—in June 2016, four months after Ted McGee’s death.
The boys’ parents, on behalf of their estates, filed separate lawsuits against IKEA in Pennsylvania, where the company has its North American headquarters. The plaintiffs alleged that the dressers’ design made them unstable and prone to tip over and that IKEA failed to redesign the dressers, despite knowledge of the hazard. The plaintiffs contended that IKEA refused to comply with ASTM F2057—a voluntary national standard for stability of chests, dressers, and other clothing storage units that other U.S. furniture manufacturers and sellers had embraced—even though the company was aware of other deaths and injuries caused by furniture that did not meet the standard. The plaintiffs also alleged that the defendant failed to adequately warn of the tip-over danger.
IKEA argued that it did not have to comply with the standard because its dressers were intended to be attached to the wall, not used as stand-alone furniture. The defense argued that the toddlers’ deaths were the result of their parents’ failure to secure the dressers to a wall, as suggested in the assembly instructions.
The plaintiffs countered that the wall-attachment instructions were inadequate, that the dressers’ unstable design was not disclosed, and that IKEA knew that the vast majority of consumers did not attach their dressers to a wall.
The parties reached a global pretrial settlement totaling $50 million, to be apportioned equally among the three families. In addition, as part of the settlement, Ikea has agreed to (1) donate $50,000 in each boy’s memory to children’s hospitals in Pennsylvania, Washington, and Minnesota; (2) donate $100,000 to Shane’s Foundation, a child safety organization that focuses on preventing furniture tip-over hazards; (3) sell only chests and dressers in the United States that meet or exceed ASTM F2057; and (4) increase funding for the company’s “Secure It” program to raise awareness of the dangers of furniture tip-overs, including running national television advertisements, using Internet and digital communications, and posting in-store warnings.
Citation: Collas v. IKEA U.S. East, LLC, No. 2365, May Term 2015; Borm v. IKEA U.S. West, LLC, No. 3043 Dec. Term 2015; and McGee v. IKEA of Sweden AB, No. 2288 Aug. Term 2016 (Pa. Ct. Com. Pleas Phila. Cnty. Dec. 20, 2016).
Plaintiff counsel: AAJ member Alan M. Feldman, Daniel J. Mann, Edward S. Goldis, and Thomas Martin, all of Philadelphia.
Plaintiff experts: Dorothy A. Drago, human factors/hazard analysis, Plymouth, Mass.; Shelley Deppa, human factors, Brookville, Md.; Craig D. Clauser, engineering/materials science/product design, West Chester, Pa.; Bert Reiner, furniture design, Las Vegas; and Bobby E. Puett, product testing, Burlington, N.C.