Ikea Pays Largest Child Wrongful Death Settlement in U.S. History Totaling $46 Million to California Parents of Toddler Who Was Crushed to Death By Defective Product
A 2018 wrongful death lawsuit filed by California residents, Joleen and Craig Dudek, has resulted in a $46 million settlement against Ikea, the largest furniture retailer in the world. The lawsuit stemmed from a tragic incident where a dresser manufactured and sold by Ikea tipped over and fatally crushed and suffocated the Dudek’s two-year-old son, Jozef.
Attorney Alan Feldman of Philadelphia’s Feldman Shepherd law firm, who represented the Dudeks, stated that the $46 million figure is the largest settlement in U.S, history resulting from the wrongful death of a child. This particular settlement represents one of many that has plagued Ikea in recent years due to defective products, the majority of which required recalls.
In 2016, Ikea recalled 17.3 million dressers including the popular three-drawer Malm product that caused Jozef Dudek’s death. Despite the recall, millions of the verifiably defective and dangerous dressers remain in use today. As stipulated in the settlement, the company has agreed to extend its outreach to consumers in an effort to inform them of the potential dangers associated with the products.
Jozef Dudek is reported to have been the first child fatality linked to the defective dresser, and the lawsuit states that the parents were unaware of the recall, and that Ikea was therefore negligent for not notifying them accordingly.
Attorney Dan Mann, who also represented the family indicated via court documents that Ikea had access to the parents contact information given that their dresser was purchased using an Ikea credit card. Mann stated that the monumental settlement was in part the result of Ikea’s failure to effectively communicate the recall to their customers.
The Dudeks issued a statement confirming that they intend to donate $1 million of the settlement award to three consumer organizations, each of which advocate for tip-over safety in applicable products. The organizations include: Kids in Danger, Consumer Reports, and the Consumer Federation of America.
Their lawsuit asserted that Ikea had been aware of the dangers the dressers posed for years, which “presented an unreasonable tip-over hazard” rendering them “dangerously unsafe.” Despite the company’s knowledge of the defects, the lawsuit claimed that Ikea continued selling the products to uninformed customers who had no way of knowing that the product was potentially dangerous. Moreover, the lawsuit contended that though the recalled dressers were taken off the market and remodeled, they still failed to meet the industry’s safety standard for stability. Said standard is a requirement meant to ensure that a dresser will remain upright despite being pulled or pushed by a child as young as two-years old, regardless of whether or not the dresser has been tethered to the wall or secured in some other preventative fashion. In a public statement, Ikea maintained that its dressers were only safe when properly anchored to a supporting device, as specified in the product’s assembly instructions.
Since the 2016 recall was announced, the company has reportedly destroyed 420,000 returned dressers and provided an additional 1.05 million anchoring kits to consumers. Consumer advocates claim that Ikea’s dressers, specifically the MALM line, are responsible for 10 deaths in recent years.
An Ikea representative indicated that many additional dressers sold, estimated to be around 17.3 million bureaus, were likely either anchored with the included tip-restraints following their purchase, or have been discarded. Following the 2016 recall, Ikea offered full refunds or free anchoring repair kits for all 17.3 million chests, dressers, or bureaus sold in the U.S. since 1985. The company contends that since the recall was identified it has aggressively promoted the warnings to consumers through various means including national television campaigns, direct emails to consumers identified as having purchased the recalled products, as well as advertisements in-store and online.
Safety advocates, however, believe that millions of unstable and unsafe Ikea dressers remain in use today, with many consumers left ill-informed of the potential dangers. Several used models of the recalled dressers are available via online resale sites such as eBay and Craigslist, without any mention of the product recall.
The first tip-over death caused by an Ikea dresser reportedly occurred in 1989. The timeline between the first accident and the eventual recall was one of the major focal points of the courtroom proceedings by the attorneys representing the plaintiffs in an effort to prove negligence and culpability for the wrongful death of the child.
The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission reports that a child dies, on average, once every two weeks when a piece of furniture, television, or appliance falls forward on them. Additionally, the Commission reports that an adult is injured or killed every 24 minutes when any of the aforementioned products tips over.
For consumers concerned about the safety of their Ikea purchases, a full list of recalled products, along with instructions for how to participate in the recall is available via https://www.ikea-usa.com/saferhomestogether.
The recall allows consumers to either keep or return the item. However, safety advocates remain adamant that the dressers be removed from homes due to concerns that they could be used in the future by someone unaware of the recall. Ikea has confirmed that many of the recalled dressers can be returned for a full refund. Consumers can bring the dresser to any Ikea retailer, or Ikea has offered to come pick the product up at your home, free of charge. In most cases, a receipt is not required to take advantage of the recall.
Jozef’s mother, Joleen Dudek, issued a statement on Monday expressing that “We miss him so much,” and noting, “He would be turning 5 this year in April. We never thought that a 2-year-old could cause a short 30-inch dresser to tip over and suffocate him. It was only later that we learned that this dresser was designed unstable and did not meet safety standards and that this had happened to other little boys.”
Ikea issued a public statement following confirmation of the $46 million settlement, which said:
“While no settlement can alter the tragic events that brought us here, for the sake of the family and all involved, we’re grateful that this litigation has reached a resolution. We remain committed to working proactively and collaboratively to address this very important home safety issue. Again, we offer our deepest condolences.”