Ikea will pay US$46 million (NZ$69m) to the parents of a two-year-old child crushed to death by a Malm dresser, a piece of furniture associated with several child deaths from accidental tip-overs, according to a mediated court settlement announced Monday.
Jozef Dudek died in 2017 in Buena Park, California, when he climbed on the short bedroom dresser and it fell on top of him. A year earlier, the Consumer Product Safety Commission said it was aware of four children killed by Malm dressers, leading the CPSC and the Swedish furniture retailer Ikea to launch a massive product recall.
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About 8 million Malm chests and drawers were recalled, along with 21 million other pieces of furniture. Consumers were given the option of a refund or a kit to anchor the furniture to a wall.
But the Dudeks never knew about the recall and Ikea never contacted them about it, the family's attorneys said Monday. Product recalls are known to be ineffective. And Ikea took the unusual step of re-announcing the same recall after Jozef's death as the number of fatalities continued to climb.
Craig and Joleen Dudek sued Ikea, claiming the company knew about the problem for years but failed to fix it.
The US$46 million settlement is believed to be the largest for the wrongful death of a child, the Dudeks' attorneys said.
It comes after Ikea agreed in 2016 to pay $50 million to settle three similar lawsuits stemming from the deaths of children killed by the retailer's Malm furniture.
The Dudeks said at a news conference Monday that they planned to donate $1 million to advocacy groups that have warn about the dangers of furniture tip-overs, such as Kids in Danger and Consumer Federation of America. The family's attorneys also said a top Ikea executive has agreed to meet with an advocacy group formed by parents whose children were killed by fallen furniture.
"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," Ikea said in a statement. "We remain committed to working proactively and collaboratively to address this very important home safety issue."
Ikea is not the only company faced with the problem of tip-overs. A CPSC report in November said 556 deaths were associated with tip-over incidents from 2000 to 2018, mostly children struck by furniture.
- Washington Post