IKEA is known for many things: its inexpensive meatballs, its quirky Swedish furniture names, and for being the largest supplier of allen wrenches that will later be thrown across the living room in frustration. That’s how the joke goes, right?
Except this is nothing to joke about.
As of yesterday, IKEA will be known for paying the largest wrongful death settlement resulting from the death of a single child. And considering the facts of the case, perhaps this is something IKEA should have been known for long ago.
Jozef Dudek was two years old when he died after becoming trapped beneath his recalled 30” IKEA Malm dresser. At some point after being put down for his afternoon nap by his father, Craig, he’d gotten out of bed.
When Craig went to check on Josef a bit later, he found him pinned by his neck beneath the toppled 3-drawer chest. The dresser had not been secured to the wall. Even empty, it weighed 70 lbs.
Tip-over incidents like this one are all too common. According to a detailed 2019 product instability report by the Consumer Product Safety Commission, which showed an annual average of 27,100 emergency room-treated injuries, 46% of them (12,500) involved children under the age of 18. Of the 556 reported fatalities, 459 of them (83% of all victims) were children ages 1 month to 14 years.
What’s different about IKEA is its disproportionate share of responsibility for these statistics. Let’s get into the nuts and bolts…
The popular Lego-for-adults furniture manufacturer is notorious for it’s topple-sensitive products, and with the Malm, the flaw was entirely in its design. The danger of the Malm dressers has been a known issue for decades, such that when IKEA finally issued a recall of 17.3 million units sold between 1985 and 2016, it arrived a full 27 years after the first reported tip-over death occurred in 1989.
That is unconscionable, and though it is about to get much worse for the company in just a couple of paragraphs, it should give you a primer of insight into why IKEA agreed to pay the Dudek family a settlement sum of $46 million.
This is not the first time IKEA has sat at this particular flat-packed table. Not six months before Josef’s death, they settled a separate lawsuit with the families of three other toddlers — all boys aged 2 as well — to the tune of $50 million.
The statistics that ultimately form the basis of IKEA’s recall account include these four settled deaths, as well as the deaths of four other children. We found them on the company’s website under its, dare we say, distressingly extensive product recall page.
While those statistics are terrible, it’s hard not to wonder, “Why the historical $46 million settlement to one family? What makes this case so different?”
The answer to that lies in one of the strongest pieces of evidence showing culpability of IKEA on the part of Josef Dudek’s wrongful death: that Joleen and Craig Dudek purchased the Malm dresser that killed their son with an IKEA credit card.
Even though IKEA announced a recall, just announcing it wasn’t enough. Consider how car dealerships mail out recall notices for you when they have your information on file. Even though IKEA could not have reasonably notified the purchasers of all 17.3 million Malm dressers, they did not do their due diligence and directly contact the customers that they could.
They had the Dudek’s transactional information on file. They had their phone number. They had their address. Somewhere in their system, they knew that these two parents had purchased this item. What’s more is that they knew and had known that it’s design had been flawed for nearly three decades, and that no family should be using dressers like it unless they were safely secured to the wall.
Joleen and Craig did not know this, and their son died wrongfully as a result. IKEA is being held accountable for their negligence. Hopefully not just IKEA, but all retailers take notice of this important case so that they can avoid these preventable accidents in the future. 46 million dollars might be a lot of money, but we have a feeling that the Dudek’s and other past victims would trade it all to have their family whole again.
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Check Out These References for Further Reading:
“IKEA Reannounces Recall of MALM and Other Chests and Dressers Due to Serious Tip-over Hazard.” IKEA. Retrieved 8 January 2020.
“Ikea Reaches $46 Million Settlement Over Death Of Toddler Killed By Dresser Tip-Over.” NPR. Retrieved 8 January 2020.
“Ikea to pay $46 million to family of toddler crushed by dresser.” CNN. Retrieved 8 January 2020.
“Ikea agrees to pay $46 million after tipped dresser kills toddler.” USA Today. Retrieved 8 January 2020.
“Product Instability or Tip-Over Injuries and Fatalities Associated with Televisions, Furniture, and Appliances: 2019 Report.” Consumer Product Safety Commission. Retrieved 8 January 2020.