Earlier this month it was announced that the furniture retailer IKEA had agreed to pay $46 million to settle a wrongful death case arising from the death of a toddler when an IKEA dresser, described as a “MALM dresser” tipped over onto the young child. The lawsuit was filed in the Court of Common Pleas in Philadelphia County where IKEA’s corporate offices in the United States are situated. The Complaint filed in the case of Dudek v. IKEA alleged that the MALM dresser was not designed to be free-standing and could only be used safely if it was secured to a wall, yet, despite this, IKEA marketed the MALM dresser as free-standing. As a free-standing dresser, the MALM dresser posed a risk of serious injury to children from tip-over incidents.
The fatal incident at issue in the Dudek case occurred in 2017 and involved a MALM dresser that had been purchased about 9 years earlier. There were 186 tip-over incidents, some fatal, that had occurred and of which IKEA was aware involving the MALM line prior to 2017. In June 2015, the MALM line was recalled by IKEA, but, as stated in their Complaint, the plaintiffs in the Dudek case never received notice of the recall. The plaintiffs asserted that IKEA had failed to adequately raise public awareness of the defective and dangerous condition of the furniture to prevent and minimize tip-over injuries and fatalities.
The Dudek case raised claims for strict products liability, negligence, and recklessness against IKEA. A strict products liability claim is available in many jurisdictions, such as Pennsylvania, and holds a manufacturer responsible for an injury or death resulting from an unreasonably dangerous product. In states where strict products liability is not recognized, a claim for negligence can be brought against manufacturers for the manufacturing and design of unsafe products.
The importance of these claims against manufacturers of unsafe products is that the highlight the need for accountability and responsibility in notifying the public of the dangers of the products once they are known by the manufacturer. Although IKEA was aware of the dangers of the MALM dresser well before the death of the Dudek’s child, the allegation in the case was that IKEA failed to warn consumers who had previously purchased the product of its dangers and of the recall. This case highlights the importance of not only recalling a product was the manufacturer is aware of its dangers, but also to publicize the recall so that the past consumers who purchased the product become aware of the dangers and aware of the recall.