Judge blasts Ikea for ignoring order in deadly dresser lawsuit

Elliot Kaye (left), chairman of the Consumer Product Safety Commission, and his staff demonstrate the tip-over danger of Ikea dressers at a recent news conference.

A Philadelphia judge scolded Ikea's attorneys Wednesday for ignoring his order to turn over records to the parents of a child killed by a toppled Ikea dresser that has since been recalled.

Judge John Milton Younge said he was likely to impose sanctions on the company but would wait two more weeks to see if Superior Court rules on a request by Ikea to stay or overturn his order.

During the brief hearing in a City Hall courtroom, Ikea lawyer Andrew Susko did not offer much explanation, except to say the company is waiting on the appeal. Susko said that if Ikea provided the documents ahead of that decision, the impact on the case would be irreversible.

The judge, however, questioned why Ikea is fighting to conceal records it has already given federal safety regulators, saying it "makes one start to wonder" what is in the documents.

"I think you really are protesting too much," Younge said.

Ikea is attempting to keep private documents from negotiations with the Consumer Product Safety Commission that led to the 29 million-dresser recall the two jointly announced in June. That recall came after the deaths of six toddlers, including 2-year-old Curren Collas of West Chester, who in 2014 was pinned beneath a dresser from Ikea's popular, low-cost Malm line.

As part of her lawsuit against the company, Curren's mother, Jackie Collas, has asked to see Ikea records that span nearly two years and include photos and videos of internal Ikea dresser testing and correspondence between Ikea and regulators, according to a log filed in the court.

Collas' attorney, Alan Feldman, told Younge on Wednesday that the documents are crucial as the lawyers prepare to depose several senior Ikea executives next month, at least one of whom is flying in from the company's headquarters in Sweden.

Ikea's attorneys have argued the documents should remain confidential because it would "have a chilling effect" on future negotiations between companies and safety regulators if companies believe documents could be used against them in court.

Younge has twice rejected that argument and ordered Ikea to turn over the records by Aug. 19. Instead, Ikea appealed to Superior Court.

On Wednesday, Younge questioned why Ikea waited to file the motion to stay his orderuntil after his own deadline to produce the documents had passed, calling the move "disrespectful." He cautioned that the Superior Court rarely grants such motions but agreed to wait before imposing sanctions.

"I'm not going to stand on the sidelines forever," Younge said.

Collas' attorneys have asked that the judge fine Ikea $1,000 for every day the company doesn't comply with his order, with the money given to a Chicago nonprofit that advocated for the recall.

Susko, Ikea's attorney, called that request "premature," given the pending appeal.

Susko declined to answer other questions after the hearing. Ikea, which has its U.S. headquarters in Conshohocken, has said it does not comment on pending litigation.

tnadolny@phillynews.com

215-854-2730 @TriciaNadolny