The parents of a California toddler crushed to death last year by an Ikea dresser have filed suit against the retailer, claiming the company knew for years that its dressers were unstable but neglected to redesign them.
The dresser that fell onto 2-year-old Jozef Dudek was from the company’s popular Malm line and part of a historic recall of Ikea dressers in 2016.
“Ikea clearly was familiar with a stability issue with its products for years and took no effective measures to deal with it,” said attorney Alan Feldman, who is representing the family.
Ikea, which has its U.S. headquarters in Conshohocken, last year settled for $50 million three similar suits filed by parents whose children died beneath tipped dressers. Among them was 2-year-old Curren Collas of West Chester, who died in 2014.
Feldman, of Philadelphia’s Feldman Shepherd law firm, said he and Ikea’s lawyers had not discussed a settlement in regard to Jozef’s death.
Jozef was found pinned between the drawers of a three-drawer dresser in his Buena Park bedroom after being put down for an afternoon nap in May 2017. He is the eighth child known to have died when an unsecured Ikea dresser toppled forward. His death came after the recall of 29 million of the company’s bureaus, among the largest recalls in the history of the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission.
At the time of the recall, Ikea acknowledged that many of its dressers were potentially dangerous if not attached to the wall. The dressers did not meet the furniture industry’s voluntary safety standard meant to ensure they remain upright under the weight of a climbing child even when not tethered.
In the suit, filed Monday in Philadelphia Common Pleas Court, the parents said they had received no notice of the recall, even though Ikea had their contact information through its customer loyalty program.
An Ikea spokesperson on Thursday said the company would not comment on pending litigation. A spokesperson previously said of Jozef’s death that the dresser in his room had not been attached to the wall, and encouraged consumers to use anchors included with its products.
As part of the recall, Ikea offered consumers full refunds in most cases and took scores of its dressers off the market, redesigning them to meet the industry safety standard.
That has not satisfied some safety advocates, who said Ikea for years resisted a recall and then, after agreeing to one, did not do enough to promote it. Nancy Cowles, executive director of the Chicago nonprofit Kids in Danger, said Ikea quickly pivoted from talking about the recall to promoting a more general tip-over public awareness campaign. U.S. Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D., Ill.) lobbed a similar complaint against the company in a 2016 letter, saying she was “underwhelmed” by Ikea’s actions.
Ikea on Thursday said it has done extensive outreach for the recall, including online and television advertising and emails to 13 million consumers. The company said it has recalled more than one million dressers.
(Monthly progress reports filed by the company with federal regulators and obtained by the Inquirer and Daily News through a public records request showed about 882,500 dressers had been repaired or returned by January 2017. But the recall numbers were redacted from subsequent progress reports released by the agency in response to records requests.)
Cowles said millions of recalled dressers remain in American homes.
“They are landmines out there,” she said. “Maybe you’ve never stepped on it yet. But it doesn’t mean it’s not right there and dangerous.”