IKEA Shoulders Weight of a $50M Settlement

GEORGE NAKASHIMA walnut single pedestal desk, by Flickr user Stephen Coles, licensed by Creative Commons.

In good standing?

IKEA furniture has a reputation for being difficult – if not impossible –to assemble. But it is never supposed to be deadly. In December 2016, the Swedish furniture maker reached a $50M settlement for the wrongful deaths of three 2-year-old children who were killed when they were crushed by IKEA’s products. The settlement award will be distributed evenly among the families. Additionally, IKEA will distribute $250,000 among several children’s hospitals and Shane’s Foundation, a nonprofit organization that promotes child safety.

Since 1989, seven deaths (all children) have been attributed to IKEA furniture. A 2-year-old lost his life to a defective IKEA product in 1989.  A 200-pound dresser crushed an infant in 2005. Two 3-year-old girls were crushed by toppling IKEA dressers in 2008 and 2009, and a toddler in Washington was killed in February 2016 when a 135-pound IKEA dresser collapsed on him. The most recent fatality prompted the Swedish manufacturer’s recall of 29 million defective items. Customers who own recalled furniture can get a full refund or a free IKEA kit to anchor the product securely to a wall.

Despite the media’s focus on IKEA, the problem of insecure furniture is far more widespread. According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, (CPSC), television, appliance, and furniture instability or tip-overs caused 38,000 deaths from 2011 to 2013, and 430 fatalities between 2000 and 2013. Over half (57%) of all accidents involved children under age 18 and 84% of fatalities involved children aged 1 month to 10 years. Among adults, women account for nearly 60% of emergency department visits for tip-over incidents. After children, senior citizens have the highest rate of injury from unstable products.

Customers can never guarantee that products they purchase are 100% safe, but they can take measures at home to make purchases more secure. For a safe environment, the CPSC recommends:

 

    • Placing televisions only on furniture designed to hold them, such as television stands
    • Anchoring televisions to the wall if they are not wall-mounted
    • Mounting flat screen televisions to sturdy fixtures to prevent them from toppling
    • Installing and assembling products according to manufacturer’s instructions
    • Securing top-heavy furniture with anti-tip brackets (common on new furniture)
    • Removing tempting objects that might inspire children to climb on furniture

 

For families of the victims, holding IKEA accountable for its faulty products is a step in the right direction. But no amount of money, as grieving parents attest, can replace lost children.

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