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Ikea agrees to pay $46 million after tipped dresser kills toddler

USA TODAY logo USA TODAY 1/7/2020 Tricia L. Nadolny, USA TODAY
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Ikea has agreed to pay $46 million to the parents of a California toddler who died when one of the company’s dressers tipped onto him in 2017, the family’s lawyers announced Monday.

The attorneys for the parents of 2-year-old Jozef Dudek said they believe it is the largest settlement resulting from the wrongful death of a child in U.S. history. The settlement is nearly three times what Ikea paid to settle similar lawsuits in 2016 when $50 million was split among three families.

"We miss him so much," Joleen Dudek, Jozef's mother, said Monday. "He would be turning 5 this year in April. We never thought that a 2-year-old could cause a short 30-inch dresser to tip over and suffocate him. It was only later that we learned that this dresser was designed unstable and did not meet safety standards and that this had happened to other little boys."

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Ikea confirmed the settlement amount Monday.

"While no settlement can alter the tragic events that brought us here, for the sake of the family and all involved, we’re grateful that this litigation has reached a resolution," the company said in a statement. "We remain committed to working proactively and collaboratively to address this very important home safety issue. Again, we offer our deepest condolences."

Ikea dressers have been linked to the deaths of at least nine children and dozens of injuries. Often the incidents happen when a child pulls on the drawers of a unit, sending it crashing forward.

The company, the largest furniture retailer in the world, recalled 17.3 million dressers in 2016, including the three-drawer Malm that tipped onto Jozef. Millions of the recalled dressers remain in use today, and the company as part of the settlement has agreed to broaden its outreach to consumers about the recall, according to Alan Feldman of Philadelphia's Feldman Shepherd law firm, which represents the family.

Jozef was the first child who died after the recall was announced. Craig and Joleen Dudek, in a lawsuit filed in 2018 in Pennsylvania, where Ikea’s U.S. headquarters is located, said they were unaware of the recall and faulted the company for not notifying them directly. Dan Mann, another of the family's lawyers, on Monday said that Ikea had the parents contact information because their dresser was purchased on an Ikea credit card. He attributed the settlement amount, in part, to Ikea's failure to more aggressively promote the recall. 

"Once a manufacturer admits that a product is dangerous and defective and shouldn’t be in children’s bedrooms … they should do everything that they can to inform consumers and purchasers that the product is defective," Mann said.

The parents said they will donate $1 million from the settlement to three consumer organizations that have advocated for a tip-over safety: Kids in Danger, Consumer Reports and the Consumer Federation of America. They said they were proud to honor the memory of their son. Joleen Dudek described him as a kind child and an adventurous eater who loved sushi and curry even at age two.

"He was everything we needed and more," she said. "And we were so thankful to have him."

Their lawsuit claimed Ikea was long aware that the dressers “presented an unreasonable tip-over hazard and were dangerously unsafe” but continued to sell them regardless. The recalled dressers, which were taken off the market and remodeled, did not meet the industry’s safety standard for stability. The standard is meant to ensure that a dresser will remain upright when pulled on by a child, even if the dresser is not tethered to the wall. Ikea said its dressers were only safe when anchored, per the assembly instructions.

Tracey Kelly, Ikea’s U.S. corporate communications manager, told USA TODAY in November that in the three years since the recall was announced, the company has destroyed 420,000 returned dressers and provided an additional 1.05 million anchoring kits to consumers. Many more of the 17.3 million bureaus were likely anchored with the included tip-restraints at the time that they were purchased, or have since been thrown out, Kelly said. The company said it has aggressively promoted the recall, including through a national television campaign, direct emails to those known to have purchased recalled products, and both in-store and online ads.

But safety advocates stress that there are likely still millions of unstable, unsecured Ikea dressers in use today. They have faulted the retailer for not doing more to raise awareness, including promoting the recall with the same intensity that the company once marketed the products for sale.

As part of the settlement, Ikea U.S. President Javier Quiñones has agreed to meet with the members of Parents Against Tip-Overs, an advocacy group made up of parents who have lost their children to the danger, the lawyer said. Quiñones had suggested the meeting last year, then backpedaled on setting a date, telling the parents he was unable to meet until pending litigation had been settled.

a man in a suit standing in front of a building: Attorneys representing the Dudek family, Alan Feldman, left, Daniel Mann, and Edward Goldis walk from a news conference, past IKEA's Malm dresser in Philadelphia, Monday, Jan. 6, 2020. IKEA has agreed to pay $46 million to the parents of a 2-year-old boy who died of injuries suffered when a 70-pound recalled dresser tipped over onto him, the family’s lawyers said Monday.

Attorneys representing the Dudek family, Alan Feldman, left, Daniel Mann, and Edward Goldis walk from a news conference, past IKEA's Malm dresser in Philadelphia, Monday, Jan. 6, 2020. IKEA has agreed to pay $46 million to the parents of a 2-year-old boy who died of injuries suffered when a 70-pound recalled dresser tipped over onto him, the family’s lawyers said Monday.
© Matt Rourke, AP

Janet McGee, a member of the group whose son died in an Ikea dresser tip-over in 2016, said she hopes to convey to Quiñones that the company's recall has been ineffective. McGee said that just today, she went on Facebook marketplace and saw six used Ikea dressers for sale in the area around her Minnesota home. She messaged the sellers. She said that when she has done that in the past, sellers often tell her they were unaware their dresser had been recalled.

"Ikea has to do more to get this message out to consumers," McGee said. "This is exactly why Jozef Dudek died, because they did not get this message out to consumers."

McGee's family was one of the three who settled with Ikea in 2016. She said the size of the Dudek's settlement is more proof of Ikea's fault. 

"That money shows the guilt of Ikea," she said. "They have known about this problem. The first tip-over death was reported to them in 1989. They have known about this problem a very, very long time."

Unsecured furniture has been an intractable danger for decades.

A child dies, on average, once every two weeks when a piece of furniture, television of appliance falls forward on them, according to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission. About 28,000 people are injured in tip-overs every year, more than half of them children. 

 Tricia L. Nadolny is a reporter on the USA TODAY investigations team. She can be reached at tnadolny@usatoday.com or @TriciaNadolny.

I own an Ikea dresser. Now what?

Was my dresser part of the recall?

If you own a Malm dresser sold between 2002 and mid-2016, there is a good chance it was recalled. But there are more than 100 other lines of Ikea dressers included as well. A full list of products, along with steps for taking part in the recall, is available at www.ikea-usa.com/saferhomestogether.

I own a recalled dresser. Should I keep it or get rid of it?

If it is not anchored, first make sure it cannot be reached by children.

The recall allows people to keep or return the item, but safety advocates recommend that the dressers be removed from homes, because of the concern that they will not be anchored or they will later be used by someone unaware of the recall. Many of the recalled dressers can be returned for a full refund. Consumers can bring the dresser to the any Ikea retailer, or Ikea will come pick it up from your home, free of charge.

I want to keep my Ikea dresser. What are my options?

You should anchor it to the wall. You can request a free wall anchoring kit from Ikea and install it yourself, or Ikea will send someone to your home to attach it for you, free of charge.

Do I need a receipt to take part in the recall?

Typically a receipt is not required, but Ikea says that it can request a receipt based on the total number of dressers being returned by one customer.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Ikea agrees to pay $46 million after tipped dresser kills toddler

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