In a recently announced settlement, Ikea will pay $46 million dollars to the family of a 2 year old boy who was killed when a 30 inch dresser fell over onto him.
According to the allegations, the company was aware that the dresser presented a tipping hazard, and did not take suffiicent steps to remove it from the market or notify existing owners of a recall.
The case is unbelievably tragic, but the amount of the settlement also highlights an important point. This was not the first time that Ikea had faced a tip over accident, nor was it the first death.
According to reports, at least five other children have been killed by various models of the same dresser since 2011, an astonishing statistic. The lawsuit further alleged that an additional 91 children had been injured prior to the infant's accident.
In this case, the wrongful death lawsuit, brought by the parents of the infant and on his behalf, sought to make a point. This sort of reckless disregard for basic safety is totally unacceptable. Ikea clearly understood the message, and elected to pay a very significant sum of money to settle the claim rather than face a jury who would almost certainly have been unsympathetic to the company's position.
The legal theory when a child gets hurt by a product.
When a company designs a product, among the things it must consider is the likely use of that product and potential injuries that could occur based upon that use.
In Ikea's case, when designing this particular dresser, the company should have considered the fact that it would be used in children's rooms, and also that, if a child climbed on it (a very reasonable expectation), it could tip over and trap the child underneath. Ikea's failure to adequately address this safety concern could have exposed it to liability.
This was, of course, compounded when exactly this scenario came to fruition. Further complicating Ikea's problem, the company did not take sufficient measures to ensure that a) anyone who had previously purchased one was aware of the risk of the tip over and, more importantly, what to do about it; and b) that consumers purchasing new products were aware of the risks and what to do about them.
In the end, this situation appears to be a horrific but, unfortunately, not entirely uncommon practice of large companies. Ignoring obvious problems, and then failing to take adequate steps once they become aware of a problem - usually to save money.
Lawsuits and settlements like this are critical, as they are a significant way to both ensure that company's do the right thing, and to hold them accountable when they don't. While no amount of money will ever bring a child back, the exposure from a case like this may very well save another child's life.
If you have questions about an injury to a child, contact us today.