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Furniture Stability, Product Safety

Lessons for Industry in IKEA Recall

IKEA’s failure to conduct an “effective” recall was cited as a key reason for the size of the company’s recent settlement with the family of Jozef Dudek, a two-year-old boy who died in May 2017 when a three-drawer IKEA Malm dresser tipped over onto him.

Attorneys for the Dudek family claim the $46 million settlement is the largest child wrongful death recovery ever in the United States.

The three-drawer Malm was among 17.3 million dressers and chests recalled by IKEA in June 2016 due to non-compliance with the industry’s voluntary furniture stability standard, ASTM F2057. At that time, there were eight known fatalities involving toddlers and non-compliant IKEA dressers or chests of drawers.

Following the recall, two more fatalities involving IKEA products and toddlers were reported, including Jozef Dudek and a two-year-old Lakeland, Fla., boy, who was killed in a tip-over accident involving an eight-drawer IKEA Hemnes dresser.

The Dudeks said they were unaware of the recall. They purchased their IKEA dresser in 2008 and said they were members of the company’s family loyalty program at that time, according to their attorney.

“This settlement sets an important precedent, because it calls out a company’s failure to carry out a recall effectively,” William Wallace, manager of home and safety policy for Consumer Reports said in the magazine’s January 7 coverage of the settlement.

Non-monetary provisions of the settlement included a commitment from IKEA to “broaden” its outreach to consumers about its chest and dresser recall. In a press release announcing the settlement, the plaintiff’s attorneys said they believe this outreach must include “a social media campaign, emails to their database of contacts and additional emails to purchasers of the recalled dressers.”

IKEA took all these steps and more following its December 2016 settlement with the families of three other toddlers killed by IKEA furniture tip-overs. In that case, IKEA agreed to increase funding for the “Secure It” program it had developed for its website to urge customers to anchor their IKEA furniture. To further raise awareness of the risk of tip-overs, the company agreed to add national television advertising, internet and digital communications, and in-store warnings.

Since that time, IKEA has reported issuing about 400,000 refunds for returned dressers. An IKEA spokesperson told Fast Company magazine earlier this year that media coverage of the 2016 recall received close to 9 billion impressions across television, print and digital news stories and advertising. The spokesperson also said the company reached out to 13 million customers via email regarding the recall and that 1.3 million dressers had been “addressed” either by a return or by the company supplying a requested wall attachment kit.