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The Stakes Are Higher When Wrongful Death Happens To A Child

In California, a highly publicized case came to final decision and tragic—but just—close as a family tries to put their lives together and move forward in the face of an irreplaceable loss. The world-famous Swedish furniture retailer, Ikea, has settled with a family for an astounding $46 million after their child was crushed by an Ikea product. This may very well be one of the largest wrongful death settlements in American legal history.

A Proactive Business Model

Ikea is well-known to Americans and other shoppers throughout the world as the go-to destination for cheaper, but stylish furniture. One of the reasons that Ikea can set significantly lower prices is the assembly-required business model they use. Unlike many other furniture stores that display artisan or professionally manufactured furniture that customers buy and then relocate to their home, Ikea shows off fully assembled furniture, but the actual product is “flat-packed” in a warehouse on-site, picked up and then assembled at home.

As a result, there’s a certain expectation that Ikea furniture is only as good as the effort you’re willing to put in to assemble the furniture. That expectation, however, never includes the risk of taking lives away, which is what happened to Josef Dudek, only two years old, in May of 2017.

Economic Thinking Gone Wrong

Tragically, Josef Dudek was not the first, merely the latest victim of a defective product that resulted in wrongful death. The “Malm” dresser involved had a reputation for instability. Even a dresser filled with clothes was unbalanced enough that children playing with it could cause these dressers to tip over, and, if the children couldn’t get away in time, fall directly on top of them.

This is exactly what happened to Josef Dudek when the Malm dresser his family purchased fell on him, hitting his neck in the process and causing injuries that resulted in suffocation and, tragically died. Just one year earlier, Ikea had settled with six other families over the deaths of their children as a result of play that caused the dressers to tilt, fall, and crush children ending in death.

A Quick Fix

Perhaps one of the most troubling parts of this story, aside from the tragic loss of young life is the fact that Ikea is well aware of this design flaw, and has taken steps in the past not to eliminate the dangerous design flaw, but put a “band-aid” on top of it. For furnishing such as the Malm dresser, Ikea has included bolts to attach the dresser to a wall, and it is recommended by the manufacturer, especially in a home with children, that the dressers are not left free-standing, but instead secure to the wall by these bolts.

Unlike more traditional dressers offered by more expensive companies, the Ikea dressers—which are considerably cheaper—are also considerably lighter and less stable than a traditional, artisan manufactured dresser. In many cases, more expensive dressers are made with heavier, denser materials, such as solid wood, or even metal, that makes these furnishings solid fixtures are nearly immovable once set in place and filled with clothes.

The Ikea dressers, however, are made with a lighter, thinner particle board construction. This makes it much easier for customers to carry back to a car, move up to a bedroom unassembled, and much easier to put together due to the lightweight materials.

Unfortunately, this also means that they are much more likely to shift and topple due to their lighter, less dense construction. If children decide to play on these lighter furnishings, pulling out drawers and climbing on them to get to the top, they may—and occasionally do—cause these furnishings to tip, falling right on top of them. One distressing video of a different Ikea dresser from a family in Utah, with internal surveillance cameras, shows how one toddler saves his sibling after the two children tried to climb the dresser and one of them was crushed underneath.

Getting Justice

Any company that produces a product discovers that it is defective, but ignores that problem in the hopes of avoiding an expensive recall and redesign is acting negligent, and setting itself up for a situation where injury or even death can occur as a result of a defective product. Even though not redesigning and recalling a defective product is not a criminal act, it is definitely against the law, and this kind of negligence can be called out—and financially addressed—in a civil court of law.

If someone in your family, especially a child, has died as a result of a defective product or even the negligence of someone else in an accident, either vehicular or property-related, seek out the legal counsel of an experienced wrongful death lawyer. Get the help you need to find out how to make things right, and hold the responsible parties accountable.