Ikea will pay $46 million to the parents of a 2-year-old boy who died when a recalled dresser toppled onto him, according to the family’s lawyers.
Jozef Dudek was crushed under a Malm dresser after his father put him down for a nap in their California home in May 2017. Jozef was the eighth child known to have died by an unsecured Ikea dresser’s toppling forward, and the first death confirmed after the furniture giant’s recall of more than 17 million bureaus in 2016.
Lawyers for the family described it as the largest settlement ever made for the wrongful death of a child.
“While millions of families were unaware that the Malm dresser was unstable and unsafe for use in a home with small children, Ikea knew,” said Alan Feldman of Philadelphia’s Feldman Shepherd law firm.
Jozef’s parents, Joleen and Craig, bought the popular low-cost dresser in 2008 and were unaware of the 2016 recall. The pair struggled to choke back tears as they remembered their first child as a loving son who slept through the night and always tried new foods.
“We never thought” that a 2-year-old could cause a dresser “to topple over and suffocate him,” Joleen Dudek said in a statement via Skype. “It was only later that we learned that this dresser was unstable by design and did not meet safety standards, and that this had happened to other little boys.”
Ikea dressers have been linked to the deaths of nine children across the country. The recalled items were taken off the market and remodeled.
“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,” Ikea, which has its North American headquarters in Conshohocken, said in a statement. “We remain committed to working proactively and collaboratively to address this very important home-safety issue.”
Ikea’s June 2016 recall, initially described as affecting 29 million items, was the largest furniture recall in history, involving not just dressers from its Malm line, but dozens of other models sold by the retailer over decades. The company agreed to give full refunds in most cases.
Six months after the recall, Ikea paid $50 million to the parents of the three toddlers, including 2-year-old Curren Collas of West Chester, who died after a dresser toppled onto them in 2014 and 2015. The Feldman Shepherd firm also represented the three families in that case.
Feldman said the Dudeks’ settlement was significantly larger because Jozef’s death came after the recall, and Ikea did not effectively alert families in possession of the faulty dressers. He said the Dudeks never received an email from the company, even though they were members of Ikea’s family rewards program. They do not have cable television, and did not see any news announcements, he said.
The company’s recall efforts also came under scrutiny after only about 3% of the dressers had been repaired or returned through January 2017, a group of advocates that includes the Consumer Federation of America said. After two toddlers died in 2017, the company launched an informational campaign about the recall and sent crews to consumers’ homes to either anchor dressers or collect them.
To date, about 1.4 million dressers have been addressed, according to an Ikea spokesperson, though safety advocates worry that millions of families could still be unaware of the furniture risks.
With the settlement, Feldman said, Ikea has committed to broaden its outreach about the recall. He suggested that include an email to the company’s full customer database and a social media campaign.
An estimated 5,800 children under the age of 7 were injured from furniture tip-overs between 2015 and 2017, according to a December 2018 report from the Consumer Product Safety Commission, the federal regulatory agency that oversees recalls.