Tip-over accidents kill or injure hundreds of children each year in California and around the country, and a worrying amount of these tragic incidents involve dressers made by Ikea. The Swedish furniture giant has paid at least $96 million to settle lawsuits brought by parents of children killed in tip-over accidents, and recent reports suggest that the company could soon be facing another wave of litigation.
Ikea announced in May that it was recalling its popular Kullen dresser because of tip-over concerns, but the move has been called too little and too late by consumer advocacy groups who accuse the retailer of prioritizing profits over customer safety. These groups say that Kullen dressers should have been recalled and taken off the market months earlier when voluntary furniture safety standards were toughened to protect children. They also point out that Ikea sits on the committee that drafts the rules and likely knew the change was going to be made months before it was announced.
Ikea responded to the criticism by saying that meeting stricter safety standards is a massive undertaking for a company with hundreds of stores and millions of customers. Parents say Ikea could remove dangerous items from its website and order its managers to rearrange store displays in a matter of hours. The revised safety standard requires dressers to remain upright when a 50 pound weight is hung on an open drawer. The Kullen dresser is being recalled and withdrawn because it does not pass this test.
Consumers who are injured in accidents caused by dangerous products generally seek compensatory damages when they pursue civil remedies, but personal injury attorneys could also ask juries to award punitive damages when the defendants in product liability lawsuits knew their products posed a threat and took no action. These damages are awarded to punish gross negligence and deter others from behaving in the same reckless way.