The world's largest furniture seller, Ikea, bills itself as "The Life Improvement Store." But after its products caused three deaths, the Swedish company will pay $50 million to the families of three young boys.
The children, no older than 2, died when Ikea dressers toppled over with crushing force. In all cases, the lethal furniture was one of Ikea's Malm dressers, a line of popular assemble-it-yourself chests made of particle- and fiberboard.
Ikea settled after two days of mediation with the families' attorneys, according to a statement from the lawyers. Such a payout may be among the largest-ever settlements of its type. The retailer did not respond to a request for comment from the news media.
Jackie Collas, the mother of a toddler named Curren Collas, has publicly recounted the horror of discovering her son beneath the Ikea chest in February 2014. As The Washington Post wrote in July 2015, "There was the blonde wood dresser she'd bought from Ikea, fallen on its front. And there was Curren trapped between it and the bed, his face purple and his body unbearably still."
The settlement brought a sense of relief that the legal battle was finished, Collas told the Philadelphia Inquirer. But her life could never be the same, she said, telling the paper, "Even if I live until 100, it's going to be before Curren and after Curren."
The two other children killed were Theodore McGee, a 22-month-old Minnesota boy who died in February 2016, and Camden Ellis, a 23-month old from Snohomish, Wash., who died four months after Curren. Four other deaths, the first in 1989, have been reported to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission involving Ikea dressers that tipped over.
In three wrongful death lawsuits filed in Philadelphia, the families argued that Ikea knew about the danger the Malm dressers posed. It was the families who were at fault, Ikea countered, for not supporting the Malm dressers with wall anchors as the instructions indicated.
Alan Feldman, an attorney with Feldman Shepherd, the Philadelphia-based law firm representing the three families, would not elaborate to the Inquirer about the depth of Ikea's knowledge of tip-overs. But previously confidential documents that Ikea turned over to the attorneys "100 percent" provided leverage for a settlement, he said.
This June, Ikea recalled 29 million Ikea dressers, of which the Malm style represented more than one-fourth. The previous July, the company had offered free wall anchors to customers. Its June 2016 recall was more expansive. "IKEA will provide a one-time, free in-home installation service, upon request," noted the Consumer Product Safety Commission in June. The company will alternatively offer a refund for recalled dressers manufactured from January 2002 to June 2016.
For the December settlement, each family will receive a third of the $50 million sum. In addition, in memory of each child, Ikea will donate $150,000 divided evenly among three children's hospitals in Philadelphia, Washington state and Minnesota, law firm Feldman Shepherd said in a news release .
The retailer plans to donate another $100,000 to Shane's Foundation, a nonprofit group focused on children's safety and tip-over prevention founded by a mother who also lost a child to a falling dresser. Ikea vowed to increase consumer perception of the dangers of tipping furniture, by allocating additional funds to a series of television and Internet ads.