Exactly three weeks after a Netflix documentary was released highlighting two former Feldman Shepherd clients, who told their stories of deadly dresser tip-overs — and just days before IKEA agreed to a $46 million settlement in a deadly dresser tip-over case brought by Feldman Shepherd — home furnishings importer Hillsdale Furniture became the latest player in the furniture industry to recall dangerous dressers.
On Dec. 18, 2019, Hillsdale issued a joint recall with the CPSC for 31,000 Chadwick and Bailey five-drawer chests that do not comply with the furniture industry’s voluntary safety standard. According to the recall notice, the chests are unstable and can tip over if not anchored to the wall, posing serious tip-over and entrapment hazards that can result in death or injuries to children. The recall affects Chadwick and Bailey five-drawer chests in dove gray, mission oak, white and espresso finishes. The chests were sold at Bob’s Discount Furniture and other retailers nationwide from August 2010 through August 2019 for about $280.
The recall notice instructs consumers to immediately stop using any recalled chest that is not properly anchored to the wall and place it in an area that children cannot access. Consumers can contact Bob’s Discount Furniture or Hillsdale Furniture to receive a free repair or refund. Remedy options include a free self-install repair kit, free in-home installation of a repair kit or free pick-up of the chest.
Hillsdale’s recall is the sixth recall since May 2019 of dressers that are unsafe and unstable by design unless attached to a wall. All told, more than 1.3 million dressers have been recalled during the past eight months:
In 2017, IKEA recalled 17.3 million units of its MALM and other models of chests and dressers due to serious tip-over hazards. However, millions of the recalled dressers remain in use. As part of the recent $46 million settlement, IKEA committed to broaden its outreach to consumers about the existence of the recall.
In the U.S., a child is injured by a furniture, television or appliance tip-over approximately every 30 minutes, according to the Consumer Product Safety Commission. In 2016, 2,800 children were injured in tip-overs involving dressers, an astounding 33 percent increase over the previous year. Between 2000 and 2017, 542 people died from furniture tip-overs, 83 percent of whom were children.
Many parents are shocked to learn that there is no government agency charged with safety-testing children’s products — or most other products, for that matter — before they are brought to market. The federal government, however, can play an important role in removing dangerous products that are already in the marketplace and in use by unsuspecting consumers.
In September 2019, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the STURDY Act (Stop Tip-Overs of Unstable, Risky Dressers on Youth Act), which would impose a stronger, mandatory stability standard for dressers, which are referred to in the furniture industry as “clothing storage units.” The bill is presently before the U.S. Senate’s Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation.
In addition to lawmakers, child safety advocates and parents are upping their game in a battle to keep children safe in their bedrooms. Two former Feldman Shepherd clients — Crystal Ellis and Janet McGee, who each lost a toddler when an IKEA MALM dresser tipped over in their child’s bedroom — have worked tirelessly to promote safe design and rigorous testing of dressers and to inform parents of this potentially deadly risk to their children.
Ellis and McGee told their stories in Netflix’s hard-hitting documentary “Broken,” which shines a spotlight on the growing epidemic of dresser tip-overs in the U.S. Both moms are featured guests in Feldman Shepherd’s “Dressers Tip-Over” podcast. For audio and video of the podcast Click Here.
In June 2019, Ellis testified at a congressional hearing on the STURDY Act. To watch her testimony CLICK HERE.
Alan M. Feldman, a product liability attorney and co-founding partner at Feldman Shepherd Wohlgelernter Tanner Weinstock Dodig LLP, recommends contacting a product liability attorney as soon as possible following a furniture tip-over accident, in order to ensure that evidence is preserved, and that the victim’s and family’s legal rights are protected. Feldman said that parents, consumed by grief and misplaced self-blame, often do not recognize that dresser tip-overs occur because of an unsafe design, which is fully preventable.
Feldman’s team at Feldman Shepherd, which includes partners Daniel J. Mann and Edward S. Goldis, has represented many families who have lost children due to defective furniture design and has recovered almost $100 million for families of victims of IKEA dresser tip-overs.
“Dressers that are so unstable that they can be tipped over by a toddler are inherently unsafe and should be removed from homes with small children,” said Feldman. “We are committed to raising awareness of this public safety issue and to make sure that all dressers presently being sold in the U.S. are safe, stable and tip-resistant.”
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