When 18-month-old Lyla M woke up early one morning, she did what most children would do; she played in her room. While playing, she went to retrieve an item from the IKEA STUVA wardrobe in her bedroom. The STUVA line was designed specifically for use in children’s bedrooms. The drawers and doors for the STUVA were designed with signature cutouts instead of handles so that children could more easily access the items inside. As she had many times before, Lyla opened the bottom drawer by inserting her hand into the horizontal drawer cutout and pulling the dresser drawer out. While the incident was not witnessed, she likely fell forward, catching her neck in the drawer cutout and causing the drawer to close. Tragically, when the drawer closed, Lyla’s head became fully entrapped in the cutout. Although she attempted to free herself, she was unable to do so. This heart-wrenching scene of struggle and desperation was what confronted Lyla’s father when he entered her room to check on her. Despite the frantic efforts of her parents and first responders to perform CPR, Lyla suffocated and died as a result of head and neck entrapment in the IKEA dresser.
A product liability lawsuit was filed against IKEA by Feldman Shepherd partners Alan M. Feldman, Daniel J. Mann and Edward S. Goldis. Extensive discovery included in-person depositions of IKEA witnesses in Europe and testing and exhaustive evaluation of the design of the STUVA wardrobe. While IKEA contended that the manner of Lyla’s death was not foreseeable, an argument it claimed was buttressed by the absence of any other reported injuries or complaints, testimony about the hazard analysis conducted by an IKEA design team demonstrated an awareness that the cutout presented an entrapment hazard.
Although a mediation conducted by the Honorable Annette Rizzo (Ret.) of JAMS was not initially successful, her ongoing and persistent communications with the parties eventually led to a settlement for the sum of $13.5 million. The STUVA wardrobe is no longer sold in IKEA stores in the United States.
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