NEW YORK • Swedish furniture giant Ikea has agreed to pay a US$46 million (S$62 million) settlement in a wrongful-death lawsuit brought by the parents of a California toddler who was crushed to death by a popular dresser model that had been recalled after at least five other fatalities involving children.
On Monday, a lawyer for Mr Craig Dudek and his wife Joleen - whose son Jozef was killed in May 2017 - announced the settlement, which has also been confirmed by an Ikea spokesman.
In 2016, Ikea reached a US$50 million settlement with three other families whose children were killed by furniture that had toppled over.
The Dudeks sued Ikea in 2017 in the state court in Pennsylvania, where Ikea's North American headquarters is based, arguing that the furniture-maker knew that its Malm line of dressers was prone to tipping over and had failed to warn customers of the unstable design.
The company first offered free wall-anchoring kits to its millions of customers as part of a repair programme before issuing a recall in June 2016. The Dudeks, of Buena Park, California, bought the dresser in 2008 and said in the lawsuit that they were never alerted to the recall by Ikea.
On May 24, 2017, when Mr Dudek went to check on Jozef in a bedroom where he had been sleeping, he found his son pinned beneath the drawers of the 31kg dresser that had toppled onto him, according to the lawsuit. Jozef died later that day from asphyxia caused by mechanical compression of the neck, the lawsuit said.
"We miss him so much," the Dudeks said on Monday in a statement issued through their lawyer, Mr Alan Feldman.
"He would be turning five years old this April. We never thought that a two-year-old could cause a dresser just 30 inches-high to topple over and suffocate him.
"It was only later that we learnt that this dresser was unstable by design and did not meet safety standards, and that this had happened to other little boys."
An Ikea spokesman said in a statement on Monday that the company had taken steps to try to raise awareness of the safety hazards of tip-overs, including requiring safety training for employees.
"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," said the Ikea spokesman.
"We remain committed to working proactively and collaboratively to address this very important home safety issue. Again, we offer our deepest condolences."
Consumer product safety groups say that Jozef's death was not an isolated case.
They have pressed members of Congress to pass the Stop Tip-overs of Unstable, Risky Dressers on Youth Act, or Sturdy Act, which would require the US Consumer Product Safety Commission to develop safety rules for free-standing clothing storage units to protect children from death or injury from tip-overs.