Every seventeen minutes, someone in the United States is injured by a piece of falling furniture. The most common, and most deadly, type of falling furniture is a dresser tip-over. In the past twenty years, more than 200 children have been killed by a tipped over dresser. When a dresser’s drawers are open, the center of gravity shifts far forward. The addition of only a little more weight, such as that of a young child, can lead to a dangerous tip-over. (WARNING: The linked video may be distressing, but the child featured was not seriously harmed). Note that in this video, only two of the dresser’s six drawers were open, and both were empty.
An Un-Regulated Industry
Currently, there are no standards governing the design or manufacture of dressers. The industry operates on a “self-regulation” standard, under which manufacturers publish recommended manufacturing guidelines. These guidelines apply to all dressers at least 27 inches tall, and state that a dresser should be able to resist a downward force of fifty pounds on any individual drawer. This is designed to simulate the weight of a young child hanging from the drawer. However, manufacturers are under no obligation to actually produce dressers that meet the published standards. A test conducted by Consumer Reports found that one out of every five new dressers fails to meet the industry’s own standards for stability. As a result, millions of poorly designed and dangerous dressers sit in bedrooms and nurseries across the country.
The IKEA “Recalls”
The dangers of these faulty designs are exemplified by a series of IKEA dressers produced in the late 2000’s and early 2010’s. Poorly designed and easy to topple, these dressers were linked to the deaths of multiple children over a period of many years. In 2016, IKEA finally recalled a total of 17.3 million dressers for “posing a serious tip-over and entrapment hazard that can result in death or injuries to children.” It was the largest furniture recall in history.
Unfortunately, identifying and recalling these products has not solved the problem. Almost a year after the recall, an Ikea dresser killed two-year-old Jozef Dudek. The toddler’s family brought a lawsuit alleging that IKEA did not conduct an effective recall, and were awarded $46 million dollars. The size of the award was influenced by the irresponsible manner in which Ikea conducted the recall. Jozef’s family belonged to the Ikea awards program, meaning that the company had access to their purchase history and their contact information. Yet no attempt was made to reach out to any of the customers who bought the recalled dressers. As of June 2019, approximately 400,000 of the 17.3 million recalled dressers had been returned
IKEA’s 2016 recall did not end the company’s problems. In March of 2020, the company was forced to recall its Kullen-model dresser, which was manufactured from 2005 to 2019 and sold nearly a million units in the United States and Canada. This three-drawer dresser is less than 30 inches tall, yet internal testing still showed a dangerous propensity for tipping over. The company has pledged a robust effort to contact owners of the dresser, but it is inevitable that many thousands of these unsafe dressers will remain in homes and nurseries.
The STURDY Act
Democratic lawmakers in the US House of Representatives have attempted to address this issue. H.R. 2211, also known as the STURDY Act, was introduced by Rep. Janice Schakowsky (D) of Illinois in April of 2019. The bill sets standards of construction and sturdiness for all dressers, mandating rigorous testing on a wide variety of flooring. The House passed the bill on September 17, 2019, and it has not yet been considered by the Senate.
What Can I Do to Prevent Furniture Tip-Over?
Even if you purposefully set out to buy a safe dresser, it can be very difficult to find one that you can rely on not to tip over. Remember, there are no mandated testing standards in the industry. Short of conducting your own testing, you may be unable to discover the tip-over conditions of any furniture you are considering.
The safest method for avoiding a tip-over is the installation of furniture anchors. These products hold a piece of furniture fast to the wall behind it. These precautions can be used on any piece of furniture, but they are especially important for dressers located in bedrooms, nurseries, or any other place where young children may spend time unsupervised. When installing furniture anchors, make sure to:
- Use at least two for each piece of furniture. This prevents rotational force from coming into play and ripping out the anchors.
- Attach the anchors to solid wood. Often the back panels of furniture are made of cheaper wood and attached with lighter nails. Be sure to attach your anchors to the solid outer frame.
- Use a wall stud. A tipping piece of furniture will rip an anchor out of drywall. Find a wall stud to install your anchor.
- Tighten the anchors. If the anchor is slack, there will be a jerk when it tightens during a tip-over, which could cause the anchor to fail. Make sure your anchors are tightened down so a tip-over never has a chance to get started.
The attorneys at Allen & Allen have 600 years of combined experience in representing people who have been injured through no fault of their own. If you have been injured by a defectively designed or manufactured product, call us or fill out our contact form today.