Long Bedroom Dressers
Ikea will pay $50 million to the parents of three toddlers who died when its dressers toppled onto them, lawyers for the families said Wednesday.
The settlement comes six months after those deaths and others prompted the unprecedented recall of 29 million Ikea dressers that the company acknowledged could tip over and injure or kill children.
Jackie Collas of West Chester, whose 2-year-old son, Curren, was crushed by an Ikea dresser in 2014, said she was relieved the fight was over. But she said the settlement does not bring closure over Curren's death.
"Your life, it will always be cut in half, " Collas said Wednesday. "Even if I live until 100, it's going to be before Curren and after Curren."
The plaintiffs also include the parents of 2-year-old Camden Ellis of Snohomish, Wash., who died in 2014, and 22-month-old Theodore McGee of Apple Valley, Minn., who died in 2015.
Their wrongful death suits, filed in Philadelphia, were part of a wave of scrutiny on Ikea and the wider danger of furniture tip-overs. The preventable threat, chronicled extensively by the Inquirer, kills scores of children and injures thousands more each year.
Consumer advocates have pushed for more stringent safety standards, and the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission has been in talks with Ikea for more than two years to address concerns about its dressers.
It was not immediately clear if the settlement was unprecedented, but lawyers said the $50 million payout might be among the highest for a case over a child's death. The money will be split equally among the three families, with an undisclosed share going to attorneys.
Ikea has also agreed to give $100, 000 to a Chicago nonprofit focused on tip-over awareness and make $50, 000 donations to three children's hospitals in communities where the boys lived. One will go to Children's Hospital of Philadelphia in memory of Curren Collas.
"He would be proud that we fought so hard and for him, " Jackie Collas said.
In all, seven deaths have been publicly linked to unstable Ikea dressers, the first in 1989.
The three lawsuits filed in Common Pleas Court claimed Ikea had known for years of the danger posed by its dressers, yet continued to sell them. Ikea, in turn, argued the parents were negligent for not anchoring the dressers to the wall, as the assembly instructions direct.
The first of the three trials was expected to start next year.
The company instead agreed to settle weeks after turning over to the parents' attorneys the last batch from a trove of internal documents it had long fought to keep confidential, going so far as to risk being sanctioned by a judge.
Alan Feldman of Feldman Shepherd, the Center City firm that represented the families, would not discuss the contents of the records, but said they "100 percent" provided leverage in reaching a settlement.
Under the settlement, which came after two days of mediation, the families' attorneys agreed to return the files to Ikea, with the stipulation that the company not destroy them.
"That was important to us and to the families, " said lawyer Daniel Mann, who also represents the parents. "In the event there are other children this happens to, their families will be able to see what we have seen."
The lawyers said they also represent three other individuals - two children and one senior citizen - who allege they were injured in tip-overs of Ikea dressers. They would not say whether they were also negotiating settlements for those cases.
Lawyers for Ikea, which has its U.S. headquarters in Conshohocken, deferred comment Wednesday to a company spokeswoman. That spokeswoman did not respond to a request to comment.
Ikea has made at least two previous payouts to the parents of children killed in tip-overs of its furniture.
In 2008, Ikea paid $2.3 million to the parents of Katie Elise Lambert, a 3-year-old Huntingdon Valley girl crushed by an Ikea wardrobe while playing in her bedroom, court records show.
The company settled another case the following year, for an undisclosed amount, filed by the parents of a 3-year old girl from Chula Vista, Calif., who died when a three-drawer Ikea dresser in her bedroom tipped onto her.