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Lawsuit Settles for $46 Million In Favor of The Parents of Child Crushed by a Dresser

The moment children are born they began to explore the world around them. From opening their eyes and looking around to walking and talking they are learning about their physical abilities. Proprioception is how the body is able to sense its location, movements, and actions. Such sensory ability is why people, especially children, can move without consciously thinking about their environments. As children grow and test their physical capabilities, they may reach, pull, and climb on items that can tip-over on top of them.

Furniture tip-overs are often occur when large and heavy furniture becomes unbalanced. According to The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) report, Product Instability or Tip-Over Injuries and Fatalities Associated with Televisions, Furniture, and Appliances, the main sources of furniture tip-overs include

  • Chests,
  • Bureaus,
  • Drawers,
  • Bookshelves
  • Television stands,
  • Desks

Injuries and fatalities can occur from furniture tip-overs. Approximately ninety percent of deaths due to furniture falling over occur in the home with fifty percent occurring in a bedroom. Many of the injuries and fatalities occur because the furniture was not secured. Children reportedly have more furniture tip-over injuries and fatalities than adults. About every 43 minutes a child in the United States is a victim of a furniture tip-over.

May 24, 2017, two-year-old Jozef Dudek was put down in his for a nap by his father. When his father returned later to check on him, he was found crushed under a 70-pound IKEA dresser. He later died from injuries to his neck that caused him to suffocate. The parents purchased the dresser in 2008, which was voluntarily recalled by IKEA in 2016. The Dudeks said that they never received notice of the recall. The recall of 29 million chests and drawers came after three children died in the previous two years in dresser tip-over accidents. Other dangers of tipping over included having multiple drawers open at the same time and a child opening drawers and trying to climb on them

His parents filed a lawsuit against IKEA for knowing that their dressers had been associated with many injuries and death caused by tip-overs. The lawsuit also alleged that the IKEA failed to take the adequate measures to improve the safety and stability of the dressers. The lawsuit included additional legal claims such as,

  • failure to warn consumers the dressers should not be used without being anchored to a wall
  • intentionally or recklessly failing to redesign the dresser to address the risk of injury or death
  • failure to warn the public of the risk
  • failure to stop the sale of the specific line of dressers

The lawsuit reached a settlement. IKEA agreed to pay the $46 million to the family of Jozef Dudek. The amount is believed to be the largest for a child wrongful death action.

Under Michigan law, a wrongful death action arises when a death of a person or injuries resulting in death are caused by a wrongful act. Products that are defective because of manufacturing or design can lead to death or injuries resulting in death. A product liability lawsuit deals with death or injury to person or damage to property because of the production of a product. Product production includes manufacturing, construction, design, assembly, inspection, warning, instructions, selling, packaging, and labeling. The manufacture or seller of is liable for harm or death caused by a product defect if the plaintiff proves the product was not reasonable safe at the it left the manufacturer or seller and a safer alternative was available to prevent harm without changing the use or desire of the product.

The plaintiff in a products liability case, may seek economic and noneconomic damages the resulting injury or death. Economic damages are the damages that have dollar amount that can be calculated and verified, such as medical expenses, lost wages, loss of future earnings, burial costs, or loss of employment. The noneconomic damages does not have set amount and are emotional and mental damages from the injury or death. They include pain and suffering, mental anguish, disfigurement, emotional distress, or loss of companionship. Michigan law places a cap on the amount of noneconomic damages the plaintiff may recover in a product liability case. The plaintiff may not receive noneconomic damages in an amount greater than $280,000 unless the defect in the product caused death or permanent loss of a vital bodily function. If so, the total amount of noneconomic damages cannot exceed $500,000. However, if the court determines that at the time the of manufacture or distribution of the dresser, the defendant had actual knowledge the product was defective and substantially likely to causes injury, but intentionally disregarded the knowledge, the limitation of damages does not apply.

When the injured party or the deceased victim’s legal representative files a product liability wrongful death lawsuit, the lawsuit must go through the legal process. The case may settle before going to court or may undergo a lengthy trial. Therefore, the resolution of the lawsuit may take place several weeks to years from the date the lawsuit was filed. However, the medical or burial expenses are due regardless the outcome of the case. An option to cover costs during the lawsuit is litigation funding It is a third-party financing that pays the legal costs associated with the lawsuit and assumes the financial risk of a legal case. The plaintiff usually pays the financing company only if the lawsuit settles or wins a trial. “Although the financing company provides the funding, the client still controls the case,” says Daren Monroe of the Litigation Funding Corporation.

Litigation Funding