Broken – Deadly Dressers

Who is Ingvar Kamprad?

I didn’t know the name either, until I watched the Netflix documentary, Broken – Deadly Dressers.  Ingvar Kamprad is the founder of the international Swedish retailer IKEA.  Kamprad’s goal was to bring stylish, affordable furniture to the masses. However, Kamprad is depicted in the documentary, as a greedy, careless businessman with little regard for the safety of consumers. The Netflix documentary brings to light the dangers of furniture tip-overs and the resultant serious injuries and deaths. Unsurprisingly, the most vulnerable affected group is children. Today, in the US alone, a child is injured every 30 minutes by furniture tip-overs. Of course, IKEA alone is not to blame. There are many manufacturers and retailers of cheaply made, easily tippable furniture. In order to understand the evolution of this disturbing trend, we need to take a look at the furniture industry. 

A Disturbing Trend

The incidents of furniture tip-overs have increased dramatically in the last 50 years, as furniture manufacturing has changed. Furniture was once sturdy, made to last a lifetime, and passed down from generation-to-generation. Much furniture was manufactured in Highpoint, North Carolina, which caused Highpoint to be known as the “Furniture Capital of the World”. Highpoint was home to 100,000 furniture industry laborers, circa 1990. However, furniture making has gradually decreased in the US, as more and more companies chose to manufacture overseas to cut costs. Between 1998 and 2003, furniture manufacturing in this region was essentially “wiped out” due to the cheap cost of manufacturing furniture in foreign lands. Asian companies went so far as to sell furniture at less than cost, as a way to drive American manufacturers out of business, violating international trade laws in the process.

Parents Take Action – “Parents Against Tipovers”

Hearing the stories of children who lost their lives due to such preventable mishaps is heartbreaking. Initially in the documentary, one set of parents believed that their child had died due to an isolated, freak occurrence. However, they then discovered that their child was not alone. In fact, in the years 2016 and 2017 alone, 31 children died in tip-over accidents. Similarly-situated parents subsequently joined together in an attempt to make a difference and improve the safety standards and overall quality relative to furniture. The parents’ grief turned into a sense of responsibility to educate the public to prevent this type of tragedy from happening to others. That is when the parents formed “Parents Against Tipovers(PAT),” in an attempt to institute change in the industry.

Standards and Enforcement

Whose responsibility is it to protect and educate the consumer about these dangers? PAT turned to the Consumer Product Safety Commission(CPSC). The CPSC’s stated mission is to reduce the risk of injuries and deaths from consumer products, by developing standards within industries. CPSC also issues and enforces mandatory standards, and bans products that do not adequately protect the public.

IKEA claimed it was unaware of the hazards posed by its dressers, despite its products coming with a pamphlet depicting a graphic tip-over warning since 2002. Despite this apparent knowledge, according to the documentary, IKEA continued to sell these dangerous products.

Recall Unsuccessful

After initially resisting an official recall, in June of 2016 IKEA finally agreed to recall the defective dresser. In the interim, IKEA paid a total of $50 million in settlement funds to 3 families who had lost children to tip-over accidents. The recall, however, was far from successful. Of the tens of millions of dressers recalled, only a small fraction of consumers took advantage of IKEA’s offer to either remove the piece of furniture from their home or anchor it to the wall. Moreover, sadly, it wasn’t until March of 2019 that the CPSC voted to enact a mandatory federal safety standard for furniture manufacturing.

With more than 100 years of combined legal practice experience, the lawyers of Noel & Bonebrake can help. Scott Bonebrake has handled thousands of personal injury cases involving negligence on behalf of both plaintiffs and defendants. Contact the law offices of Noel & Bonebrake today!