According to a report from the Daily Local News, Pennsylvania woman Jaquelyn Collas has filed suit against IKEA after her two year old son was crushed to death in his bedroom by a dresser she purchased from the Swedish furniture giant. The crux of the suit is that the 136 pound, six drawer MALM dresser lacked “sufficient or proper warnings or instructions” and failed to include “sufficient or proper hardware, tools and equipment” to secure the dresser to the wall which would have prevented it from falling. Callas alleges that IKEA knew of the tip-over hazards associated with the dresser and other vertical furniture.
In response to the suit, IKEA issued the following statement to media outlets:
All of us at IKEA express our sincerest condolences to the Collas family. At IKEA, the safety of our products is our top priority. All of our products go through extensive testing and are regularly evaluated. IKEA chests of drawers are safe for their intended use when properly assembled and permanently attached to the wall, in accordance with the warnings and instructions. The best way to ensure the stability of chests of drawers is to permanently attach them to the wall.
IKEA’s statement regarding the warnings appears to be supported by the current assembly instructions accompanying the dresser. On the top of the second page of the instructions, the following warning is found (in 30 languages):
This furniture must be affixed to the wall with the enclosed wall fastener.
Different wall materials require different types of fixing devices. Use fixing devices suitable for the walls in your home (not included). If you are uncertain about what type of screw of fitting to use, please contact your hardware store.
Smack in the middle of the step-by-step instructions, you will also find this image:
With the written warning and accompanying diagram, it appears that IKEA has at least attempted to warn of the danger of vertical furniture contrary to Collas’ allegations. (Of course, we do not know when Collas purchased the dresser and is at least possible that the instructions were modified thereafter.) Regardless, we question whether such warnings should be necessary in the first place. Essentially, the tip-over hazard associated with any piece of vertical furniture is a result of physics and the law of gravity. While the average person may not be well-versed in the nuances of physics or know that the standard acceleration due to gravity is 9.8 meters per second squared, they should be aware of the general center-of-gravity principles in layman’s terms. Think Newton and his apple.
A related, but possibly more problematic issue, is that Collas may have a difficult time proving exactly how the dresser fell in the first place. Collas discovered the accident when she entered her son’s room and found him face-up, wedged between his bed and the dresser. Did the dresser fall on its own? Did it fall because the boy attempted to climb it? Did it fall due to some other unknown reason? Certainly, Collas’ fallback position will be that the dresser wouldn’t have fallen due to any reason had IKEA just told her to affix it to the wall. IKEA then counters that it did so as discussed above and circular argument enthusiasts rejoice.
At the end of the day, this is a tragic accident that could have been avoided. We just question whether it was IKEA’s job to do so.