Furniture retailer Ikea is facing two wrongful death lawsuits following the two separate deaths of Camden Ellis and Curren Collas. The boys were killed when Ikea dressers toppled over onto them, crushing them.
Ikea Facing Wrongful Death Lawsuit
Two-year-old Camden Ellis was killed in June 2014, after being pinned under a three-drawer IKEA MALM dresser. But he wasn’t the first - Curran Collas died in February 2014 when a similar six-drawer dresser fell over onto him.
In both accidents, the dressers had not been secured to the floor or wall, and neither dresser contained an anti-tip prevention device.
The complaint filed by the parents of Camden Ellis in the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas, accuses IKEA of continuing to sell the dresser even after they had been made aware of the tip-over injury risk as the result of the death of Curran Collins.
On July 22, 2015, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) and IKEA announced 27 million of chests and dressers were potentially unsafe if they were unsecured. That’s when IKEA launched its dresser repair program. Rather than recalling all of the products, the company provided free wall anchoring kits and tip-over restraints to owners that had purchased the furniture that had been shown to tip-over. The kits contain tip-over restraints in addition to full wall anchoring kits with hardware, instructions, and warning levels, and are available for use with MALM 3- and 4-drawer chests, two styles of MALM 6-drawer chests, children’s IKEA chests, all model dressers taller than 23 ½ inches, and all IKEA adults chests and dressers taller than 29 ½ inches
Reports show that since 1989, IKEA has been aware of three tip-over deaths in addition to the deaths of Camden Ellis and Curran Collins. And both IKEA and the CPSC are aware of 14 other reports of the MALM brand line furniture pieces tipping over.
While IKEA will not comment on the pending litigation, they released a statement saying they are “committed to product safety and educating our customers about the need to properly secure chests of drawers to the wall.”
Still, the Collas and Ellis families question if these kits are enough. According to Alan Feldman, the lawyer representing the Collas and Ellis families, “The anchor kits are not enough. The first thing they need to do is design-in safety.”
Falling Furniture and Tip-Over Accidents
But falling furniture and tip-over accidents are not just an “IKEA” problem. According to CPSC data, falling furniture and TV tip-over accidents send a child to the hospital every 24 minutes. Over the last 13 years, 430 deaths have been caused by these types of accidents.
A study done by researchers from the Child Injury Prevention Alliance from 2013, found that 400,000 children were treated in emergency rooms for tip over accidents involving furniture over the past two decades. More than half of those visits were due to televisions that fell on a child.
Because children are more susceptible to tip-over accidents because of their height and their propensity to try and climb to reach toys or other items, the CPSC recommends parents never leave objects that would entice a child to reach or climb up furniture that could potentially pose a tip-over hazard.
Compensation in Personal Injury Cases
The Collas and Ellis families are seeing compensatory damages for medical expenses, pain and suffering, emotional distress and funeral expenses. They are also seeing punitive damages for IKEA.
There are two main kinds of damages that can be sought in personal injury cases: compensatory and punitive.
“Compensatory” means something that will compensate for the loss that occurs in a personal injury case. Typically, money is the compensation that a family or person receives. Compensatory damages means you may be eligible to receive money to compensate for:
- Property damage
- Loss of enjoyment of life due to injury (or death of family member)
- Current and future medical bills to treat injuries or sustain life
- Current and future lost wages or lost earning potential due to time spent healing from injuries
- Current and future pain and suffering or emotional distress from injuries or loss of life
Punitive damages are used to punish the at-fault party for negligence or illegal activity that resulted in harm to someone else. The thought behind punitive damages is that if a company or someone has to pay a large sum of money, they might reconsider being involved in such reckless behavior again. The negligent party can also face criminal prosecution.
As with any lawsuit, you’ll want to understand the process. The best way to know how to proceed in a wrongful death lawsuit is to work with a personal injury attorney.
Two Forms of Wrongful Death Claim
In addition to the types of damages you can seek, there are two forms a wrongful death claim can take: negligence, or intention. This means either the victim died as the result of a negligent act of the defendant. Or the victim died as the result of the defendant’s intentions to kill the victim. Some examples of negligence include: victim’s death as a result of medical malpractice or the victim dies as the result of a faulty engine in the car the victim was riding in. And example of intention is when the defendant is believed to have murdered the victim on purpose.
Proving a Wrongful Death Claim
For the defendant to be declared liable in a wrongful death claim, the claim brought must meet the same burden of proof that the victim would have had to meet if the victim was alive. In the case of a negligence trial, plaintiffs must show the defendant owed a duty of care to the victim, that the defendant breached this duty of care, and that the breach of this duty directly caused the death of the victim. In the IKEA case, it would seem that the retailer would owe their consumer a duty of care to the victim, due to the fact that they had been made aware of previous tip-over accidents.
Bringing a Wrongful Death Claim
Often the deceased person’s surviving relatives, dependents or beneficiaries bring the wrongful death suit against the responsible party or parties, seeking monetary damages for their loss. Often times the jurisdiction determines the individuals who are able to bring the claim. Generally, the primary beneficiaries (often the spouse and children, or in the IKEA cases, the parents) are able to bring a claim. While in some states parents of the deceased person may be also designated as beneficiaries. But, in most states, if the deceased person did not leave behind a husband or wife, any children or parents, there may be no one who will be able to bring a wrongful death claim.
In order to legally recover damages in a wrongful death action, there are some general requirements that must be met. They are as follows: (1) The death must have been caused by another’s negligence, i.e., it must be showed that the negligent person was at fault for the death; (2) if the deceased was alive, he or she would have been entitled to recover damages from the at fault party; and (3) the party or beneficiaries must meet the legal requirements to be allowed recovery of damages in the Wrongful Death action.
Wrongful death laws vary from state to state
Not every state follows the same guidelines, principles, or rules. And each state has its own set laws regarding wrongful death. A personal injury attorney can help advise you on if your wrongful death claim is valid and can help you are you pursue a claim against the responsible party or parties.
“True” versus “Survival Actions”
Some states have “true” wrongful death acts. This is when the deceased person’s survivors or next of kin are able to bring a cause of action for their damages inflicted as a result of their family member’s death. Other states have acts called “survival actions.” This form of lawsuit is brought by the survivors on behalf of the deceased person. This cause of action is for the deceased person’s pain and suffering that resulted from the injuries that caused his or her death.
In many jurisdictions, when the defendant’s negligence contributes only in part or in tandem with other circumstances to a person’s death, and not just the sole cause, liability may still be attached to the defendant.
The attorneys at Personal Injury Attorneys PLLC have experience handling personal injury cases such as wrongful death, <a href="https://www.personalinjuryattorneys.me/motorcycle-accident-attorney-phoenix/">motorcycle accidents</a>, <a href="https://www.personalinjuryattorneys.me/car-accident-attorney-phoenix/">car accidents</a>, <a href="https://www.personalinjuryattorneys.me/slip-and-fall-attorney-phoenix/">slip and fall accidents</a>, and <a href="https://www.personalinjuryattorneys.me/dog-bite-attorney/avoiding-dog-bites/">dog bites</a>. After contacting an attorney they will investigate the specifics of the personal injury. The more information you can provide to them, the better. That means specifics of the crash, any witness information, any medical bills or time spent in hospital, and the specifics of your injuries. They will build a case for you based on these specifics and then defend you should the case go to trial. You'll want to work with experienced personal injury attorneys like the ones at Personal Injury Attorneys PLLC.