In 2016, Swedish furniture retailer IKEA agreed to pay a $50 million dollar settlement to three families whose children were injured by a falling dresser that was originally sold by IKEA. In 2016, the company recalled the 8 million “Malm” dressers sold in the US, but many of the dressers are still found in homes throughout the United States, with many owners unaware of the recall. Unfortunately, this means that many children are still at risk, as illustrated by a case in which the recalled dresser toppled over and killed a child in 2017, a year after the recall was issued. In January 2020, IKEA reached a $46 million settlement with the child’s parents.
In both instances, IKEA was found liable under product liability law. Product liability refers to the area of law in which manufacturers, distributors, suppliers, retailers, and other entities which make products available to the public are held liable for injuries caused by those products.
The child’s parents argued that IKEA knew of the danger, but did not make an effort to notify buyers of the danger.
In 2016, prior to the child’s death, IKEA offered free wall-mount anchor kits to any owner of the dresser. This was enough for the Pennsylvania court—the state that is home to IKEA’s North American headquarters—to rule the company liable for the toddler’s death.
In general, to recoup damages from a product manufacturer under product liability law, plaintiffs must prove that the manufacturer was negligent. The fact that IKEA offered free wall-mounts to customers meant that they knew of the furniture’s propensity to topple. Unfortunately, the victims in this case claimed that they were unaware of the free wall-mounts. Because IKEA did not mitigate the clear danger their product posed to the victim, the court found them liable for damages.
It’s clear that product manufacturers are held to high standards when it comes to product liability. This is especially true in California, where the bar to prove a product manufacturer liable for injuries is even lower.
While the United States is the birthplace of modern product liability law, this area of law has a history tracing back to the Industrial Revolution.
In the 1840s, as industrial hubs around the East Coast boomed, there was an increase in product liability cases. According to one researcher, “waves of technological change explain the most important transformations of American tort law.” Suffice to say, more product manufacturing led to more consumers purchasing those products, which in turn led to more product-related injuries.
Over the generations that followed, much debate was had about manufacturer negligence, and what if any obligations manufacturers had to ensure the safety of their customers. The California case of Greenman v. Yuba Power Products, Inc. (1963) is considered one of the landmark cases that established strict liability in the state.
The primary legal issue of the case was to determine if a manufacturer is strictly liable if a product they sell causes injury to a consumer, regardless of negligence. The California Supreme Court ruled in favor of the plaintiff, finding that a manufacturer is strictly liable if their product, when used as intended, causes an injury.
In general, to prove a manufacturer strictly liable for injuries sustained using their product, a plaintiff must prove:
- The defendant designed, manufactured, distributed or sold a defective product.
- The product contained the defect when it left the defendant’s possession.
- The plaintiff used the product in a reasonably foreseeable manner.
- The plaintiff suffered harm as a result of the defect.
Keep in mind that each product liability case is different, and these factors may or may not be considered in your case.
If you have been injured by a consumer product, contact Penney & Associates today. Our personal injury lawyers are ready to get you the compensation you deserve. Call us for a free consultation.