Last week furniture maker IKEA issued a recall notice for 27 million of its Malm chests and dressers. Because of the way that they are designed, the furniture can easily tip over under normal use. According to USA Today, two children died in 2014 after their Malm chests flipped over on them. IKEA reported three other deaths involving other furniture items dating back to 1989. What can we learn about product liability in Tennessee from the IKEA recall?
Under Tennessee law the manufacturer or seller of a defective or unreasonably dangerous product is responsible to the ultimate consumer of the product for physical harm caused to the consumer. This particular product is not defective, but it could certainly be argued that it does meet the qualifications for “unreasonably dangerous.”
To determine if a product is “unreasonably dangerous,” Tennessee law uses what is known as the “consumer expectation test.” The question is simply this: would an ordinary consumer with ordinary knowledge of the product consider it to be a dangerous product if used according to its specifications?
Manufacturer’s and Supplier’s Duty
According to Tennessee law, a manufacturer has a “duty to use reasonable care in designing manufacturing, testing and inspecting the product” and failure to fulfill that duty is considered negligence.
Tennessee law also stipulates that “a supplier who knows or reasonably should know that a product is likely to be dangerous for its intended use…has a duty to use reasonable care to warn of the product’s danger.” Since IKEA both manufactures and sells the product in question, the company is solely liable to its consumers.
IKEA is not proposing that consumers return their products, but rather is offering a free wall anchoring kit for the pieces, a feature that is required in Sweden, where the products are manufactured. To receive a free wall-anchoring kit, consumers can visit an IKEA store, register at www.IKEA-USA.com/saferhomestogether, or call toll-free at 888-966-4532.
IKEA is also reportedly working with the Consumer Product Safety Commission and the American Home Furnishings Alliance to design and produce safer products in hopes of preventing these types of accidents in the future.
Purchasers of this product have the right to accept the wall anchoring kit or to insist on returning the product for a full refund. Purchasers of this or any other product which causes injury with normal use have the right to seek additional compensation for those injuries. Claims for compensation have a time limit, known as a statute of limitations, for filing. This could be as little as one year or, in some cases, even less. Therefore, anyone with an injury claim should seek legal advice promptly.