The theme for this Recall Roundup is effectiveness of recalls. In October, the US Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation released an investigative report criticizing the CPSC’s data-handling breaches from the spring. This month, the Office of Oversight and Investigations Minority Staff from the same US Senate committee released a report criticizing the CPSC’s handling of three “high-profile failures to effectively recall dangerous products” last year. The report summarizes the CPSC’s actions related to jogging strollers, infant reclined sleeping products and home elevators. The report concludes that the CPSC’s “failures” are “the result of a pattern of inappropriate deference to industry that has characterized CPSC leadership in recent years.” The report recommends that the CPSC “at a minimum” increase the use of imminent health and safety warnings, fine companies that fail to timely report substantial products hazards and use refunds or consumer-friendly repairs as default remedies.

Also facing criticism over the effectiveness of a dresser recall, IKEA —the largest furniture retailer in the world—made headlines for agreeing to pay $46 million to settle a lawsuit brought by the parents of a two-year-old boy killed by a tipped over dresser that IKEA had recalled in 2016. The wrongful death lawsuit includes allegations that the boy’s parents “never received notice” of the 2016 recall because its notice was “wholly insufficient” and too “tepid to raise public awareness” of the furniture’s risk. In a USA Today article, the family’s lawyer said that IKEA had the parents’ contact information because their dresser was purchased on an IKEA credit card. The lawyer asserted that IKEA should have done everything it could to inform consumers and purchasers that the dressers were defective, suggesting that IKEA should have used the IKEA credit card information to facilitate a targeted, more effective notice of the recall. The lawyer attributed the settlement amount, in part, to IKEA’s failure to more aggressively promote the recall. The settlement obviates the need to test that theory of notice, but retailers with branded credit cards should take “notice” of this “notice” allegation.

IKEA’s recent $46 million settlement ups the ante from the settlements it reached in 2016 when IKEA paid $50 million to settle dresser tip-over cases brought by three families. Each family had a two-year-old boy killed by a tipped-over Ikea dresser. The families’ wrongful death claims alleged that the unsafe design of IKEA’s dressers rendered them inherently unstable and easily tipped over. The families asserted that, unlike other American furniture companies, IKEA consistently refused to meet voluntary safety standards for the stability of dressers. The families also claimed there was evidence to show that IKEA was aware of other deaths and injuries arising from furniture tip-overs that failed to meet the voluntary standards but refused to redesign its products to be more stable and tip-resistant. The 2016 lawsuits prompted IKEA to recall 29 million units of chests and dressers with tip-over hazards. This is the recall that led to IKEA’s recent $46 million settlement for a single plaintiff in response to the lawsuit challenging, among other things, the effectiveness of the recall.

Total Recalls: 13

Hazards: Fall (3); Choke (2); Crash (2); Laceration (1); Entrapment (1); Failure to Activate (1); Carbon Monoxide (1); Tip-Over (1); Fire/Burn/Shock (1)