About 25 children are killed in Louisiana and around the country each year after being struck by falling television sets or items of furniture, and many of these tragic accidents involve dressers that topple over. Furniture manufacturers voluntarily conduct tip-over tests on dressers over 30 inches tall, but this has not been enough to prevent four dresser recalls over a five-month period. Two such recalls were announced on Oct. 3, and one of them is the first involving a dresser shorter than 30 inches.
The first recall covers about 1 million dressers manufactured by a Canadian company and sold in Sears and Kmart stores. The second covers almost 1,800 dressers made in California and sold by retail chains including Macy’s, Kohl’s and Bed, Bath & Beyond. No injuries or deaths have been reported in connection with the recalled dressers. A representative of the Canadian company said that consumers would be offered an anchoring kit at no charge to secure the potentially unstable dressers to a wall.
Consumer advocacy groups have called for tougher furniture safety regulations, and a bill is currently being considered in the U.S. Senate that would require the Consumer Product Safety Commission to develop a federal rule more stringent than the voluntary industry standard. Senior figures at the CPSC from both sides of the political aisle have voiced support for the Stop Tip-Overs of Unstable, Risky Dressers on Youth Act.
Manufacturers are expected to take all reasonable steps to protect the public, and personal injury attorneys with experience in this area may seek to hold them legally responsible when consumers are injured or killed by defective or dangerous products. Damages in product liability lawsuits are generally awarded to cover the plaintiff’s medical bills, pain and suffering and lost income, but attorneys might also seek punitive damages when the evidence reveals that the defendant ignored a known threat to consumers.