A lawsuit filed in Montgomery County, Pennsylvania, has charged the U.S. furniture industry with failing to ensure its products are safe for use around children.
A complaint filed Monday in Montgomery County Common Pleas Court accuses American Home Furnishings Alliance Inc. and American Society for Testing and Materials, or ASTM International, of negligence in the May 2017 death of a 2-year-old boy in Lakeland, Florida.
The plaintiff, Meghan DeLong, found her son Conner unresponsive beneath an IKEA eight-drawer dresser on Mother’s Day 2017. Although DeLong was able to get the furniture off her son, he had been cut off from oxygen while he was pinned under the dresser.
According to the complaint, the child “was declared brain-dead and later removed from life support by his mother.” The suit goes on to allege the defendants were aware that ASTM F2057, the furniture industry’s tip-over standard “promulgated and implemented by AHFA and ASTM,” was ineffective in preventing children from knocking over household items.
“AHFA and ASTM knew the standards and criteria set forth in ASTM F2057 were inadequate to protect children from the tip-over hazard posed to young children, but nonetheless knowingly misled the entire furniture industry, United States government, and American consumers into relying on, and developing a false sense of security from, a standard that did not protect against the harm it purported to,” the lawsuit said.
Citing a study by nonprofit children’s product safety organization Kids In Danger, the complaint contends approximately 22,000 children younger than 8 years old are annually injured by furniture that’s toppled over.
The lawsuit asserts the defendant’s “failure to exercise reasonable care in the promulgation, implementation, or amendment of furniture stability safety standards, including but not limited to F2057, increased the risks of harm to Conner DeLong.”
ASTM’s communications director Nathan Osburn did not return inquiries by press time. Pat Bowling, vice president of communications with the AHFA, said the company had no comment on the litigation.
Read the lawsuit:
DeLong had previously filed suit and settled with IKEA prior to Monday’s legal action. Her attorney, Leesfield Scolaro partner Thomas Scolaro, said because the dresser that killed his client’s son met the defendant’s safety standards, ”the manufacturer was duped as well.”
“It is our position and our client’s position that the furniture industry … has failed the consumers, has failed the American public and children by promulgating a standard that gives parents an incredibly false sense of security,” the Miami litigator said.
Scolaro added the current test only checks to see if a unit falls over when all drawers are fully opened or when a single 50 pound weight is placed on individual drawers while they’re extended. He asserted the present test weight is “inadequate if you’re going to go with this static pull out one drawer at a time nonsense.”
Scolaro said an increase to a 60-pound test weight would encompass a larger range of children, as would a progressive test where multiple drawers are opened from the bottom up as more weight is steadily applied. He noted DeLong’s son “only weighed 31 pounds.”
“When kids are hell-bent on climbing up something, they’re going to figure out a way to do it,” Scolaro said. “They don’t pull out the lower drawer and become Superman. … They have to pull out multiple drawers. There’s no test that includes a dynamic force or dynamic weight on the drawers when multiple are pulled out.
He added, ”If a 31-pound child can tip over this dresser, that tells you you’re not testing remotely what you should be.”
Scolaro said he and DeLong hope “to bring new and stricter testing standards and requirements through this lawsuit.”
“I have found through my 20 years of experience that the only thing that motivates corporations and companies to change is when they are at risk for being sued and paying damage claims,” he said. “Meghan only wants Conner back, and since that’s not going to happen, she has charged me with making sure this doesn’t happen again, and this is how I’m fulfilling my promise to her. She wants to make sure there are no more Conner DeLongs.”