Adding to a growing list of ineffective dresser recalls that do little to keep children safe, the company that took over Kmart has recalled nearly 20,000 unsafe and unstable dressers, while telling some customers that their only remedy is to anchor the dangerous dressers to the wall themselves.
On August 11, 2020, Transform SR Holding Management issued a joint recall with the Consumer Product Safety Commission for Essential Home Belmont 2.0 four-drawer chests, sold exclusively at Kmart stores nationwide and online at Kmart.com from March 2018 through April 2020. The retail price of the dresser was about $60. According to the recall notice, the chests are unstable and can tip over if not anchored to the wall, posing serious tip-over and entrapment hazards that can result in death or injuries to children. The chests measure approximately 29.8 inches in height and 27.7 inches in width, and were sold in four colors including black, pine, walnut and white. The Brazilian manufacturer’s name, “Kappesberg Moveis,” and the model number “F214” can be found on the instruction manual that came with each chest.
The recall notice does not offer a refund for the furniture, but instead instructs consumers to immediately stop using the recalled chests if they are not properly anchored to a wall and to place them in an area that children cannot access. Consumers are told that for chests purchased on or after February 11, 2019, they should contact Transform to receive a free wall-anchoring kit and upon request, they will receive a one-time, free in-home installation of the kit. Astoundingly and without any explanation, consumers who purchased the dressers before February 11, 2019, are instructed to contact Transform for the free anchoring kit only and are not offered the in-home installation.
Instructing Families to Wall-Anchor Unstable Dressers Is Not an Effective Recall
Alan M. Feldman, a product liability attorney and co-founding partner at Feldman Shepherd Wohlgelernter Tanner Weinstock Dodig LLP, takes issue with Transform and other players in the furniture industry, who put unstable and unsafe dressers into the marketplace and then instruct consumers to fix their defective products by “playing handyman” and bolting the furniture to a wall. He noted that many people do not own or know how to use power tools and are not comfortable with drilling holes into their walls and furniture.
Even for families who are offered free in-home installation of a wall-anchoring kit, anchoring still may not be feasible because they are not permitted to make holes in the walls of rented apartments or they have baseboard heating which prevents a dresser from being positioned flush against the wall.
“Wall attachment is not a substitute for the good, safe design of dressers that are stable and tip-resistant even when used as stand-alone furniture” said Feldman. “There is simply no excuse for making dressers that are so unstable a two-year-old can tip them over.”
Feldman observed that the Kmart recall is part of a disturbing trend in which the furniture industry has attempted to shift responsibility for the safety of its products onto its customers. It is the third dresser recall in recent months ― following recalls by Modus Furniture and Prepac ― in which consumers were not offered a financial refund as an incentive to remove dangerous furniture from their home, but instead were told to anchor it.
Recalls that tell consumers that wall-anchoring is their only remedy are destined to be ineffective, Feldman said, since it has been well-established through research that most Americans do not anchor any type of furniture in their home.
The recall of the Kmart dressers comes just three months after Feldman’s team at Feldman Shepherd, which includes partners Daniel J. Mann and Edward S. Goldis, turned up the heat against furniture giant IKEA over an ineffective recall in 2016 that left millions of dangerous dressers that could tip over and seriously injure or kill young children in people’s homes. On May 6, 2020, Feldman Shepherd filed a class-action lawsuit in federal court in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania against IKEA seeking damages for consumer protection violations, IKEA’s failure to issue refunds as promised in the recall, and for IKEA’s inadequate attempts to notify purchasers of the recall.