A recall by Modus Furniture of 1,300 unstable dressers supplied with tip-over restraint kits that do not comply with performance requirements of the industry’s current voluntary safety standard drives home the necessity for building stable furniture, rather than relying solely on wall anchoring to prevent tip-overs.

On June 18, 2020, Modus Furniture issued a joint recall with the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) of its Brighton nine-drawer dressers, Bow-front dressers, Travis nine-drawer dressers, Travis nine-drawer double dressers, Bevelle dressers and Wooden nine-drawer dressers with tapered feet. According to the recall notice, the recalled dressers are unstable if the mirror is not installed, posing serious tip-over and entrapment hazards that can result in death or injuries to children.

The dressers were sold at Costco and other furniture stores nationwide and online from November 2017 through December 2019 for between approximately $700 and $1,100. They have mahogany and cherry wood veneers and satin nickel-finished pull knobs and handles. Each dresser is about 63 inches wide by 20 inches deep and 41 inches high, and weighs about 245 pounds. A label on the back of each recalled dresser displays the date of manufacture and the legend “MADE IN INDONESIA.”

The recall notice does not offer a financial refund for the furniture, but instead instructs consumers to contact Modus for a free replacement tip-over restraint kit and to request a one-time, free in-home installation of the kit. The notice states that the in-home remedy may be delayed due to COVID-19 restrictions and that consumers should keep children away from the dressers until the repair is completed.

Anchoring Furniture Does Not Always Prevent Tip-Overs

The Modus recall comes 15 days after a 6-foot-tall IKEA bookcase that was anchored to a wall fell on top of twin 2-year-old boys. The incident was captured on video by a baby monitor. According to news reports, one anchor was pulled out of the wall, but remained attached to the bookcase. The other anchor stayed in the stud of the wall, but broke off from the bookcase.

Alan Feldman, a co-founding partner at Feldman Shepherd and a product liability attorney, said it is simply unacceptable for Modus, or any other manufacturer, to build unstable furniture and then compound the problem by not providing adequate tip-over restraints. Feldman stated the horrifying video debunks the furniture industry’s “blame-the-victim” argument that tip-overs could be prevented if parents would simply bolt their furniture to a wall. “The video illustrates what manufacturers have known for decades,” that:

  • Tip-over resistance should be incorporated into the design of furniture, rather than making consumers responsible for furniture stability;
  • Manufacturers do not adequately warn consumers of the dangers of falling furniture;
  • Most families do not or cannot affix a dresser or bookshelf to a wall; and
  • Even when tip-over restraints are used, the restraints can fail.

Feldman’s team at Feldman Shepherd, which includes partners Daniel J. Mann and Edward S. Goldis, has recovered nearly $100 million on behalf of four families whose toddlers died from IKEA dresser tip-overs. In May 2020, the team filed a class action lawsuit against IKEA seeking consumer damages, alleging that the furniture giant carried out a “feeble” recall of nearly 30 million dressers that it knew were prone to tip-over. The IKEA dressers did not comply with voluntary safety standards and had caused death and serious injury to children.