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Product liability and Ikea

View profile for Beth Wallace
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Recent news reported Swedish giant Ikea had agreed to pay $46m to the parents of a child killed when the company’s Malm drawers toppled over, suffocating him in May 2017. This may shock some, given the presence of the Malm range in so many homes without knowledge of the dangers posed by the furniture.

Sadly, this is not the first incidence of death or harm being caused by a consumer product. We have previously written about Ikea’s Mysingsӧ deckchair recall as a result of hand and finger injuries being sustained indicating a fault with their product.

Here we discuss the basis of a claim against a company for injury caused as a result of a defective product.

Statutory product liability

The Consumer Protection Act holds manufacturers to strict liability for their products causing personal injury or death. This means that provided it can be proven: the product was defective; you have suffered ‘damage’; and there is a causal link between the defective product and the damage suffered, you will have the basis of a claim.

What is a defective product?

A product will be considered defective if the safety of it is not such as persons generally are entitled to expect. The court will take into account all of the circumstances including the intended customer, the manner in which the product is intended to be used, any instructions for use or warnings, what customers might reasonably be expected to do with or in relation to the product and the time when the product was supplied. This means that industry safety standards at the time the product was supplied will be considered and not those of a later date if they have since been raised.

Case law has established that no specific defect needs be proven. It has however stated the principle of a defect as the abnormal potential for harm – i.e. whatever it is about the condition or character of the product that elevates the underlying risk beyond the level of safety that the public is entitled to expect from a product of that type.

There are no further guidance or particular circumstances that will be taken into account as the courts seek to maintain a flexible approach in the assessment of an appropriate level of safety.

Put simply, if you believe a particular product is not safe for purpose or does not adhere to the level of safety that the general public would expect from that product and this product has caused you or your family injury, you may have a claim under the Consumer Protection Act.