Furniture Tip-Overs

by Terry Bryant

Just about any parent of a small child has either had to deal with a furniture tip-over which injured their youngster or has heard stories from their friends whose young kids caused a tip-over of a chest of drawers or giant television. These accidents can cause crush injuries that land children in the hospital – or worse.

The Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) Tip-Over Information Center reports that every single day 71 children are victims of a tip-over accident; on average, a child dies every two weeks in the U.S. when a television, appliance, or piece of furniture falls on them. The CPSC also estimates that between 2008 and 2010, more than 22,000 children under age nine received emergency room treatment for injuries due to tip-over accidents. Dressers and other clothing storage units are linked to at least 11% of furniture tip-over injuries, according to the CPSC.

Common tip-over accidents happen when toddlers climb onto, fall against, or pull themselves up on furniture.  Many have happened with furniture that has drawers or shelves which children climb on.

There are also instances when a piece of furniture tips over due to some sort of defect.  An example might be a bedroom chest of drawers which should be designed and manufactured so that the back and bottom sides are heavy enough to prevent it from falling forward when drawers are opened and weight is placed on the drawers. Some manufacturers don’t take this into account, while others might use heavier woods or add a bit of weight to the bottom to make it more stable. Some make it possible to anchor the dresser to a wall stud behind the dresser and lessen the chances of a tip-over.

Another challenge has been accentuated in the past 10 or 15 years with the advent of giant screen HDTV’s – especially if they rest atop a piece of furniture like a TV cabinet. The CPSC says that 53% of reported tip-over fatalities of young children between 2000 and 2016 involved TVs and dressers tipping over together. Many TVs and furniture pieces still do not come with brackets to attach the heavy structures to a wall stud to prevent them from falling forward and causing serious injuries.

The furniture industry is under no mandatory guidelines on how manufacturers design “tip-over-resistant” furniture. Instead, it incorporates a “voluntary” testing standard — and only for dressers. Any dresser taller than 30 inches should stay upright with 50 pounds of weight hanging from an open drawer, but it doesn’t say where the drawer should be (the higher the drawer location, the less stable the object when subject to weight-related stress). Because the furniture industry has only a voluntary standard, manufacturers aren’t required to conduct safety testing – or even let consumers know if their arbitrary safety standard is met – in order to sell their dressers to U.S. customers.  Some manufacturers meet the standard or exceed it. Others fall short.

It appears that the marketplace has discovered that some companies can design a dresser that is safer and more stable and others either can’t or won’t. Maybe it’s time for the CPSC to take a more active role in establishing furniture safety standards to protect our children. The little ones deserve all the protection they can get.

If your child has been injured by  a furniture tip-over, Terry Bryant Accident & Injury Law is standing by ready to help, beginning with a free case evaluation. Call us now using toll-free 1 (800) 444-5000, or submit your information through our site.