The STURDY Act Passes to Help Make Children Safer

The Stop Tip-overs of Unstable, Risky Dressers on Youth (STURDY) Act—to minimize deaths from unsafe dressers—was passed by Congress and signed into law by President Biden on December 29, 2022.

Now, in 2023, this recent law is predicted to prevent deaths and protect youth from avoidable injury and death.

Daniel J. Mann is with the legal firm Feldman Shepherd Wohlgelernter Tanner Weinstock Dodig LLP, which handled a large number of dresser tip-over cases involving injuries and deaths to children. Mann and his colleagues have many tip-over cases that are currently in suit.

“Every dresser tip-over client that I have had was a good parent and was safety conscious,” Mann said.  “They all share the horrific experience of putting their child to bed thinking he or she was safe, then later discovering that child pinned and suffocated beneath a fallen dresser. This new law will keep young children safe in their bedrooms and save other families from preventable tragedies.”

According to Mann, anyone of any age can be seriously injured or killed by a dresser tip-over. However, toddlers are at particular risk because they are naturally curious. Prior to this law being passed, there were no mandatory testing procedures in place.

“Prior to this new law, the stability of dressers made or sold in the United States was governed by nothing more than a voluntary safety standard created primarily by the furniture industry itself,” Mann said. “The new law makes safety mandatory, not voluntary. Dressers will now have to pass tip-over performance testing that simulates real-world use — for instance, placement on carpeting, drawers with items loaded in them, and the dynamic force a toddler exerts when climbing a dresser or pulling on a drawer.”

According to a 2022 report by the United States Consumer Product Safety Commission, there was an estimated annual average of 19,400 emergency department (ED)-treated injuries (2019-2021) and 592 reported fatalities associated with tip-over incidents occurring between 2000 and 2021 related to televisions, furniture, and appliances.

The report notes that fatality counts for years 2020-2021 should be considered incomplete due to a time lag in reporting to the CPSC. Tip-over fatalities involving a chest, bureau or dresser made up 38 percent (225 out of 592 fatalities) of all tip-over deaths to all ages, and of these 225 fatalities, 87 percent (195 fatalities) involved a child.

Also according to Mann, starting at about age two, children may open multiple dresser drawers or attempt to climb in or sit in a drawer.

Young children do not have the strength to prevent a dresser from falling or to lift a dresser that has tipped over onto them. Making an already dangerous situation worse, tip-over accidents often occur when parents think their child is safely asleep in bed, and parents may not hear the dresser fall because the child’s body and carpet often cushion the impact.

Parents have been on the front lines to help make this legislation possible.

“There are many parent groups and advocates who worked tirelessly for years to educate the public about dresser tip-overs and get the STURDY Act passed,” Mann said. “Several of our former clients whose children died from IKEA dresser tip-overs were among the parents who lobbied heavily for the STURDY Act. Parents Against Tip-Overs, whose founding members include two of our former clients, Kids in Danger, Consumer Reports Advocacy, and Consumer Federation of America were among the many organizations that were instrumental in getting this law passed.”

According to Mann, the STURDY Act was passed in the final days of 2022 as the 117th Congress was ending. As there was no time left for lawmakers to pass the Sturdy Act as a standalone bill, it was inserted into and passed as part of the unrelated $1.7 trillion omnibus spending bill, which was the final bill taken up by the 117th Congress.  

The bill was sponsored by Sens. Bob Casey, Amy Klobuchar, and Richard Blumenthal, and Rep. Janice Schakowsky.

“I attribute the bi-partisan support to the fact that furniture tip-overs impact families without regard to political affiliation,” Mann said. “Whether we are Democrats or Republicans, I think we can all coalesce around the principle that furniture that is unsafe and unstable by design has no place in our homes, particularly when it is accessible to children.”

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