As the holidays approach, Janet McGee and her family are left wondering what their son would look like or what he would be interested in.
"We will never know the funny things he would say or do to remind us of his carefree, innocent, yet sometimes overly serious personality," McGee wrote as part of a lawsuit against Ikea over a tipped-over dresser that killed her 22-month-old son Ted on Valentine's Day.
The case was settled this week for $50 million, to be split by the McGees and two other families who also lost toddlers to the dressers, which were later recalled.
"You chose to wait until my son died to address the problem," McGee wrote to Ikea as part of the mediation process. "Why did Ted have to die before your analysts could finally have the data they need to confirm that you had reached your risk tolerance? To you, this is another number, a statistic, a business decision. You get to go home to your families at night. I go home to a quiet house that used to be filled with laughter and smiles. I go home to an empty room."
A spokeswoman for Sweden-based Ikea declined to comment Thursday about the tentative settlement, which awaits state court approval in Philadelphia, where Ikea has its North American headquarters.
The McGees, of Apple Valley, and a family in the Philadelphia area and another in Washington state will evenly split the settlement, which was reached Tuesday evening after two long days of private mediation before retired U.S. Magistrate Judge Diane Welsh.
The Philadelphia-based attorney for the three families, Alan Feldman, said the substantial payout reflects "the pain and suffering" the children experienced, as well as "the behavior of Ikea" in connection with these "entirely preventable deaths."
Feldman said he believes Ikea settled in order to avoid a trial and keep its executives from revealing "what they knew and when they knew it" about the dangers of the dressers.
"They were anxious to avoid a public grilling of their executives on some of the very bad ... design decisions," he said.
The McGees did not respond to interview requests sent through Feldman.
From repair plan to recall
Theodore "Teddy" McGee was killed on Feb. 14 when a six-drawer version of the Malm brand dresser toppled onto him in his bedroom. His parents had just put him down for a nap, and his mother later found him under the tipped-over dresser.
In her letter, Janet McGee described having to "dig through drawer after drawer, only to discover his quiet little body under your monstrous dresser."
His death occurred despite a repair program that Ikea and the U.S. Consumer Products Safety Commission (CPSC) announced in July 2015 after the other two deaths in 2014.
As part of the repair program, Ikea offered free wall-anchoring kits for the dresser in response to tipping injuries.
But many buyers, including Teddy's parents, said they were not aware of the tipping risk or the offer to fix it.
In June, Ikea agreed to stop selling the dresser, which was priced from $80 to $200, and recalled it. In addition to the three children who were killed, several other people were injured.
The recall came after three members of Congress, including Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., urged federal regulators to push for a ban on sales, as well as the recall. Ikea had sold 29 million of the dressers. They also introduced a bill that requires the CPSC to mandate a stronger stability standard for storage units that includes chests, bureaus and dressers.
In a statement Thursday, Klobuchar said "Ikea has taken some responsibility for these deaths, both through the settlement and the biggest furniture recall in the history of America. ... Until we have effective standards in place, kids will continue to be at risk of injuries and death. We need to pass my bill to prevent any further tragedies, ensure stronger standards across the board and protect our children."
Future claims possible
The settlement does not insulate Ikea from any future claims made for injuries or deaths connected to the dressers.
"The fact they put those dressers out there ... and to the extent that someone else is injured or killed, in most circumstances they would be just as liable as they were to my clients," Feldman said.
In February 2014, 2-year-old Curren Collas was killed by a six-drawer chest that tipped over on him at his home in West Chester, Pa., according to the CPSC.
Four months later, 23-month-old Camden Ellis, of Snohomish, Wash., became trapped under a three-drawer chest. Neither chest was secured to a wall, the agency said.
Feldman said other stipulations in the settlement require the furniture retailer to:
• Make $50,000 donations to children's hospitals in the communities where the fatalities occurred.
• Donate $100,000 to Shane's Foundation, an organization devoted to children's safety with a focus on furniture tip-over prevention and education.
• Sell chests and dressers in the United States that meet or exceed the performance requirements of a national voluntary safety standard for clothing storage units.
• Increase funding for its "Secure It" program to raise awareness of the risk of tip-overs, to include national television advertisements, internet and digital communications and in-store warnings.