Ashley Furniture sued over death of infant crushed in power recliner
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Ashley Furniture sued over death of infant crushed in power recliner

Jun 13, 2023

The child was fatally injured inside a recliner chair after a young sibling closed it using the power control button.

The parents of an 11-month-old boy who was crushed inside a power recliner chair, suffering fatal injuries, filed a lawsuit Wednesday against the furniture company that sold them the product.

Nicaela Bier and Joshua Ross filed the complaint in Clark County District Court against Ashley Furniture and salesperson Paula Andrews over the 2022 death of their son, Ryder Michael Ross.

“He was pushed against the mechanism, and he asphyxiated,” said Brett Carter, one of the attorneys representing the parents. “It’s about as tragic as you can get.”

The lawsuit contends that the Cranedall 5-piece Power Reclining Sectional, a V-shaped couch, was defectively designed and manufactured by Ashley Furniture and that the company and Andrews acted negligently in not warning the boy’s parents about potential hazards to children.

Carter said that when Ryder crawled under an electric-powered recliner in the couch, the boy’s 3-year-old sister operated the couch’s controls, causing the footrest to close on him and pull him under. The lawyer said Ryder’s head was crushed, and he could not breathe.

The folding chair “acts as a sweep without any protection,” Carter said. “It muffles any of the sound for the child when it’s closed. Their gasping can’t be heard.”

He said he and his clients want to make sure that the public is aware of the dangers of such recliners to children and to prevent something like this from happening again.

Ashley Furniture, based in Arcadia, Wisconsin, was founded in 1945 and now “is the largest manufacturer of home furnishings in the world,” according to its website.

“We extend our heartfelt sympathies to the family during this difficult time,” Cole Bawek, the firm’s corporate spokesperson, stated in response to the suit.

“As a company, our top priority is the safety of our customers, and we consistently seek to exceed industry standards in this regard,” Bawek said. “While the alleged accident is extremely unfortunate, we want to emphasize it was not in any way a result of the furniture or any actions on our part. Our thoughts remain with the family as they navigate this tragic loss.”

Carter said the parents went to the Ashley Furniture store at 6425 N. Decatur Blvd. and bought the recliner sectional from Andrews.

The accident occurred on May 8, 2022, at the family’s home, and the boy was taken to Summerlin Hospital Medical Center, where it was discovered that he suffered from an abrasion to his scalp and a severe brain injury with a lack of oxygen, according to the lawsuit.

Ryder was transferred to the Pro Care Hospice in Las Vegas, where he died on May 26, 2022, of the brain injury, known as hypoxic ischemic injury and encephalopathy, based on the lawsuit.

The lawsuit alleges that Andrews should have alerted Bier and Ross when she spoke to them about buying the sectional because the parents were there with their infant child and Bier was pregnant with Ryder.

A sales employee of the Ashley Furniture store on Decatur said Andrews no longer works there and had moved away.

Bier and Ross could not be reached for comment. But in an interview last November with the London-based British newspaper The Sun, Bier said that Ryder was born in June 2021 and that the family moved to a larger home in Las Vegas in April 2022.

On the day of the accident, which was Mother’s Day, Ross was off to the supermarket, and Ross’ father was staying with them, she said.

Bier described finding Ryder “lifeless and trapped behind the chair’s metal bar.”

“It was like time stood still as I pulled him out, seeing his bluish-purple face,” she told the newspaper.

Her daughter had apparently opened the recliner using the control and closed it, not knowing Ryder had climbed inside, she said.

In 1985, the Consumer Product Safety Commission issued a warning to parents about the potential for death or injury to children using or playing on recliners, which then were present in 24 million U.S. households.

In 1991, in Garden Grove, California, the parents of a boy whose head was crushed in a near-fatal accident with a reclining chair settled a lawsuit against chair manufacturer Mohasco Corp. and the Levitz furniture store chain for $5 million, according to the Los Angeles Times.

Most child deaths involving furniture happen from dressers tipping over. Such accidents have killed 210 people, mainly children age 6 or younger, since 2000, according to a 2020 article by the nonprofit Consumer Reports.

Contact Jeff Burbank at [email protected] or 702-383-0382. Follow him @JeffBurbank2 on Twitter.