PHILADELPHIA (CN) – After focusing considerable attention to a rash of toddler deaths connected to unsteady Ikea dressers, the Philadelphia Inquirer claims in a federal complaint that regulatory stonewalling is frustrating its coverage.
Though the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission and Ikea announced a recall in July 2016, newspaper owner Philadelphia Media Group, PBC, notes that its extensive coverage of Ikea dresser deaths dates back to February 2015.
The newspaper had even filed a request with the commission under the Freedom of Information Act last year when Ikea unveiled a “repair program.” This July 2015 announcement offered free anchoring hardware to owners of the unstable dressers so that they could fasten their dressers to their walls.
Ikea and the commission ultimately recalled 29 million affected dressers when another child died months after announcement of the repair program, the Inquirer says.
“Frustrated by the extent to which the CPSC either withheld or redacted requested records,” the Inquirer says it redoubled its FOIA efforts, filing 10 new FOIA requests just this past August.
Still awaiting an answer to those requests, the Inquirer’s parent filed suit on Nov. 21 in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania. Joining the publisher as a plaintiff is Tricia Nadolny, a staff writer for the Inquirer.
“Plaintiffs hoped that CPSC would be more forthcoming than it had been previously, given the enormity of the recall and the fact that public scrutiny regarding what happened with the IKEA dressers could help the agency better address similar situations in the future,” the 8-page complaint states.
“Unfortunately, Plaintiffs’ hope has proven unfounded to date,” the complaint continues. “Indeed, CPSC has ignored entirely seven of the ten requests and, for two of the other three, it still has not informed Plaintiffs what records it does and does not intend to produce. These nine outstanding requests are the basis of this lawsuit.”
An explanation of the nine outstanding request fills up about half of the complaint, which also includes several dozen pages of exhibits.
One of the requests seeks a PowerPoint presentation that Ikea and its attorneys made to the commission by IKEA and their counsel.
In its Sept. 23 response to this request, attorneys for the commission notified the journalists that they had “to provide IKEA an opportunity to comment before releasing any of the records requested.”
Alleging violation of the Freedom of Information Act, the journalists want an production of all sought-after records.
They are represented by Eli Segal with Pepper Hamilton.
The commission had no way to leave a message when reached for comment on Thanksgiving Eve at 4 p.m.