Babies R Us, furniture maker sued in sisters' dresser deaths

AP News
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Posted: Feb 10, 2015 3:04 PM

PITTSBURGH (AP) — A dresser that fell on two toddler sisters, killing them, had been sold without a strap designed to keep it from tipping over, according to a lawsuit filed against the retailer that sold it and the company that manufactured it.

The lawsuit was filed in Beaver County against Babies R Us and Baby Cache Inc. on behalf of 3-year-old Ryeley Beatty and her 2-year-old sister, Brooklyn.

The lawsuit contends their mother bought the Baby Cache dresser from a Babies R Us store in Cranberry, about 20 miles north of Pittsburgh, in 2010. The dresser fell on the girls in their Aliquippa home July 4.

Beaver County District Attorney Anthony Berosh charged their father, David Beatty Jr., with involuntary manslaughter after a coroner ruled the two died of asphyxiation because the 124-pound dresser kept the 30-pound girls from breathing.

A judge last month dismissed that charge against Beatty, agreeing with his defense attorney that the 29-year-old man didn't realize the girls were in a potentially fatal situation when he saw them both sitting on the open bottom dresser drawer and didn't immediately respond when he heard the dresser crash. Beatty, who was going to the bathroom at the time, has acknowledged waiting about 10 minutes to check on the girls, police said.

The lawsuit doesn't mention the criminal accusations, however, and focuses on the dresser's being sold without a strap to attach it to a wall.

The lawsuit said the store advertised and sold the dresser as a discounted "floor model" that "lacked appropriate labels, warnings or instructions, and anchoring devices."

According to the lawsuit, dressers are supposed to comply with American Society for Testing and Materials standards. Among other things, they require dressers to remain upright when a drawer is opened and 50 pounds is applied to the front, simulating a climbing child. The lawsuit indicates ASTM standards also require either an anchoring strap or labels warning of the tip-over hazard.

Kathleen Waugh, vice president of corporate communications for Toys R Us, the retailer's parent company, said Tuesday the company doesn't comment on litigation. Officials with Baby Cache Inc. of Piscataway, New Jersey, didn't return messages seeking comment on a copy of the lawsuit emailed to them by The Associated Press.

The Feb. 2 lawsuit was first reported Monday by the Beaver County Times. It seeks unspecified damages to cover the dead girls' lifetime earnings, pain and suffering, and funeral expenses, among other claims.

The district attorney's office has appealed to the Superior Court, hoping to reverse the judge's ruling dismissing the manslaughter charge against David Beatty.

Beatty and his wife are still awaiting trial on child endangerment charges stemming from squalid conditions police allegedly found in their home when investigating the girls' deaths, including trash, dirty diapers, and dog and human waste strewn about the house.