April 27, 2014

Consumer News Defective Products

Supreme Court Approves Defective Washer Class Action

Consumers are often forced to take legal action when a defective product results in financial or personal harm. In many cases, product defects will give rise to combined class action lawsuits that give broad rights to consumers who have suffered injury or economic loss. Class action cases can be complicated and require certification by the court, which can be a lengthy process. Once approved, the injured class can proceed in pursuing collective claims against a liable company.                         

Recently, the U.S. Supreme Court held that consumers can press onward with their class action against Whirlpool Corp. for a defective design that caused moldy and stinky front-loading washing machines. According to the plaintiffs, the front-loading washers failed to adequately self-clean. The Sears lawsuit covers consumers’ breach of warranty complaints spanning six states, including Minnesota. Consumer representatives are seeking to represent over 800,000 customers who purchased the moldy washers.

Class actions require that plaintiffs meet certain criteria to meet class status under federal law. In this case, the plaintiffs proved that the design had a defect that caused the accumulation of mold, that the defect was present on all machines at the time of sale, and that the defects rendered them incapable of performance under warranty. Like many cases, the class action is effective and efficient way to resolve multiple claims involving a common set of facts and issues.

The case was originally filed by Ohio consumers and named Sears Holdings Corp., Whirlpool and the German company, BSH Bosch und Siemens Hausgeraete GmbH. In an attempt to challenge class-action status, the defendant companies claimed that the issue only impacted a minority of consumers who used the washer models. Sears also alleged that approving the class action would give rise to more class actions based simply on a failure to meet expectations of a handful of consumers.

The Supreme Court rejected appeals made by the defendant companies. Whirlpool has already agreed to compensate Sears for losses sustained as a result of the defective washers. Both the Sears and Whirlpool cases had been previously reviewed by the Supreme Court and were revised in light of another decision. These cases combined involve tens of millions of consumers and potentially any customer who has purchased a front-loading machine in the past decade.

If you have experienced a defective product or breach of warranty, our legal team at Wanta Thome Jozwiak & Wanta wants to hear from you. We are experienced in handling complex class actions and other consumer rights cases. For more information consumer protection and defective products liability, please call 612-252-3570.