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Whirlpool Faces Class Action Suit Over Fridge Defective Control Panel

The lawsuit claims that the faulty control panels caused ice buildup, resulting in further damage to other parts of the fridge and its surroundings.
By Simpluris Research
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Law360 reported that lead plaintiffs, Kimberly Chebegia and Kristopher Spear, filed a proposed class-action lawsuit in the U.S. District Court Southern District of California against the defendant, Whirlpool Corporation, for selling certain refrigerators ("Class Refrigerators") with defective control panels, which ultimately caused further damage to the fridge and its surroundings. 

According to its 2019 Form 10-K filed with the Securities and Commission Exchange (SEC), the Delaware-based home appliance manufacturer sells and distributes "major home appliances and small domestic appliances primarily under the Whirlpool, Maytag, KitchenAid, JennAir, Amana, Roper, Admiral, Affresh and Gladiator brand names primarily to retailers, distributors and builders."  

The lawsuit discussed the domino effect of the faulty control panel and asserted that Whirlpool knew or reasonably should have known that the defective control panels:

  • fail, causing the defrost function to fail, leading to ice accumulation on the outside of the refrigerator doors, and ultimately, preventing the doors from closing and leaking below and to surrounding areas.
  • damage and impede the useful life of the refrigerator, its components and homes including, but not limited to, the evaporator coils, panels, thermistors, and/or home interior near and around the leaking refrigerator.
  • create a risk of food spoilage. 
  • pose a risk of serious physical injuries such as the risks of slipping and electrical shock when leaking in the vicinity of electrical cabling, outlets and other appliances.

The plaintiffs claim that Whirlpool should have been alerted about the issue through 1) internal reports and/or sources not available to the public or consumers, e.g. direct consumer complaints about ice build-up and excess water outside of the refrigerators, 2) warranty reimbursement requests, 3) repair orders for replacement of the control panels, 4) replacement part sales data, and 5) other internal sources of aggregate information about defects. Thus, they believe that the household appliance giant should have known about the risks of its unreliable control panels, yet "chose not to inform the public, the Plaintiffs or the Class before their purchases about these defects and risks and not to issue a recall on the Class Refrigerators, all in order to increase Defendants’ profits."

Plaintiffs are suing Whirlpool based on its violation of:

  1. Strict Liability—Failure to Warn
  2. Strict Liability—Manufacturing Defect
  3. Strict Liability—Design Defect—Consumer Expectation
  4. Strict Liability—Design Defect—Risk-Benefit
  5. Negligence—Manufacturer or Supplier—Duty to Warn
  6. Negligence— Failure To Recall/Retrofit
  7. Breach of Express Warranty
  8. Breach of Implied Warranty of Merchantability
  9. Violations of Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act, 15 U.S.C. § 2301, et seq.
  10. Violations of Song-Beverly Consumer Warranty Act, Cal. Civil Code §§ 1790, et seq.
  11. Violations of Consumers Legal Remedies Act, Cal. Civil Code §§ 1750, et seq.
  12. Violations of Cal. Business & Professions Code §§ 17200, et seq.

The plaintiffs seek to represent class members in the U.S. within a four-year period prior to the lawsuit filing date through the trail date who:

  1. purchased and took delivery of a refrigerator-freezer model listed in Exhibit 1 (Class Refrigerators) of the lawsuit,
  2. acquired one of the Class Refrigerators as part of the purchase or remodel of a home, or
  3. received as a gift, from a donor meeting requirements (a) or (b), not used by the donor or by anyone else after the donor purchased it.

Whirlpool has not yet issued a statement regarding this lawsuit.

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