Sunday, August 2, 2015 - A settlement has been reached in litigation concerning the defective washer panels and mold complications of appliances manufactured by Whirlpool and Kenmore. The plaintiffs have agreed to a settlement with the retailer Sears Roebuck and Co. over the defective washers, and that agreement has now been passed for approval by the presiding judge.
The lawsuits in the class action litigation against Kenmore and Whirlpool are split into two groups. The first group claims that the front panels on the appliances are defective and make the machines difficult to operate. The second group only applies to Whirlpool products and claims that the washers allow for mold to develop inside the paneling of the appliance.
The Whirlpool mold accretion lawsuits did not progress as well in the past year after a jury sided with Whirlpool in a trial related to the mold allegations in October of 2014. These lawsuits, which were consolidated into multidistrict litigation, were voted down after the jury determined that the plaintiffs‘ claims were not valid as they could not prove a specific injury caused by the washers. A federal court in Illinois however decided to certify another class bringing mold accusations, and this time the defendants decided to settle with the plaintiffs after only four days.
The litigation regarding the faulty appliances had been ongoing since 2006. Despite many attempts, some even successful, to thwart the plaintiffs‘ case, the final consolidation of the lawsuits in the Northern District of Illinois federal court was a strong indicator to the defendants that a settlement was imminent. The judge dismissed the defendants‘ arguments claiming that
because the design of the washers were different from the ones when the original mold accusations were made, the lawsuit should not have been granted consolidation. Instead, the court ruled that if the design change did not address the problems originally referenced by the plaintiffs the certification could go through.
The main allegations levied against Kenmore, Whirlpool and Sears claimed that their brand name washer and dryers had defective front panels meant to control the appliances and after moderate use, the machine built up a noticeable amount of mold. Plaintiffs claim that the front panel issue causes the washing machine to diagnose problems that are not occurring, eventually resulting in the entire appliance shutting down mid-cycle.
The allegations relating to the mold claim that an unhealthy amount of the substance can build up in the washers. This was identified as a serious health hazard by the plaintiffs, and although not all machines built up what was deemed to be an excessive amount of mold, their ability to do so laid the groundwork for the liability-only settlement that was agreed to.
The settlement is reported to grant each class member with $300 per machine they purchased that experiences the problems named in the lawsuits. The Kenmore class includes purchasers of the appliance between June 2004 and February 2006. The Whirlpool class includes purchasers of their appliance between May 2004 and February 2006. The settlement also includes measures to reimburse plaintiffs who had their machines repaired in reaction to the alleged problems.