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Sixth Circuit reinstates class action against Whirlpool over washing machines

By Jessica M. Karmasek | Jul 25, 2013

CINCINNATI, Ohio (Legal Newsline) -- A federal appeals court has reinstated a class action lawsuit filed against Whirlpool Corp. by hundreds of thousands of consumers complaining of moldy odors in their front-loading washing machines, made by the company.

In April, the U.S. Supreme Court reversed a ruling by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit that the consumers could proceed as a group.

On Thursday, the Sixth Circuit, asked by the nation's high court to reconsider its decision in light of another consumer class action involving Comcast Corp., affirmed its original decision.

In the class action, Glazer, et al. v. Whirlpool Corp., two named plaintiffs -- Ohio residents -- bought front-loading washers manufactured by Whirlpool.

Months after their purchases, the plaintiffs noticed the smell of mold or mildew coming from the machines and from laundry washed in the machines.

In fact, one found mold growing on the sides of the detergent dispenser. The other saw mold growing on the rubber door seal, despite keeping the machine doors open to dry.

The two filed suit, alleging tortious breach of warranty, negligent design and negligent failure to warn.

A federal district court later certified a class comprised of Ohio residents who purchased one of the specified machines in the state primarily for personal, family or household purposes and not for resale.

The Sixth Circuit affirmed class certification, with proof of damages reserved for individual determination.

Whirlpool, in October, sought Supreme Court review.

The Sixth Circuit said in its 29-page opinion Thursday that the plaintiffs could pursue their class action because they shared "common questions" about the machines' alleged design flaws.

The case is very similar to another class action, Larry Butler et al. v. Sears Roebuck and Co.

In Butler, owners of Kenmore-brand front-loading washing machines sold by Sears -- and manufactured by Whirlpool -- sued over alleged mold problems.

The Supreme Court vacated the judgment of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit and remanded the case to the Seventh Circuit for further consideration in light of its Comcast decision.

The case is currently pending before the Seventh Circuit.

From Legal Newsline: Reach Jessica Karmasek by email at jessica@legalnewsline.com.

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