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The Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals today ordered that consumers in six states -- California, Indiana, Illinois, Kentucky, Minnesota and Texas -- who allege that Sears sold them allegedly defective Kenmore front-loading "high efficiency" washing machines manufactured by Whirlpool may band together in a class action.
Sears said it disagrees with the Seventh Circuit's ruling. "We are considering our options and likely will file a petition for a rehearing," the company said in a statement. It added that the washing machines in question have been "hugely popular" with millions of buyers.
According to Jonathan D. Selbin of Lieff Cabraser Heimann & Bernstein appellate counsel of record, consumers in multiple states have filed separate class action lawsuits against Sears and Whirlpool.
The complaints charge that certain front-loading automatic washers manufactured by Whirlpool and sold under the Whirlpool and Sears Kenmore brand names are defectively designed in that they are unable to adequately clean themselves and develop mold, often resulting in foul odors.
In the Sears litigation, before United States District Court Sharon Johnson Coleman of the Northern District of Illinois, the complaint charges that the front-loading "high efficiency" Kenmore washing machines Sears has sold since 2001 are defective. As summarized by the appellate court, "[b]ecause of the low volume of water used in these machines and the low temperature of the water, compared to the volume and temperature of the water in the traditional top-loading machine, they don't clean themselves adequately and as a result biofilm -- a mass of microbes -- forms in the machine's drum (where the washing occurs) and creates mold, which emits bad odors. Traditional household cleaners do not eliminate the biofilm, the mold, or the odors."
In an e-mail to Home Channel News, the company continued: "Kenmore high-efficency washing machines have been hugely popular with millions of cosumers. Our sevice data, and service data reported in media articles, show that an overwhelming majority of our customers have never experienced any mold or odors in these machines, even after many ears of use. In fact, four of the six plaintiffs in this lawsuit have admitted they've had no such problem."
In the Nov. 13 opinion, the appellate court reversed the district court's denial of class certification regarding the mold claim and affirmed the grant of class certification regarding the control unit claim.
The lawsuit covers breach-of-warranty complaints by consumers in six states.