The US Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit has reaffirmed the certification of a class of purchasers of Whirlpool appliances in light of the Supreme Court’s recent decision in Comcast Corp. v. Behrend, 133 S. Ct. 1426 (2013).
In 2010, a class of Ohio purchasers of the Whirlpool Duet washers was certified as to liability in a products liability action against Whirlpool, with proof of damages reserved for individual determination, and in 2012 the Sixth Circuit affirmed. This year, the Supreme Court vacated the decision with instructions to reconsider in light of its March opinion in Comcast, which held that certification was not proper where the proposed class failed to demonstrate that damages could be decided on a class-wide basis.
On remand, Whirlpool argued that, because consumer laundry habits vary widely from household to household, the question of what caused mold to grow in the Whirlpool washing machines would need to be determined on an individual basis not suitable for class action. The Sixth Circuit rejected the argument, citing Amgen Inc. v. Connecticut Retirement Plans, 133 S. Ct. 1184 (2013). The court noted that if the plaintiffs successfully proved a defective design, all class members had experienced injury by virtue of Whirlpool’s failure to disclose it; if the plaintiffs failed, then no action could be maintained. As a result, the class stood to “prevail or fail in unison,” and was appropriately certified. Notably, the Sixth Circuit distinguished and limited Comcast on the grounds that only a liability class, and not a damages class, had been certified, suggesting that Comcast may not have broad applicability in class actions where the questions of liability and damages are tried separately.
Glazer v. Whirlpool Corporation, No. 10-4188 (6th Cir. July 18, 2013).