California District Court Refuses To Certify 33-Jurisdiction Class Due To Material Variations in State Warranty Law

by Carlton Fields
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The U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of California certified a California-only subclass of purchasers of allegedly mislabeled KitchenAid refrigerators but denied plaintiffs’ motion to certify a 32-state and District of Columbia class, holding that Rule 23(b)(3)’s predominance and superiority requirements were not met due to material variations in applicable state warranty law.

Plaintiffs alleged that they had purchased refrigerators with an Energy Star label and that the Department of Energy later determined the refrigerators were not Energy Star compliant. Plaintiffs sought to certify a 32-state and District of Columbia class of purchasers, alleging claims for violation of California’s Consumer Legal Remedies’ Act, Unfair Competition Law, and False Advertising Law, and for breach of express warranty.

The court held that certification of the California subclass was appropriate after determining that, for plaintiffs’ California claims, materiality could be demonstrated by classwide proof, and, further, that purchaser reliance on the Energy Star logo could be presumed. The court, however, found that plaintiffs had failed to meet their burden, under California choice of law rules, of demonstrating the absence of material variations in state warranty law, thereby precluding certification of a 33-jurisdiction class.

The court noted that plaintiffs’ chart purporting to show uniformity of state warranty law contained numerous inaccuracies and, in examining the case law cited by plaintiffs, found that there were material variations in potentially dispositive aspects of a number of states’ warranty laws. The court also held that each jurisdiction had a strong interest in applying its own consumer protection laws to the transactions that took place within its borders.

Thus, the court held that “each class member’s breach of express warranty claim should be governed by the laws of the jurisdiction in which the transaction took place.” The court further determined that the complexities involved in applying various states’ laws could not be overcome by the creation of subclasses.

Dei Rossi v. Whirlpool Corp., No. 2:12-cv-00125-TLN-CKD (E.D. Cal. Apr. 28, 2015).

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Carlton Fields
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