Sears Holdings Corp. and Whirlpool Corp. have agreed to pay for repairs and post public warnings to settle a class action accusing the companies of hiding a defective circuit board that caused name-brand dishwashers to burst into flames. The full estimated value of the proposed settlement hasn’t been made public, but the companies agreed to pay out about $200 apiece to owners of Kenmore, KitchenAid and Whirlpool home dishwashers to cover repairs or rebates to use toward buying a new dishwasher, according to the joint motion for preliminary approval. The parties have also proposed an arrangement in which the Defendants would also pay for repairs of dishwashers that aren’t part of the class but still had fire problems, according to the filing. Some customers can have the full cost of their repairs covered, according to the proposal.

The Plaintiffs filed suit in November 2011 saying that the Defendants knew, or were reckless in not knowing, that certain household dishwashers contained defective electronic control boards that spontaneously overheated, which caused them and other components in the dishwashers to melt, emit smoke and fumes, and combust.

The 10 named Plaintiffs – residents of California, Maryland, Georgia, New Jersey and Massachusetts – all purchased Kenmore, KitchenAid or Whirlpool dishwashers for their homes from 2002 to 2007 that subsequently malfunctioned due to a defective circuit board, the component that performs all the major control functions of the dishwasher and enables the consumer to operate the dishwasher.

In the case of California residents David and Bach-Tuyet Brown, their KitchenAid dishwasher overheated while they were sleeping in April 2010, filling the house with smoke and causing them to spend $70,000 to replace the entire kitchen and to lose an additional $3,000 in rental income as a result of having to vacate the property for three weeks, according to their complaint.

The proposed settlement calls for different answers to different Plaintiffs, according to the filing. For example, people who have already had to repair or replace a dishwasher that caught on fire will get $200 minimum, but if they kept documentation of the costs of repairs they can ask for more, according to the proposed settlement.

The Plaintiffs are represented by Charles F. Fax and Liesel J. Schopler of Rifkin Weiner Livingston Levitan & Silver LLC, Jeffrey M. Cohon and Howard Pollak of Cohon & Pollak LLP, David H. Weinstein and Robert Kitchenoff of Weinstein Kitchenoff & Asher LLC, Steven A. Schwartz and Timothy N. Mathews of Chimicles & Tikellis LLP, and Nicole Sugnet of Lieff Cabraser Heimann & Bernstein LLP.


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