By: Austin Kirk | Published: August 23rd, 2013
The U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation (JPML) will hear oral arguments next month on a motion filed to consolidate and centralize all federal lawsuits filed over Electrolux dryers, which have been linked to fires and property damage in homes throughout the United States.
More than 50 Electrolux dryer fire lawsuits have been filed in U.S. District Courts nationwide, alleging that the dryers had a uniform defect and that the manufacturer failed to adequately warn about the accumulation of lint in areas that are not visible or serviceable by users.
The motion (PDF) was filed last month by American Family Mutual Insurance Company, one of the plaintiffs involved in the litigation.
American Family claims that each of the Electrolux cases involves common factual allegations that fires were caused by a single product, asking that all of the cases be transferred to the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois for coordinated management during pretrial proceedings, as part of an MDL or Multidistrict Litigation.
In complex product liability litigation, centralizing similar cases before one judge as part of an MDL is designed to reduce duplicative discovery, avoid conflicting pretrial rulings and to serve the convenience of the parties, witnesses and the courts.
“American Family and other insurance companies have paid millions of dollars in property damage claims caused by fires that originated in Elextrolux dryers,” according to the motion. “After engaging experts to analyze the dryers and the fire scenes, American Family and other insurers have filed subrogation lawsuits against Electrolux alleging that a defect in the design of the Electrolux ball hitch dryers caused the dryers to start fires.”
Each of the Electrolux dryers involved in the fires featured a common design known as a “ball hitch.” Plaintiffs claim that this design has caused lint to accumulate behind the drum and in the heater pan, which could be ignited by the heat source.
The subrogation claims seek to force the dryer manufacturer to reimburse the insurance carrier for claims paid under insurance policies after fires were caused by the Electrolux dryers.
It does not appear that an Electrolux dryer recall has ever been issued for the “ball hitch” design, and the motion does not identify specific models that have been linked to fires. However, plaintiffs claim that incidents have occurred among gas and electric clothes dryers designed for home use and use in laundry centers.
Plaintiffs indicate that the Electrolux fire litigation remains in the early stage of discovery, and that a large number of the cases were only recently filed. In addition, American Family says that it is aware of other unfiled cases that would be appropriate for coordination.
Oral arguments on the motion to establish an Elextrolux dryer MDL have been scheduled for the next hearing of the U.S. JPML, which will be held in Philadelphia on September 26. Following presentation of arguments by all interested parties, the panel will decide whether the lawsuits should be centralized and will determine the most appropriate transfer venue for the litigation.