Chenille Robe Fire Lawsuits May Be Centralized in MDL

The U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation has scheduled a hearing for next week to consider whether to consolidate all federal product liability lawsuits filed against Blair LLC, over a chenille robe recall issued by the company last year after at least nine people burned to death.

At a hearing in San Diego on March 25, the panel will consider whether to centralize and consolidate at least four Blair chenille robe fire lawsuits that have been filed so far for pretrial litigation. If an MDL is formed, the cases will be assigned to one judge for coordinated management to avoid duplicate discovery, inconsistent rulings from different judges and to serve the convenience of the court, parties and witnesses. At the hearing, plaintiffs and defendants in the claims will have a chance to submit oral arguments for or against the centralization.

The Blair chenille robe recall was originally issued in April 2009 for 162,000 robes after the company received three reports of the garmets catching fire, leading to injuries. In June, after receiving six more reports of Blair robe deaths, the company and federal regulators issued another warning that the robes had been recalled. The robe recall was expanded in October to include an additional 138,000 women’s chenille full-length robes, women’s chenille jackets, women’s chenille lounge jackets and women’s chenille tops after the company continued to receive reports of robe fires and deaths. In most cases, the victims were elderly women who were cooking at the time of the fire.

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The cases under consideration for consolidation include wrongful death lawsuits brought by Harold A. Ledbetter, Michelle Putini and Sharon Davis, who all represent the estates of people who died allegedly due to Blair robe fires. Another lawsuit was filed by Agnes Wise, who says she suffered severe injuries due to a Blair robe fire. All of the lawsuits include claims that the robes violated the Federal Flammable Fabric Act, and charge the manufacturer with negligence and product liability.

The clothing, made in Pakistan by A-One Textile & Towel, and was distributed by Blair through Blair Catalogs, online and from the company’s stores in Pennsylvania and Delaware. The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) has said that the clothing did not meet federal flammability standards.

The request to consolidate the lawsuits came from Blair, LLC and Orchard Brands Corp., Blair’s parent company. The companies are seeking to have the lawsuits consolidated in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Alabama.

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