Centralization Sought for Samsung Washing Machine Lawsuits

As a growing number of class actions lawsuits continue to be filed in U.S. District Courts nationwide over recalled Samsung top-loading washing machines, the manufacturer is asking a panel of federal judges to consolidate the litigation before one judge for coordinated pretrial proceedings.

There are currently at least 24 class action lawsuits, filed by 40 plaintiffs, pending in 20 different federal districts, each raising similar allegations that Samsung sold defective and dangerous washing machines.

The litigation stems from a Samsung washing machine recall first issued in November 2016, impacting about 3 million units that were in homes throughout the United States. Samsung recalled the washing machines after at least 733 consumer reports indicated that they may begin to shake violently and break apart, exploding and causing projectiles to fly from the machines.

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Since the recall, a steady stream of Samsung washing machine lawsuits have been filed by plaintiffs nationwide, over the damages and injuries allegedly caused by the washing machines themselves, as well as class action complaints that allege the company’s efforts to compensate owners for the defective washing machines were inadequate, and appeared to be designed to force consumers to do more business with Samsung.

On June 6, Samsung, Sears and Lowe’s Home Centers, all defendants in the various cases, filed a motion to transfer (PDF) with the U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation (JPML), indicating that centralization before one judge is necessary to reduce duplicative discovery and avoid contradictory pretrial rulings from different courts.

“The Complaints propose overlapping, and in many cases, identical, putative nationwide classes and/or multiple state classes,” the motion states. “At center stage of each of these Complaints are allegations that these washers possess certain defects that manifest themselves during the spin cycle and pose a risk of harm to consumers and their property, as well as allegations concerning the damages that consequentially flow therefrom. The Complaints each claim that Defendants purportedly knew of the defects and concealed them from consumers while they continued to sell the machines.”

At least nine injuries have been linked to the recalled Samsung washing machines, including a broken jaw and injured shoulder from a consumer being hit by pieces of the metal frames or struck while attempting to control the shaking washing machines. According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), many of the reports also included incidents of property damage to surrounding walls and floors in laundry rooms.

Prior to the recall, a warning was issued on September 30, alerting consumers about the risk that Samsung machines may explode or break apart. The warning resulted in an investigation by both the CPSC and Samsung, which concluded that the impacted top-loading washing machines can lose balance at high spin speeds with heavy loads, such as bedding or bulkier water resistant items. When the loss of balance occurs, the machines may spin out of control, causing excessive vibration that may result in the top of the frame detaching from the chassis, posing an impact injury risk.

How Samsung handled the recall generated even more ill will among many consumers.

At the time of the recall, consumers were given three options: refund, replacement, or repair. However, many consumers have left comments on this website and social media complaining that Samsung is trying to force them to take the washing machine replacement option, or a discount towards a new machine that forces them to spend more money on the manufacturer’s products.

Many sought to receive a refund, but are complaining that they are being steered away from that option, or being offered pro-rated refunds based on the age of their machine. Some report they are only being offered a fraction of the original price of $450 to $1,500, even if their machine is only a couple of years old.

Consumers also report that the Samsung washing machine “repair” option is not acceptable, consisting of a sticker that is placed on the controls, blocking the more high-powered options, as well as reinforcing the lid. This leaves homeowners with a washing machine that does not have features they paid for, and many suspect they still have an unreasonably dangerous and defective product in their homes.

The motion seeks to have all of the class action lawsuits consolidated before one judge in the  United States District Court for the Western District of Oklahoma. It is likely the U.S. JPML will consider oral arguments on the motion during an upcoming hearing session scheduled for September 27, in Boston, Massachusetts.


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