Monday, September 25, 2023
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GE Can’t Drain Washing Machine Class Action

(CN) - General Electric cannot dismiss nationwide class allegations that its front-loading washers accumulate mold, mildew and foul odors, a federal judge ruled.

Stanley Fishman, Suzanne Bowser and Vicki Plunkett are the lead plaintiffs in a New Jersey federal class action alleging that defects in the drums, doors, and door seals of GE's front-loading washer machines build up moisture, residue, and bacteria, which in turn form mold, mildew, and foul odors that permeate clothing.

GE allegedly concealed the defects by making "affirmations of fact and promises including those found in its advertisements, promotional and marketing materials, point-of-sale displays, product specifications, and within the washing machine manuals."

Fishman, Bowser and Plunkett hope to represent a nationwide class and a subclass of "all persons in Missouri, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania who own a washing machine for personal, family, or household purposes."

They claimed to have paid far too much - from nearly $600 to over $2,000 - for the supposedly Energy Star-certified machines, which began to mold within months. GE allegedly recommended that Bowser and Fishman keep their machine doors open to prevent molding, and even gave Bowser a box of Tide washing machine cleaner to remedy the problem, but the measures were unsuccessful, according to the complaint.

The consumers also said that GE owner's manual specifically warns that leaving the washer door open creates a risk of injury to children and pets who might be enticed to hang on the door or crawl inside the washer.

GE ultimately gave Fishman a $75 check for the inconvenience.

U.S. District Judge William Martini concluded last week that the plaintiffs cannot recover for unjust enrichment because they did not purchase their washing machines directly from GE, but he refused to dismiss the nationwide class allegations at this stage of the proceedings.

The decision also states that the plaintiffs failed to plead plausible warranty claims.

"In this case, the amended complaint fails to describe the most important part of the express warranty claim: the express warranty," Martini wrote. "Plaintiffs allege that 'GE has breached its written warranty,' but plaintiffs do not identify the actual language or source of this written warranty, or specify when the warranty was in effect."

The fraud claims furthermore lack the particularity required by Rule 9(b), according to the ruling.

"Despite filing a 39-page, 152-paragraph amended complaint, plaintiffs failed to provide basic information about key aspects of their claims," Martini wrote. "For example, plaintiffs do not specify which washing machines they are talking about. Plaintiffs do not provide model numbers, dates of manufacture or any other information identifying precisely which products are at issue in this litigation. Further, plaintiffs failed to provide essential dates, such as the dates on which Bowser and Plunkett discovered the alleged defect in their washing machines. Finally, plaintiffs assert that 'GE . . . made express representations about the quality of its washing machines,' but do not identify what these representations were or when they were made. Without this basic information, the allegations in the amended complaint are not sufficient 'to place the defendant [or the court] on notice of the precise misconduct ... charged.'"

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