Whirlpool Moldy Washer Class Deal Gets Final Nod

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By Perry Cooper

Sept. 26 — Whirlpool Corp. won final approval of a class settlement over allegations that its front-loading washing machines were prone to mold ( In re Whirlpool Corp. Front-Loading Washer Prods. Liab. Litig. , 2016 BL 314799, N.D. Ohio, No. 08-65000, 9/23/16 ).

The U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Ohio Sept. 23 certified a nationwide class for settlement purposes and approved the deal, ending the long-running litigation.

The settlement comes after a bellwether trial ended in a defense verdict in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Ohio ( 15 CLASS 1265, 11/14/14 ). The parties settled while awaiting a decision from the Sixth Circuit on appeal.

Three Options

The settlement provides three options for those who actually experienced mold growth and bad odors: a $50 cash payment, a 20 percent rebate off a new washer or up to $500 in reimbursement of documented expenses to service their machine. A 20 percent rebate is worth between $127 and $170, the court said.

Class members who didn’t experience mold issues can get 5 percent off a new washer.

So far 7.3 percent of the 3.5 million class members who received direct notice of the settlement have filed claims. Whirlpool said at the final fairness hearing that only 7 percent of the 5.5 million washing machines sold actually had mold problems.

“Therefore, 63 percent of class members who suffered mold problems have filed a claim,” the court said. “This is a very high ratio.”

Fee Award ‘Bargain’ for Class

The court also approved an attorneys’ fee award of $6.7 million for class counsel and $8 million in costs. Class counsel calculated its lodestar at more than $33 million.

“Counsel’s request for a fee award of less than $7 million is not merely reasonable, it represents a bargain for the class,” the court said.

In a related suit, the Northern District of Illinois granted final approval Sept. 13 to a class settlement resolving claims that a defect caused the central control unit of Whirlpool’s machines to malfunction. It also approved $4.8 million in attorneys’ fees.

Lieff, Cabraser, Heimann & Bernstein; McCarthy, Lebit, Crystal & Liffman and others represented the plaintiffs.

McCarter & English; Wheeler Trigg O’Donnell and others represented Whirlpool.

To contact the reporter on this story: Perry Cooper in Washington at pcooper@bna.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Steven Patrick at spatrick@bna.com; Nicholas Datlowe at nDatlowe@bna.com

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