A new proposed class action alleges certain Whirlpool, Kenmore, Maytag, Jenn-Air and KitchenAid refrigerator-freezer combos spanning 100 model numbers were sold with defective control panel parts.
Filed in the wake of a massive $21 million settlement against the company, the 32-page lawsuit says the defective control panel parts, namely model-specific “cntrl-elec” components, can cause an affected fridge’s defrost function to fail and allow ice to accumulate on the outside of the fridges’ doors. If the problem continues, the ice build-up will prevent a fridge’s doors from closing and possibly cause leaks around the bottom of the appliance while shortening its useful life, according to the complaint.
Worse, the issues with Whirlpool’s control panel parts can have a ripple effect on other fridge components—evaporator coils, for one—which, in turn, may also fail to work as intended, the 12-count case claims.
As a result of excess external ice build-up and water damage, “[h]undreds, if not thousands,” of Whirlpool fridge-freezer owners have been left with costly repair bills, the case contends. In addition to whatever it might cost to fix an affected fridge, the defects plaguing the products’ control panel parts have also left Whirlpool owners with pricey repair bills for damage to property, “including but not limited to floors, baseboards, walls, kitchen cabinetry and other appliances in the vicinity,” the lawsuit says.
In some instances, consumers have also been left to deal with food spoilage that occurred as a result of their Whirlpool fridge being out of commission while undergoing repairs, the suit adds, asserting that the risks don’t end there.
“In addition, the build-up of ice and excess water outside of the Class Refrigerators caused by the Control Panels’ defects also pose a risk of serious physical injuries such as the risks of slipping and electrical shock when leaking in the vicinity of electrical cabling, outlets and other appliances,” the lawsuit, filed in California federal court, says.
Which fridges does the lawsuit say have defective control panel parts?
According to a document filed along with the plaintiffs’ complaint, approximately 100 fridge models sold under the brand names Whirlpool, Kenmore, Maytag, Jenn-Air and KitchenAid are affected.
The refrigerator-freezer combos were designed, manufactured and/or sold by Whirlpool and equipped with control panel components that include “cntrl-elec” parts tagged with the following manufacturer numbers: Org. Manu. No. W10665178/Current Manu. No. W10830278 and Org. Manu. No. W10635302, W10790783, W10814803, W11113852 or W11185975/Current Manu. No. W10830288.
Did Whirlpool know about the issue?
As the lawsuit tells it, Whirlpool knew or reasonably should have known that problems with certain fridges’ control panels could cause the defrost function to fail or malfunction and lead to ice accumulation outside a fridge’s doors. Along the same lines, Whirlpool knew or reasonably should have known that the control panel issues could also harm the performance of other refrigerator components, the suit argues.
From the complaint:
“Defendants knew or reasonably should have known about the Control Panels defects through internal reports and/or sources not available to the public or consumers, e.g. direct consumer complaints about ice build-up and excess water outside of the Class Refrigerators made to Defendants, warranty reimbursement requests and repair orders for replacement of the Control Panels in Class Refrigerators, Defendants’ testing conducted in response to warranty reimbursement requests and repair orders for replacement of the Control Panels in Class Refrigerators, replacement part sales data, and other internal sources of aggregate information about the such [sic] defects.”
According to the lawsuit, Whirlpool knew or reasonably should have known about the control panel problems yet “chose not to inform the public” or issue a recall. Had consumers known of the problems, they would not have bought their Whirlpool-made refrigerator-freezers, the complaint contends.
Who is covered by the suit?
The lawsuit looks to cover all consumers in the United States and its territories who at any time within the last four years bought and took delivery of a covered Whirlpool refrigerator-freezer model, acquired an affected model as part of the purchase or remodel of a home, or received as a gift an affected Whirlpool fridge not used by the donor or anyone else before being gifted.
How can I be included?
It’s a common misconception, but consumers generally do not have to do anything to be considered “included in” or “a part of” a class action lawsuit. They typically only need to act when and if a case settles.
Class action cases almost always take time to work their way through the legal system, usually toward either a settlement or dismissal. This means that it might be a while before it comes time for those who are covered by a lawsuit—called “class members”—to come forward and submit claims for whatever compensation a judge deems appropriate.
So, what do I do now?
In the meantime, the best thing to do is sit tight and stay informed. We’ll update this page with any significant developments in the case, so be sure to check back. To have class action news sent to your inbox, sign up for ClassAction.org’s free weekly newsletter here.
The complaint can be found below.