Potential Complexity of Certifying a Class in a Class Action Suit

Potential Complexity of Certifying a Class in a Class Action Suit

A case dating back to 2005 – the time when a consumer purchased a Whirlpool front-loading washing machine and subsequently experienced pervasive mold issues – continues to undergo legal challenges by Whirlpool. The 2005 purchaser turned out to be one of many consumers who experienced the mold problem, with some suffering health issues related to the mold.

The decision published by the United States Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit explains the basic criteria used to certify a class in a class action suit as follows:

  • The class must include so many members as to make individual lawsuit filings impractical
  • Members of the class must have questions of law or fact in common
  • Representative parties for the class must have claims or defenses typical to members of the class
  • The representative parties must fairly and adequately protect the interests of the class

The burden of proof that ascertains a class meets these requirements falls to the plaintiff. While Whirlpool argued against certification based on the grounds that the majority of owners of the models in question had no mold issues with their washers, in May 2012 the district court found in favor of certifying the class. In September of 2012, Whirlpool requested that the U.S. Supreme Court overturn the certification of the class.

A notable point of this case involves the potential complexity involved in filing class action suits. To date, attorneys still cannot initiate the product liability suit that might compensate consumers for the issues they experienced associated with this product.