Back in November 2016, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) announced that Samsung was recalling about 2.8 million of its top-load washing machines. Consumers were reporting incidences of the tops flying off during use, posing a risk of injury from impact. At the time, the company had received nine reports of related injuries, including a broken jaw, damaged shoulder, and other impact and fall-related injuries.
Some of those who were hurt as well as those who suffered economic damages went on to file lawsuits against Samsung, claiming the company should have done more to protect public safety. On October 4, 2017, the U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation (JPML) determined that all federally-filed Samsung washer lawsuits would be consolidated in the Western District of Oklahoma for pre-trial proceedings.
Samsung Washing Machines Reported to “Explode”
Prior to the recall, in September 2016, the CPSC issued a warning to consumers, noting that certain top-loading Samsung washing machines had been linked to safety issues, following reports that some had exploded. The regulators suggested consumers use only the delicate cycle, as the lower spin speed created less risk of the top of the machine becoming dislodged.
Customers who had already experienced these types of problems had filed a class-action lawsuit prior to this warning, claiming that the machines were unreasonably dangerous. One Texas woman noted that her machine “exploded with such ferocity that it penetrated the interior wall of her garage.” That case was filed in New Jersey, with the plaintiff claiming that Samsung was attempting to cover up the problem.
Samsung later acknowledged that some of its top-loading machines posed problems, stating that “in rare cases, affected units may experience abnormal vibrations that could pose a risk of personal injury or property damage when washing bedding, bulky, or water-resistant items.” They held off on recalling the machines for another two months, however, and even then, many customers were still unhappy.
Samsung Recall Leaves Customers Unsatisfied
Samsung gave customers three options when it came to obtaining a recall remedy: repair, replace, or refund. Yet when consumers tried to collect, they allegedly ran up against a number of problems. Those who tried to get a refund said that they were offered only a fraction of the machine’s original price, and those who tried to get a repair struggled to get technicians to arrive when expected. Other consumers complained that Samsung tried to steer them toward buying a new machine at a discounted rate, which would require them to spend more money with the company.
Consumer watchdog group Consumer Affairs reported on other consumers who said their refunds were denied based on dubious claims, such as a receipt being “blurry.” Several also said that their machines didn’t work right even after repairs were performed.
All Samsung Lawsuits Moved to Oklahoma
Plaintiffs filing lawsuits against the company claim that the machines were defectively designed and/or manufactured in such a way that parts of the machines could detach, break apart, or explode during the spin cycle, and that the recall issued in November 2016 failed to provide adequate relief.
The JPML stated in their transfer order that all responding parties supported centralization, arguing only on the best location for it. The JPML agreed that all actions involved common questions of fact, and that centralization would eliminate duplicative discovery, prevent inconsistent pretrial rulings, and conserve the resources of the parties, while promoting just and efficient resolution of the cases.
The panel chose the Western District of Oklahoma because plaintiffs in 20 of the 24 actions supported this location, 4 actions are already pending there, and the district is centrally located relative to the defendants, who have their headquarters in Georgia, Illinois, New Jersey, Minnesota, and North Carolina. Samsung also supported this district. District Judge Timothy D. DeGiusti was appointed to oversee the litigation.