Samsung Defeats Washing Machine Class Actions—For Now

Samsung Defeats Washing Machine Class Actions—For Now Ozkadir Fatih Laundry

Samsung has defeated parts of two proposed class actions in New Jersey federal court over its front-loading washing machines.

The plaintiffs allege that the machines have serious design defects that cause the accumulation of mold and mildew and make the machines unusable for the purpose for which the washing machines were advertised, marketed and sold. Plaintiffs in both cases said they were told to run extra empty cycles to combat the mold problems, which is contrary to the machines’ “Energy Star” label and the representation that the machines would lead to savings in electricity and water usage.

Spera v. Samsung Electronics America. involves a New Jersey plaintiff and a Missouri plaintiff and Chowning v. Samsung Electronics America involves a Colorado plaintiff.

The Spera plaintiffs asserted violations of the New Jersey Consumer Fraud Act, Missouri Merchandising Practices Act, breaches of express warranty and implied warranty of merchantability and unjust enrichment.

The Chowning plaintiffs asserted violations of the New Jersey Consumer Fraud Act, the Colorado Consumer Protection Act, breaches of express warranty and implied warranty of merchantability and unjust enrichment.

U.S. District Judge William J. Martini said that, under New Jersey’s most significant relationship test, more factors weighed in favor of applying the law of the plaintiffs’ home states. Missouri and Colorado law should apply to the Missouri and Colorado plaintiffs’ respective consumer fraud claims because the transactions bear no relationship to New Jersey other than the location of the defendant’s headquarters, the judge said. Thus the judge dismissed those plaintiffs’ New Jersey Consumer Fraud Act claims with prejudice. Read the opinion here.

The judge also dismissed the New Jersey plaintiff’s New Jersey Consumer Fraud Act claim because she did not adequately allege an ascertainable loss between Samsung’s alleged conduct and her alleged injury. The plaintiffs did not allege how much they paid to purchase, repair or replace their washers, Martini said. That claim was dismissed without prejudice.

But Martini said there weren’t grounds to dismiss the New Jersey plaintiffs’ New Jersey Consumer Fraud Act claim on causation. “It is clear from the complaint that if Spera had been made aware of the alleged defects in Samsung’s washing machines, she would not have purchased one,” the judge said.

The judge also dismissed without prejudice the Missouri plaintiff’s Missouri Merchandising Practices Act claim and Colorado plaintiffs’ Colorado Consumer Protection Act claim.

The plaintiffs’ claims for breaches of express warranty and implied warranty of merchantability were dismissed without prejudice. While the court disagreed with Samsung that the breach of express warranty claim failed at the pleading stage because a limited express warranty doesn’t cover design defects, the court dismissed the claim without prejudice because he said it was not clear from the complaint if the plaintiffs contacted Samsung during the one-year warranty period.

The plaintiffs’ claims for unjust enrichment were dismissed with prejudice. They can’t succeed on an unjust enrichment theory because they are indirect purchasers, not direct purchasers, due to the fact they purchased their machines from retailers, not from Samsung, the judge said.

Amaris Elliott-Engel contributes to law.com.

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