Judicial Panel Grants Defense Request for Pretrial Coordination of Class Action Lawsuits Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1407, Opposed by All Class Action Plaintiffs, but Limits Scope of Centralization Order to Only Five (5) of the Eight (8) Class Actions at Issue, and Transfers Actions to Northern District of Ohio rather than Illinois as Requested by Defense Attorneys
Eight class actions – four in Illinois, two in New Jersey, and one in Ohio and New York – were filed against various defendants, including Whirlpool and Sear, Roebuck, alleging products liability claims; specifically, the class action complaints alleged that “certain front-loading washing machines manufactured by Whirlpool and sold under the Whirlpool brand name contain design defects that cause the machines to fail to drain properly, thereby resulting in the creation of mold, mildew, and associated unpleasant odors.” In re Whirlpool Corp. Front-Loading Washer Products Liability Litig., ___ F.Supp.2d ___ (Jud.Pan.Mult.Lit. December 2, 2008) [Slip Opn., at 1]. Defense attorneys filed a motion with the Judicial Panel for Multidistrict Litigation (MDL) requesting centralization of the class actions pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1407 in the Northern District of Illinois; all responding plaintiffs opposed the motion (at least in the form proposed by defense attorneys). Id. The Judicial Panel separated the class actions into two groups – one group, consisting of five class actions, shared the factual issues summarized above, while the other group, consisting of the remaining three class actions, involved class actions that named only Sears as a defendant. Id., at 1-2. The Judicial Panel granted the motion to centralize the class action lawsuits as to the five class actions, concluding that centralization “will eliminate duplicative discovery, prevent inconsistent pretrial rulings (particularly with respect to class certification), and conserve the resources of the parties, their counsel and the judiciary.” Id. However, the Panel selected the Northern District of Ohio as the appropriate transferee court, id., at 2. In making this selection, the Panel observed that plaintiffs in one of the Illinois class actions and in the two New Jersey class actions supported centralization in the Northern District of Ohio, so long as only the five class actions forming “group one” were coordinated. Id., at 1. The Panel denied the motion as to the class actions against Sears only, see id., at 1-2.