United States District Court, N.D. California, San Jose Division
ORDER GRANTING (1) CLASS'S MOTION FOR FINAL
APPROVAL OF SETTLEMENT AND (2) CLASS'S MOTION FOR
ATTORNEYS' FEES, COSTS, AND SERVICE AWARD [RE: ECF 129;
LABSON FREEMAN UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
Julie Corzine (“Plaintiff”) and Defendant
Whirlpool Corporation (“Whirlpool” or
“Defendant”) have entered into a Class Action
Settlement Agreement and Release of Claims (“Settlement
Agreement” or “Settlement”) regarding a
defect in certain Whirlpool-manufactured refrigerators.
motions are before the Court: (1) Class's Motion for
Final Approval of Settlement, (Appr. Mot., ECF 131) and (2)
Class's Motion for Attorneys' Fees, Costs
Reimbursement, and Service Award (Fees Mot., ECF 129). On
November 22, 2019, the Court heard oral arguments on both
motions (the “Hearing”). For the reasons
discussed below and those stated on the record at the
Hearing, the motions are GRANTED.
November 13, 2015, Plaintiff filed this class action in Santa
Clara Superior Court (“Lawsuit”). ECF 1-1, 1-2.
The Lawsuit alleges a defect in certain
Whirlpool-manufactured refrigerators; namely, that the drain
tubes become blocked with ice, overflow with water, and in
some cases, leak from the bottom of refrigerators. Third Am.
Compl. (“TAC”) ¶¶ 25-27. Whirlpool
designed the drain tubes to channel defrosted water from the
freezer into a drain pan at the base of Class
Refrigerators as part of the daily defrost cycle.
Id. ¶ 25. But the drain tubes feature a rubber
grommet component resembling a duckbill that is prone to
clogging with debris, which dams the flow of defrosted water
from the freezer. Id. ¶ 26. Trapped water then
freezes, forming a solid plug of ice. Id. Over time,
large quantities of water and ice accumulate, eventually
resulting in water leaking out of the freezer, into the
refrigerator compartment, and, at times, onto the ground near
the refrigerator. Id. ¶¶ 26-27.
several years of litigation, on August 21, 2019, this Court
entered an Order Granting Joint Motion for Preliminary
Approval of Class Action Settlement (“Preliminary
Approval Order”), which provisionally certified a
nationwide settlement class (“Settlement Class”)
and directed notice of the Settlement. Prelim. Order, ECF
126. The preliminary Settlement Class is defined as follows:
All persons in the United States and its territories who (a)
purchased a new Class Refrigerator, as defined in the
Settlement Agreement, (b) acquired a Class Refrigerator as
part of the purchase or remodel of a home, or (c) received as
a gift, from a donor meeting those requirements, a new Class
Refrigerator not used by the donor or by anyone else after
the donor purchased the Class Refrigerator and before the
donor gave the Class Refrigerator to the Class Member.
Order ¶ I.B. Excluded from the Settlement Class are:
(a) officers, directors, and employees of Whirlpool or its
parents or subsidiaries, (b) insurers of Class Members, (c)
subrogees or all entities claiming to be subrogated to the
rights of a Class Refrigerator purchaser, a Class
Refrigerator owner, or a Class Member, and (d) issuers or
providers of extended warranties or service contracts for
Court made several specific decisions relating to the
Settlement Class. First, the Court appointed Graham B.
LippSmith and Jaclyn L. Anderson of the law firm Kasdan
LippSmith Weber Turner LLP as Class Counsel for the
Settlement Class. Prelim. Order ¶ I.C. Second, the Court
appointed Plaintiff, Julie Corzine, as the representative of
the Settlement Class (“Class Representative”).
Id. Third, the Court appointed Angeion Group as
Settlement Administrator (“Administrator”).
Id. ¶ III.E.4.
THE SETTLEMENT AGREEMENT
Settlement Agreement effectively creates an extended warranty
program for the Class Members. Prior to this lawsuit,
Whirlpool had implemented a voluntary Special Project whereby
it provided $15 replacement parts for certain Class
Refrigerators if they experienced a Freezing
Eventwithin five years of purchase as reported
to Whirlpool by a Service Technician. Appr. Mot. at 6. This
Special Project provided replacement parts beyond the limited
one-year warranty for certain Class Refrigerators, but it did
not compensate most consumers for labor costs associated with
repairing or replacing their drain tubes. Id. at
6-7. Under the Settlement Agreement, Whirlpool agrees to keep
the Special Project open for multiple years going forward and
to expand its scope to include reimbursement for labor costs
and additional Class Refrigerators. Id. at 7; ECF
125-1 ¶¶ 7-10.
terms of the Settlement Agreement provide that Class Members
who experience a Freezing Event prior to September 5, 2019
(the “Notice Date”) must submit a completed Claim
Form, which includes (1) a valid Class Refrigerator model and
serial number combination, (2) proof of purchase, (3) proof
that claimant experienced a Freezing Event, and (4) poof that
claimant paid for repair of a Class Refrigerator necessitated
by a Freezing Event. First Amended Class Action Settlement
Agreement and Release of Claims (“Am.
Settlement”) § IV.B.1, ECF 125-1, Exh. A.
Members satisfying the above requirements may receive up to
$150 reimbursement for Paid Qualified Repairs incurred within
five years of the Refrigerator purchase as follows:
• 1 - 3 Years after Purchase: 100% Reimbursement for
Paid Qualified Repairs.
• Year 4 after Purchase: 100% reimbursement for parts
and 65% reimbursement for labor costs of Paid Qualified
• Year 5 after Purchase: 100% reimbursement for parts
and 50% reimbursement for labor costs of Paid Qualified
Settlement § IV.B.2. A Class Member's compensation
will be reduced if the Class Member previously received any
form of compensation for the Freezing Event from Whirlpool.
Id. § IV.B.4.
Members who experience a Freezing Event on or after the
Notice Date are entitled to the same benefits available to
claimants for past Freezing Events and will be directed to
contact Whirlpool through a dedicated toll-free number no
later than 90 days after first experiencing a Freezing Event
to report the Freezing Event and request repair service. Am.
Settlement § IV.C.
Preliminary Approval Order, the Court approved (1) the form
and content of settlement notices to be mailed, emailed, and
published to members of the Settlement Class (the
“Settlement Notices”); (2) the form and content
of the Claim Form; (3) the content of the Settlement Website,
with the FAQ and other information and documents that the
Parties jointly agreed to post concerning the nature of the
Lawsuit and status of the Settlement; and (4) the plan
specified in the Settlement Agreement for distributing and
publishing the Settlement Notices. Prelim. Order §
III.E. The Court found that Settlement Notices, Claim Form,
and Settlement Website fairly, accurately, and reasonably
informed members of the Settlement Class of (1) appropriate
information about the nature of this Lawsuit and the
essential terms of the Settlement Agreement; (2) appropriate
information about and means for obtaining additional
information regarding this Lawsuit and the Settlement
Agreement; (3) appropriate information about and means for
obtaining and submitting a Claim Form; (4) appropriate
information about and means for submitting a Claim Form for
benefits under the Settlement; (5) appropriate information
about how to challenge or exclude themselves from the
Settlement, if they wish to do so; (6) appropriate
information about the consequences of failing to submit a
Claim Form or failing to comply with the prescribed
procedures and deadline for opting out of, or objecting to,
the Settlement. Id. §§ III.C-D.
MOTION FOR FINAL APPROVAL OF SETTLEMENT
The Class Meets the Requirements for Certification under Rule
action is maintainable only if it meets the four requirements
of Rule 23(a):
(1) the class is so numerous that joinder of all members is
(2) there are questions of law or fact common to the class;
(3) the claims or defenses of the representative parties are
typical of the claims or defenses of the class; and
(4) the representative parties will fairly and adequately
protect the interests of the class.
Fed. R. Civ. P. 23(a). In a settlement-only certification
context, the “specifications of the Rule -those
designed to protect absentees by blocking unwarranted or
overbroad class definitions -demand undiluted, even
heightened, attention.” Amchem Prods., Inc. v.
Windsor, 521 U.S. 591, 620 (1997). In addition to
satisfying the Rule 23(a) requirements, “parties
seeking class certification must show that the action is
maintainable under Rule 23(b)(1), (2), or (3).”
Id. at 614. Plaintiff seeks certification under Rule
23(b)(3), which requires that (1) “questions of law or
fact common to class members predominate over any questions
affecting only individual members” and (2) “a
class action is superior to other available methods for
fairly and efficiently adjudicating the controversy.”
Fed.R.Civ.P. 23(b)(3); see also ECF 113 at 19-22.
Court concluded that these requirements were satisfied when
it granted preliminary approval of the class action
settlement. See Prelim. Order § 1. The Court is
not aware of any new facts which would alter that conclusion,
and thus, does not repeat its analysis here. For the reasons
stated in the Preliminary Approval Order, the Court concludes
that the ...