Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Corzine v. Whirlpool Corp.

United States District Court, N.D. California, San Jose Division

December 31, 2019

JULIE CORZINE, Plaintiff,
v.
WHIRLPOOL CORPORATION, Defendant.

          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; 131]

          BETH LABSON FREEMAN UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Plaintiff 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.

         Two 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.

         I. BACKGROUND

         On 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[1] 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.

         After 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.

         Prelim. 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 Class Refrigerators.

Id.

         The 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.

         II. THE SETTLEMENT AGREEMENT

         The 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 Event[2]within 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.

         The 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.

         Class Members satisfying the above requirements may receive up to $150 reimbursement for Paid Qualified Repairs[3] 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 Repairs.
• Year 5 after Purchase: 100% reimbursement for parts and 50% reimbursement for labor costs of Paid Qualified Repairs.

         Am. 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.

         Class 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.

         III. NOTICE PLAN

         In its 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.

         IV. MOTION FOR FINAL APPROVAL OF SETTLEMENT

         A. The Class Meets the Requirements for Certification under Rule 23

         A class 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 impracticable;
(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.

         The Court concluded that these requirements were satisfied when it granted preliminary approval of the class action settlement. See Prelim. Order ยง 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 ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.