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Fishman v. General Electric Co.

United States District Court, Third Circuit

April 30, 2013

STANLEY FISHMAN, SUZANNE BOWSWER, and VICKI PLUNKETT, individually and on behalf of all others similarly situated, Plaintiffs,
v.
GENERAL ELECTRIC COMPANY, Defendant.

OPINION

WILLIAM J. MARTINI, District Judge.

Plaintiffs Stanley Fishman, Suzanne Bowser, [1] and Vicki Plunkett filed this putative class action against Defendant General Electric Company ("GE"). This matter comes before the Court on Defendant's motion to dismiss under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). There was no oral argument. Fed.R.Civ.P. 78(b). For the reasons set forth below, Defendant's motion to dismiss is GRANTED in part, and DENIED in part.

I. BACKGROUND

GE manufactures, produces, distributes, and sells washing machines throughout the United States. Am. Compl. § 20. Sales occur both directly to the consumer and through GE's network of authorized dealers, which includes leading retailers and online merchants. Id. § 21. The Amended Complaint alleges that GE's "front-loading washer machines" have design defects that cause them to: (1) accumulate mold and mildew, (2) produce a moldy or mildew odor that permeates the washing machines and the clothes and other items washing in the machines; and that (3) fail to remove the moisture, residue, and bacteria that lead to the formation of mold, mildew, and foul odors (collectively, the "Mold Problems"). Id. § 2. The Amended Complaint alleges that defects in the drum, the door, and the door seal play a role in the accumulation of mold and mildew. Id. § 39.

The Amended Complaint alleges that GE made numerous misrepresentations to conceal the design defects in its front-loading washing machines. Am. Compl. § 37. Specifically, Plaintiffs allege that GE "made express representations" about the quality of its washing machines. Id. § 24. Plaintiffs also allege that GE made "affirmations of fact and promises including those found in its advertisements, promotional and marketing materials, point-of-sale displays, product specifications, and within the washing machine manuals." Id. § 115. The Amended Complaint alleges that consumers received an express one-year factory warranty from GE, but does not provide any other information about this warranty. Id. § 22. Finally, the Amended Complaint alleges that GE publicized the machines as certified ENERGY STAR products.[2] Id. § 25. The Amended Complaint alleges that all of these representations were false because the washing machines were not of a merchantable quality, were not fit for their ordinary purpose, and were not energy efficient. See id. § 37.

The named Plaintiffs filed this action on behalf of themselves, a putative nationwide class, and a putative sub-class comprised of "[a]ll persons in Missouri, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania who own a Washing Machine for personal, family, or household purposes." Am. Compl. § 72. The Amended Complaint alleges that the putative class members were damaged because they paid far too much for defective washing machines. Id. § 8. The Amended Complaint makes the following specific allegations with respect to the named Plaintiffs.

A. Plaintiff Fishman

Fishman purchased a GE washing machine for household purposes in November 2006. Am. Compl. § 53. He paid approximately $1, 000 for the washing machine and at all times used the washing machine as instructed by GE's manual or as otherwise directed by GE. Id. Approximately six months after purchasing his washing machine, Fishman noticed a foul, mold, or mildew odor emanating from the machine. Id. Fishman contacted GE so that GE could correct the problem. Id. § 54. GE recommended that Fishman leave his washing machine door open between washes to reduce the incidence the Mold Problem. Id. § 55. This recommendation did not solve the problem. Id. In addition, the GE owner's manual specifically warns that leaving the washer door open creates a risk of injury to children and pets who might be enticed to hang on the door or crawl inside the washer. Id. GE never resolved the Mold Problems in Fishman's machine, and instead provided Fishman with a check for $75.00. Id. § 57.

B. Plaintiff Bowser

Bowser purchased a washing machine from Builders Surplus for household purposes on or about March 3, 2007. Am. Compl. § 59. She paid approximately $579.99 for the washing machine and at all times used the washing machine as instructed by GE's manual or as otherwise directed by GE. Id. At some unspecified time after the purchase of her washing machine, Bowser noticed a foul, mold, or mildew odor emanating from the machine. Id. Bowser tried to clean her washing machine using bleach, vinegar, and Tide Washing Machine Cleaner. Id. § 61. She also manually cleaned the visible Mold Problem from the gasket and the hose at the bottom of the machine. Id. She also arranged for a certified technician from Sears to attempt to remedy the Mold Problems, but these measures were unsuccessful. Id. Bowser contacted GE. Id. § 62. GE recommended that Bowser keep her washing machine door open and provided her with a box of Tide Washing Machine Cleaner. Id. None of these measures solved the Mold Problems. Id. § 64.

C. Plaintiff Plunkett

Plunkett purchased a washing machine from Foster's Appliance for household purposes on or about January 23, 2010. Am. Compl. § 65. She paid approximately $2023.74 for the washing machine and matching dryer, and at all times used the washing machine as instructed by GE's manual or as otherwise directed by GE. Id. At some unspecified time after the purchase of her washing machine, Plunkett noticed a foul, mold, or mildew odor emanating from the washing machine. Id. Plunkett left the door open and cleaned the unit on a regular basis, but these measures failed to correct the Mold Problems. Id. Plunkett also contacted Foster's Appliance, but never received a response. Id. § 66.

II. LEGAL STANDARD

Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) provides for the dismissal of a complaint, in whole or in part, if the plaintiff fails to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. The moving party bears the burden of showing that no claim has been stated. Hedges v. United States, 404 F.3d 744, 750 (3d Cir. 2005). In deciding a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6), a court must take all allegations in the complaint as true and view them in the light most favorable to the plaintiff. See Warth v. ...


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