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Gorczynski v. Electrolux Home Products, Inc.

United States District Court, D. New Jersey

April 29, 2019

THOMAS P. GORCZYNSKI, individually and on behalf of others similarly situated, Plaintiff,

          SALTZ, MONGELUZZI, BARRETT & BENDESKY, P.C. By: Simon B. Paris, Esq.; Patrick Howard, Esq.; Charles J. Kochner, Esq. Counsel for Plaintiff Thomas P. Gorczynski

          K&L GATES LLP By: Patrick J. Perrone, Esq.; Loly G. Tor, Esq.; Michael S. Nelson, Esq. Counsel for Defendant Electrolux Home Products, Inc.

          WARD GREENBERG HELLER & REIDY, LLP By: Gerhard P. Dietrich, Esq.; Gabrielle A. Giombetti, Esq. 1835 Market Street, Suite 650 Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 19103 Counsel for Defendant Midea America Corp.

          OPINION [DKT. NOS. 35, 47]


         Plaintiff Thomas P. Gorczynski (“Plaintiff”) brings this putative class action, alleging that Defendants Electrolux Home Products, Inc. (“Electrolux”) and Midea America Corp. (“Midea USA”) knowingly manufactured, marketed, and sold microwaves with defective handles in violation of the New Jersey Consumer Fraud Act (“CFA”), N.J.S.A. § 56:8-2. Plaintiff also claims that Defendant Electrolux violated the Magnuson-Moss Consumer Products Warranties Act (“MMWA”), 15 U.S.C. § 2301, et seq., and breached the implied warranty of merchantability.

         Both Electrolux [Dkt. No. 35] and Midea USA [Dkt. No. 47] now move to dismiss Plaintiff's Amended Complaint [Dkt. No. 26] on various bases. Defendants' primary arguments for dismissal are that Plaintiff's claims are subsumed by the New Jersey Products Liability Act (“PLA”), N.J.S.A. 2A:58C-1, et seq., and that Plaintiff has failed to sufficiently plead his CFA claim. Electrolux also sets forth arguments for dismissal of the breach of implied warranty and MMWA claims. For the reasons set forth herein, both Motions to Dismiss will be DENIED, without prejudice.


         In this purported class action, Plaintiff alleges that Defendants designed, manufactured, and marketed over-the-range stainless-steel microwaves (the “Microwaves”) with defective stainless-steel handles that become excessively hot if an individual is cooking on a stovetop below (the “Handle Defect”). Plaintiff alleges that in May 2015, he purchased a Frigidaire Gallery Over-the-Range Microwave, which is a model that suffers from the Handle Defect. See Am. Compl., at ¶ 12.

         Plaintiff contends that the Microwaves in question, including his own, were manufactured by Midea Microwave China (“Midea China”) and distributed by Electrolux in the United States. As alleged in the Amended Complaint, Midea USA is “the North American headquarters of Midea, the world's leading manufacturer of air conditioners and home appliances.” See id. at ¶ 26. Meanwhile, Electrolux “distributes products under a variety of brand names, including Electrolux, Electrolux ICON, Frigidaire Professional, Frigidaire Gallery, Frigidaire, Eureka, Kelvinator, Sanitaire, Tappan, and White-Westinghouse.” See Id. at ¶ 17.

         Plaintiff alleges that the Handle Defect causes the Microwaves' handles to reach temperatures as high as 200̊ Fahrenheit when a cooktop below is operating at full power. See Am. Compl., at ¶ 6. Because the high temperature of the handle can make it unsafe for an individual to open the Microwave door, Plaintiff claims that the Handle Defect renders the Microwave unreasonably dangerous and unfit for its intended purpose. See id. at ¶ 8.

         According to Plaintiff, Midea China became aware of the Handle Defect during testing in 2010, prior to distributing the Microwaves in the United States. See Am. Compl., at ¶ 6. Plaintiff further alleges that these test results were accessible to Electrolux as early as 2010, and customers complained about the Handle Defect as early as 2013, yet Electrolux continued to sell the Microwaves throughout the United States, with over 70, 000 sales in New Jersey. Id. Plaintiff contends that, despite full knowledge of the Handle Defect, Defendants have neither rectified the issue (through repair or replacement of the handle) nor warned consumers about the existence of the Handle Defect.

         Plaintiff filed the initial complaint [Dkt. No. 1-1], individually and on behalf of all others similarly situated, in the New Jersey Superior Court, Camden County, in May 2018. Electrolux removed the case to this Court on June 15, 2018. Following a pre-motion letter filed by Electrolux, expressing an intent to file a motion to dismiss, Plaintiff filed the Amended Complaint on August 6, 2018. Now, Defendants move to dismiss Plaintiff's Amended Complaint under Fed R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6).


         To withstand a motion to dismiss under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), “a complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to ‘state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.'” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009)(quoting Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)). “A claim has facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.” Id. at 662. “[A]n unadorned, the defendant-unlawfully-harmed-me accusation” does not suffice to survive a motion to dismiss. Id. at 678. “[A] plaintiff's obligation to provide the ‘grounds' of his ‘entitle[ment] to ...

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