The Sixth Circuit Reaffirms its Holding in Glazer v. Whirlpool Allowing Plaintiffs with Moldy Washers to Proceed United as a Class

The litigations involving allegedly defective Whirlpool washing machines are back in the legal headlines with the most recent installment hailing from the Sixth Circuit’s decision in Glazer v. Whirlpool Corp., a decision which—following remand from the Supreme Court of the United States—reaffirmed a prior order certifying a class action lawsuit. The Sixth Circuit’s certification order may, however, face scrutiny from the Supreme Court once again.

On May 3, 2012, the Sixth Circuit issued its first opinion in Glazer v. Whirlpool Corp., where the Court of Appeals determined that “Plaintiffs’ proof[s] established” the prerequisites of Rule 23(a) and (b)(3), and, therefore, upheld the District Court’s decision to allow the litigation to proceed united as a class. Shortly thereafter, Whirlpool petitioned the Supreme Court for a writ of certiorari. On April 1, 2013, the Supreme Court granted Whirlpool’s petition, vacated the Sixth Circuit’s prior judgment, and remanded the case back to the Court of Appeals so that it may “reconsider the appeal” in light of the Supreme Court’s recent decision in Comcast Corp. v. Behrend.

Adhering to that directive, the Sixth Circuit reconsidered Whirlpool’s appeal and, in doing so, reaffirmed its prior class certification decision. It concluded that a contrary result need not be reached because the Supreme Court’s “decision in Comcast . . . ha[d] limited application,” primarily because the cases were “different.” Specifically, “[h]ere the district court certified only a liability class and reserved all issues concerning damages for individual determination,” whereas the District Court in Comcast “certified a class to determine both liability and damages.” For that reason, the Sixth Circuit held that Comcast “does not change the outcome of our Rule 23 analysis.”

The Sixth Circuit’s decision may reach the Supreme Court’s fabled steps yet again, if Whirlpool petitions the Supreme Court for a second writ of certiorari based upon the Sixth Circuit’s finding that Comcast broke “no new ground.” Put simply, that particular finding allowed the Court of Appeals to apply, what it deemed, “straightforward . . . class certification principles,” and conclude that “individual damages calculations [will] not preclude class certification under Rule 23(b)(3).” Stay tuned.

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