Viking Class Action Lawsuit

How can there be a class action lawsuit filed against Viking in May of 2007 based on energy efficiency that we are just learning about today?
Which one of you guys failed to live up to the Advisor oath?

This is an especially interesting case, as we’ve been investigating these very charges off and on for months. The jist of the class action is:

  1. Viking is or was building into their refrigerators electrical fixes to alleviate moisture problems which are or were not electrically connected in the factory.
  2. The fixes were connected in the home when moisture related service problems appeared or en masse pre-sale by distributors in effected regions
  3. DOE testing of these refrigerators were such that the moisture features were not connected, and therefore the electrical draw of the features not included, and as a result the DOE Energy labels were incorrect.

In our own investigation, the fixes mentioned by service people as well as distributors and dealers were:

  • Mullion Heater:  some sort of heating element that keeps the door seal from sweating
  • Drip Pan Heater (may be known as a Foil Heater Kit):  to accelerate drip pan evaporation
  • Drip Pan Fan:  to accelerate drip pan evaporation.
  • Pocket Heater:  used on bottom of door, but unsure exactly what it is, or if it is another name for one of the above

Ponderables

  • These are significant charges since it’s not nice to fool the DOE.  An energy compliance person at a Viking competitor claimed that the DOE can levy fines up to $100 per unit for each day out of compliance.  Even if the class action claim is true though, the units may not be out of compliance.  That’s a DOE call, and pre-installed fixes which are not 100% required by all customers may not, conceivably (meaning we have no idea one way or the other), be a DOE problem.
  • The class action suit is based on the unexpected added cost for the electricity used in the fixes, but we wonder as non-lawyers where’s the path to riches here?  How much could the damages be at $0.12 per KW?  We must be missing something since the filing indicates a value greater than $5 million (the class action minimum)
  • Where is this case now?  Have they certified the class or notified members of the class?  No idea.

Viking’s official response is simply:  "All refrigerators meet DOE regulations."
http://www.snlaw.net/areas-topics.php?topicID=12&path=11,3

http://snlaw.net/pdf/Viking_Complaint.pdf

We will continue to keep our eye on this.
SERVICER COMMENT Apr 4:
I don’t know much about the lawsuit but it seems to me that Viking are no different than any of the other manufacturers except they make the repair kit available on all their units instead of having to install it like on other brands. We’ve been pasting heaters into Maytag fridges for years. Plus the newer low energy consumption condenser fan motors in Subs and Whirlpools are failing all the time. The replacement? The old style (high energy consumption) fan motor. With Whirlpool, you can’t even get the low energy one as a part number – it is automatically subbed to the old style.

UPDATE May 16:  The law firm of Schatz Nobel Izard indicated to us that the class has NOT been certified, and therefore the class has not been notified.  This case was started by the complaint of a single individual, and has yet to pass through the flaming hoop of certification, though they hoped by summer’s end.  The lawyers were mum on how they reached this >$5 million estimate or the basis of their claim.  A summary on the web indicates that the complaint is based on "Property Damage Product Liability", and reference is made in the filings of water leakage and damages.  The money is in the damages then, but the complaint spends so much time on electricity, that perhaps the legal strategy is the "damages" caused by a machine which was known to the manufacturer to be ill suited for the purpose for which it was purchased.  The electricity may simply be a way of saying that Viking knew this.
Had we just read the complaint a little more closely, we would find this:
"Because the Refrigerators are designed in such a way that they leak water, the Refrigerators are not "fit for the purposes for which such goods are used"  Accordingly, Viking has violated the implied warranty of merchantability pursuant to Miss. Code. Ann section 75-2-314"

OK.  The class action is based on damages.  But then, why file in Mississippi, the home state of Viking?  Is there some advantage to filing in MS?  Just imagine how hard it was to find this particular person.  Look at the math:
     Number of people in Mississippi who could afford a Viking kitchen (= 15:  All Viking employees)

X odds that they had a Viking kitchen (=100%: Viking employee discount)
X odds that they’re unhappy with their Viking fridge  (an unknown quantity)
X odds that they’re unhappy enough to file suit?   (=0%: Not great career move)
= Let’s just say it’s a shorter putt to find alien life on Pluto.

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