In a press release issued Friday, Hagens Berman Sobol Shapiro LLP, a consumer-rights class-action law firm, announced that it had filed a class-action lawsuit on behalf of a group of RV owners against Dometic Corp. The suit alleges that the company sold defective gas absorption refrigerators with cooling systems that can spontaneously ignite in RVs and boats, putting consumers at risk of deadly fires, explosions, loss of property and loss of the value of their RV/boat.
The lawsuit claims that the defective refrigerators have caused or contributed to at least 3,000 fires since 1997, resulting in more than $100 million in property damage and personal injury claims, all of which, according to the suit, Dometic tracked through multiple nonpublic, internal databases. Despite this knowledge, the suit maintains, Dometic “failed and refused to eliminate the defects and/or provide consumers with adequate warnings.”
“As millions of owners prep RVs and boats for summer activities, they’re completely unaware that the vehicles they will soon use to transport family and friends essentially contain a pressurized tank of hydrogen gas that can leak and ignite a fire,” said Steve Berman, managing partner of Hagens Berman. “While Dometic promised consumers that its refrigerators were safe for use, it chose to overlook reports of fires and failures of its products and never publicly disclosed the true risk of this defect.”
The lawsuit contends that “every gas absorption refrigerator manufactured by Dometic since 1997 shares common technology, common cooling unit design and common defects, including the propensity of the refrigerator’s cooling unit boiler tube to corrode, crack and expel hydrogen gas at high pressure, which can spontaneously combust, or reach other ignition sources, causing a fire.”
The 80-page lawsuit filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California in San Francisco seeks to force Dometic to repair or replace defective refrigerators and compensate consumers for the diminution of value of their RVs and boats as a result of these manufacturer defects.
The suit, in addressing two recalls issued by Dometic, further alleges, “defendants have used and manipulated the recall process to conceal the true dangers and safety risks inherent in their defective gas absorption refrigerators from both federal regulators and consumers.”
Deomtic offered the following statement in response:
“The company takes this accusation seriously but vehemently denies that the company would consciously have refrained from eliminating defects in the said product.
Dometic conducts its operations in strongly regulated environment and it is a vital requirement that all products comply with applicable laws and regulations regarding safety. Dometic works proactively with product safety in an open and close cooperation with governmental authorities and strictly follows the applicable legislation and recommendations.”
Dometic promised to offer more detailed information at a later date.