June 3, 2013

Supreme Court vacates decision on front-loading washers

By Deborah J. La Fetra Senior Attorney

Today, in Sears Roebuck v. Butler, the United States Supreme Court vacated the Seventh Circuit’s decision that permitted a class action against Sears, over alleged moldy smells emanating from certain washing machines and sent the case back to that court for reconsideration in light of a recent Supreme Court decision (Comcast v. Behrend) that emphasized the importance of common questions predominating among the class members.  The Seventh Circuit’s decision had extolled the virtues of efficiency as a reason for combining very different plaintiffs, who had different washers, into a single, massive lawsuit.  As explained in a previous blog post, and PLF’s amicus brief filed in support of the petition for certiorari in this case, the Constitution values individual rights over efficiency.  This case generated interest in the press because the washers were several iterations of the then-new, water-saving front-loading machines.  If the class action proceeded, it would have been a severe disincentive to companies to innovate new products.  Fortunately, the Seventh Circuit will have a second chance to get it right.

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