GE Hit with Sanctions and Court Orders Microwave Fire Case to Move Forward
DETROIT, Sept. 30 /PRNewswire/ — On May 19, 2009, Tycko & Zavareei LLP filed a products liability class action lawsuit against General Electric (“GE”) in the Eastern District of Michigan. Hennigan et. al v. General Electric Company, 2:09-cv-11912-VAR-MJH. The lawsuit alleged that GE marketed microwave ovens that contained a defect that could cause the microwaves to turn on spontaneously and catch fire. The lawsuit also alleged that GE had fraudulently concealed this dangerous defect from consumers for almost a decade.
Yesterday, Judge Victoria A. Roberts issued an order largely denying GE’s motion to dismiss. GE moved to dismiss all six causes of action against it. The motion relied mostly on GE’s claim that the lawsuits were filed too late, and violated the statute of limitations. Plaintiffs countered that their allegations of fraudulent concealment tolled these statutes of limitations. Specifically, Plaintiffs alleged that GE was aware of these dangerous defects and took affirmative measures to hide them from the public. Judge Roberts agreed that these allegations tolled the statute of limitations and ruled that five of the six causes of action “will proceed to trial.”
This ruling followed closely on the heels of an order granting sanctions against GE due to its violation of a court order. Shortly after the lawsuit was filed, Judge Roberts ordered GE to produce all consumer reports it possessed of microwave ovens turning on spontaneously. GE resisted the production of the documents ordered by Judge Roberts — claiming it was too burdensome to comply. On August 3, 2010, United Magistrate Judge Michael Hluchaniuk rejected GE’s burden arguments and found that “GE failed to undertake reasonable efforts to locate responsive documents in accordance with Judge Roberts’ Order.” Judge Hluchaniuk also found that GE “offers no legitimate reason for its failure” to locate and produce these documents. Thus, the Judge ordered GE to produce the documents, and imposed monetary sanctions against GE because “the failure to comply with Judge Roberts’ Order was not substantially justified…” GE did not appeal the determination that it violated Judge Roberts’ Order or the sanctions award.
According to the plaintiffs’ attorney, Hassan Zavareei, “These rulings are a significant victory for plaintiffs here and consumers everywhere. Together, they send a strong message that companies cannot hope to escape liability for marketing dangerous products by actively hiding those defects from the public.” Zavareei is cautiously optimistic that GE will begin to cooperate with discovery and that the case will finally begin to move forward without further obstruction by GE.
Copies of the rulings may be obtained from Hassan Zavareei at Tycko & Zavareei LLP.
SOURCE Tycko & Zavareei LLP