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Doreen Mazzanti v. General Electric Co.

United States District Court, D. Connecticut

March 7, 2017

GLEN GRAYSON DOREEN MAZZANTI, DANIEL LEVY, DAVID MEQUET, and LAUREN HARRIS, individually and on behalf of themselves and all others similarly situated, Plaintiffs,
v.
GENERAL ELECTRIC COMPANY, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM OF DECISION ON MOTION FOR CLASS CERTIFICATION AND APPOINTMENT OF CLASS COUNSEL

          Warren W. Eginton Senior U.S. District Judge

         Plaintiffs Glen Grayson, Doreen Mazzanti, Daniel Levy, David Mequet and Lauren Harris, individually and on behalf of themselves, have asserted this putative class action against defendant General Electric Company (“GE”). Plaintiffs claim that defendant's GE-branded microwave oven model JEB1090, JEB1095, ZMC1090, and ZMC1095 contained a defect that caused the oven door glass to shatter.

         Plaintiff has filed a motion for class certification and appointment of class counsel. In their opening brief, plaintiffs requested certification of the several classes of residents who purchased GE-branded microwave oven model number JEB1090, JEB1095, ZMC1090, and/or ZMC1095 for primarily personal, family, or household purposes, and not for resale. Plaintiffs allege (1) breach of express warranty on behalf of a nationwide and state subclasses; (2) implied warranty of merchantability on behalf of a nationwide and Texas subclasses; (3) violation of the Song Beverly Act on behalf of a California subclass; (4) violation of the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act on behalf of a nationwide class;(4) violation of state consumer protection laws on behalf of state subclasses and a Consumer Protection Law subclass; and (6) unjust enrichment on the behalf of nationwide and state subclasses.

         In their Reply brief, plaintiffs have indicated that they seek (1) a nationwide injunctive and declaratory judgment class pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure (“Rule”) 23(b)(2) that would require defendant to notify class members of the glass-shattering defect and effectively extend the warranty on the microwave; (2) a multi-state Consumer Protection Law Subclass, [1] or alternatively, individual state consumer protection law classes for California, Florida, New York and Ohio pursuant to Rule 23(b)(3); and (3) a Texas Implied Warranty Subclass comprising purchasers of 1090/1095 microwaves pursuant to Rule 23(b)(3).[2]

         The Court will deny without prejudice the motion for certification under Rule 23(b)(2) as to a nationwide injunctive and declaratory judgment class, and under Rule 23(b)(3) as to a damages Consumer Protection Law subclass and Texas Implied Warranty subclass; the Court will grant the motion for certification under Rule 23(c)(4)

         as to a liability Consumer Protection Law Subclass and Texas Implied Warranty Subclass. The Court will also grant the motion for appointment of counsel.

         BACKGROUND

         The following background to plaintiffs' claims is reflected in the allegations of the amended complaint and the parties' briefs relevant to class certification and exhibits thereto.

         Plaintiffs have alleged that GE-branded microwave oven models JEB1095, ZMC1090 and ZMC1095 contain defects that render them unreasonably dangerous and unsuitable for their intended use due to the occurrences of glass oven doors shattering. GE has allegedly expressly warranted through its user manuals, advertisements, pamphlets, brochures, circulars, samples and models that these models were fit for the ordinary purpose for which such goods are used.

         GE has allegedly known, or reasonably should have known, that the models were defective when it first received reports that its models contained defects that have caused the glass on the oven door to shatter. The plaintiffs allege that GE sent out service bulletins to its technicians alerting them to the problem, but the bulletins were only available to service professionals. Plaintiffs allege that GE did not issue a recall, warn consumers, or take any affirmative steps to correct the problem.

         Plaintiffs' expert, Thomas Read, asserts that every 1090/1095 microwave that he inspected shared the same defect. He maintains that the defect is endemic to the 1090/1095 microwaves. Plaintiffs claim that their evidence will show that the 1090/1095 microwaves are all part of the same model family and share a common design, including the defect that causes the glass doors to shatter.

         Plaintiffs maintain that the glass shattering defect poses a safety risk.

         DISCUSSION

         A. Standing

         Defendant argues that plaintiffs' proposed class comprising purchasers or owners of 1090/1095 microwave ovens includes members who have experienced no glass shattering and, therefore, lack standing to sue. Specifically, defendant asserts that putative class members have no standing to sue for relief based on a product that has not experienced the alleged defect and is beyond its expected useful life.

         To satisfy Article III standing, “a plaintiff must demonstrate (1) a personal injury in fact (2) that the challenged conduct of the defendant caused and (3) which a favorable decision will likely redress.” Mahon v. Ticor Title Ins. Co., 683 F.3d 59, 62 (2d Cir. 2012); Lujan v. Defenders of Wildlife, 504 U.S. 555, 560-61 (1992). Past injuries may provide a basis for standing to seek money damages, and an “enhanced risk” of future injury may constitute injury-in-fact for purposes of seeking injunctive relief. Relevant to a class action, Article III standing requires that “for every named defendant there must be at least one named plaintiff who can assert a claim directly against that defendant.” Cent. States Se. & Sw. Areas Health & Welfare Fund v. Merck-Medco Managed Care, L.L.C., 504 F.3d 229, 241 (2d Cir. 2007); NECA-IBEW Health & Welfare Fund v. Goldman Sachs & Co., 693 F.3d 145, 159 (2d Cir. 2012). Thus, the Court's inquiry for determining Article III standing focuses upon the named plaintiffs. Catalano v. BMW of N. Am., LLC, 167 F.Supp.3d 540, 553 (S.D.N.Y. 2016).

         Here, plaintiffs have alleged the injury of owning a dangerous product defect that could potentially cause a physical injury and that has required or will require replacement and/or repair to the product. The Court finds that the plaintiffs have standing to assert this class action.[3]

         B. Rule 23

         Plaintiffs seek certification under Rule 23(b)(2) for an injunctive and declaratory judgment class; under Rule 23(b)(3) for a damages Consumer Protection Law subclass and Texas Implied Warranty subclass; or alternatively, under Rule 23(c)(4) for a liability Consumer Protection Law subclass and Texas Implied Warranty subclass.

         To receive class certification, plaintiffs must first satisfy the four elements of Rule 23(a): (1) Numerosity, (2) commonality, (3) typicality, and (4) the adequacy of representation. Plaintiffs must then meet at least one of the three subsections of Rule 23(b). McLaughlin v. American Tobacco Co., 522 F.3d 215, 222 (2d Cir. 2008).

         “The burden of proving compliance with all of the requirements of Rule 23 rests with the party moving for certification.” Levitt v. J.P. Morgan Sec., Inc., 710 F.3d 454, 465 (2d Cir. 2013). The merits of a claim may be considered to the extent relevant to the Rule 23 Inquiry. Amgen v. Connecticut Retirement Plans and Trust Funds, 133 S.Ct. 1184, 1195 (2013). The party seeking class certification must satisfy the requirements of Rule 23 by a preponderance of the evidence. Novella v. Westchester Cnty, 661 F.3d 128, 148-49 (2d Cir. 2011).

         A class under Rule 23(b)(2) may not be certified where the monetary component is “more than merely incidental to the injunctive relief.” Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. v. Dukes, 131 S.Ct. 2541, 2557 (2011); Jermyn v. Best Buy Store, L.P., 276 F.R.D. 167, 173 (S.D.N.Y. 2011). Where a plaintiff seeks both declaratory and monetary relief, the court may separately certify a damages-seeking class under Rule 23(b)(3), and an injunction-seeking class under Rule 23(b)(2), if all of the requirements have been met. Stinson v. City of New York, 282 F.R.D. 360, 381 (S.D.N.Y. 2012).

         A court may also certify a class with respect to a particular issue under Rule 23(c)(4) where certification will materially advance disposition of the litigation. Benner v. Becton Dickinson & Co., 214 F.R.D. 157, 169 (S.D.N.Y. 2003). For a particular issue to be certified pursuant to Rule 23(c)(4), the requirements of Rules 23(a) and (b) must be satisfied only ...


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