SAN FRANCISCO — A group of RV owners filed a nationwide class-action lawsuit against Dometic Corporation, stating that the company sold defective gas absorption refrigerators with cooling systems that can spontaneously ignite in RVs and boats, a law firm announced today.
The products put consumers at risk of deadly fires, explosions, loss of property and loss of the value of their RV/boat, according to consumer-rights law firm Hagens Berman.
The lawsuit states 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 Dometic tracked through multiple non-public, internal databases.
Despite this knowledge, Dometic “failed and refused to eliminate the defects and/or provide consumers with adequate warnings,” according to the complaint.
“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.
“We don’t think owners should risk their lives on every trip and have to wait for a potentially deadly hydrogen-fueled fire to get a safe refrigerator or receive payback for Dometic’s brazen misconduct,” Berman added.
The lawsuit states 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.
Owners of a boat or RV equipped with a Dometic gas absorption refrigerator may be entitled to compensation. For more information or to sign up for the class-action lawsuit, click here.
“It’s an alarming issue, especially when you consider the layout of an RV,” Berman added. “If a Dometic refrigerator were to suddenly release this pressurized, flammable gas and start a fire, occupants could easily become trapped inside.”
The suit also addresses two recalls issued by Dometic.
“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,” the complaint charges. “As a result, United States highways and campgrounds are flush with RVs containing defective gas absorption refrigerators that can, and with alarming regularity do, spontaneously burst into flames.”
The company continues to receive new fire claims “at an alarming rate,” the suit states.
In addition, the suit states that Dometic resorted to “retaining a cadre of regionally based fire investigators, third-party claims administrators, attorneys and various engineering and metallurgical experts” upon each report of a refrigerator fire or explosion deployed.
That was done “for the express purpose of diverting attention” from the refrigerators as the cause of the fire and to hide the issue from the public, the law firm noted.
To find out more about the lawsuit against Dometic, click here.
SOURCE: Hagens Berman press release