WASHINGTON, Feb 24 (Reuters) - In a win for consumers, the U.S. Supreme Court on Monday declined to take up a closely watched legal battle concerning claims against manufacturers and retailers of front-loading washing machines.
By declining to hear the cases, the court allowed claims against Sears Roebuck and Co, Whirlpool Corp and BSH Home Appliance Corp to move forward in lower courts.
The lawsuits claimed Kenmore-brand high-efficiency washers, manufactured for the Sears Holding Co subsidiary by Whirlpool, Whirlpool's own-brand washers, and those manufactured by BSH, a subsidiary of Germany-based BSH Bosch und Siemens Hausgerate GMbH, were defective in part because they emitted unpleasant odors.
Appeals court rulings in the Sears and Whirlpool cases that allowed those claims to proceed were thrown out by the Supreme Court last year after the justices issued a ruling in March in favor of Comcast Corp in a class action based on claims over how much the cable company charged a group of subscribers. Both courts, the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals and the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, subsequently ruled in favor of consumers for a second time.
In the BSH case, a federal district judge in California allowed the claims to proceed in a December 2012 ruling. The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals refused the company's request to appeal the decision and, after the Comcast ruling was issued, declined to reconsider its decision.
The legal issue before the justices was whether the individual claims are sufficiently similar to warrant class action certification, meaning that they can all be heard together in one case.
The Whirlpool case alone concerns 200,000 customers, with the company's lawyers noting that it is one of 10 lawsuits that, if allowed to proceed, would involve 4 million individual claims. Similar lawsuits against other manufacturers are pending, the lawyers say in court papers.
The cases are Sears v. Butler, 13-430, Whirlpool Corp v. Glazer, 13-431 and BSH v. Cobb, 13-138.