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Parsons v. Whirlpool Corp.

United States District Court, N.D. Florida, Southern Division

May 21, 2018

JAMES PARSONS and DEBRA PARSONS, Plaintiffs,
v.
WHIRLPOOL CORPORATION and ECOWATER SYSTEMS LLC a/k/a ECODYNE, Defendants.

          Anthony P. Patti United States Magistrate Judge.

          OPINION AND ORDER TRANSFERRING CASE VENUE TO THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE NORTHERN DISTRICT OF FLORIDA

          Paul D. Borman United States District Judge.

         This is a putative class action involving allegedly defective water filters. Plaintiffs James and Debra Parsons allege that they suffered property damage when their home was flooded due to a latent defect in a water filtration system designed and manufactured by Defendant Whirlpool Corporation (“Whirlpool”) and Defendant EcoWater Systems LLC (“EcoWater”). Plaintiffs seek to certify two classes of plaintiffs who purchased similarly defective systems.

         Defendants have moved to dismiss this action for lack of personal jurisdiction and improper venue, and request in the alternative that this Court transfer the action to the Northern District of Florida. Defendants have also moved to dismiss the action for failure to state a claim on which relief may be granted.

         For the reasons set forth below, the Court finds that venue for this action is not properly laid in the Eastern District of Michigan, and that the interest of justice requires the case to be transferred to the Northern District of Florida pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1406(a). The Court makes no determination regarding personal jurisdiction, or on the legal sufficiency of Plaintiffs' allegations.

         I. BACKGROUND

         A. Core Factual Allegations

         Plaintiffs James and Debra Parsons reside in Harrogate, Tennessee, and also own a home in Destin, Florida. (ECF No. 1, Compl. ¶ 7.) Plaintiffs allege in the Complaint that Whirlpool is a Delaware corporation with its principal place of business in Benton Harbor, Michigan, and that EcoWater is a foreign limited liability corporation, at least one of the members of which is a citizen of the state of Delaware. (Compl. ¶¶ 8-9.)

         Plaintiffs allege that EcoWater “manufacturers [sic] and warrants Whirlpool dual stage filtration systems, Whirlpool reverse osmosis systems and Whirlpool central filtration systems under license.” (Compl. ¶¶ 16, 18.) This putative class action specifically concerns allegedly defective water filters. The water filters at issue include, “but [are] not limited to, Undersink Filtration Systems models (‘Class Water Filters'), that are manufactured in a way that allows them to crack and/or creep, causing water to leak from the filter.” (Compl. ¶ 1.) They also allege that the allegedly defective water filters are made of plastic which “fails to hold water without leaking” (Compl. ¶ 21); that the leaking “is caused when the plastic changes shape over time, which is called creep, due to environmental stress” (Compl. ¶ 22); and that such a change “can manifest itself through excessive deformation of the plastic or through cracking” (Compl. ¶ 23). Plaintiffs further allege that the defect “is particularly dangerous because it causes water damage and can lead to flooding and significant property damage, ” which occurs when the defect “causes the Class Water Filters to function improperly during the expected useful life of the water filter, resulting in flooding.” (Compl. ¶¶ 24, 28.)

         This is exactly what Plaintiffs claim happened to them. Plaintiffs allege that in or around August 2015, they purchased a “Whirlpool three-stage reverse osmosis water filter, Model No. WHER 2555, ” for $170.00 at a Lowe's home improvement store in Destin, Florida. (Compl. ¶¶ 42-45.) According to the Complaint, Plaintiffs installed the water filter on March 12, 2016, at their Florida home. Approximately six to eight weeks later, Plaintiffs “were shocked to enter their home and see standing water on their kitchen floor and dripping from their kitchen sink cabinet.” (Compl. ¶ 45.) They turned off the water line, soaked up the water, and the next day found a leak in the water filter housing. (Id.) Plaintiff James Parsons contacted Whirlpool to notify it of the leak and the damage that resulted from it, the Complaint alleges, but Whirlpool “ignored the damage to Mr. Parsons' home and responded it would only send a replacement housing, which it did.” (Compl. ¶ 46.)

         Plaintiffs claim that the alleged defect exists “because Defendants failed to adequately design, manufacture, and test the Class Water Filters” (Compl. ¶ 25), and that the defect, “which is undetectable to the consumer, is manifest in the water filter when the water filter leaves Defendants' possession [such that it] creates an immediate safety risk to consumers.” (Compl. ¶ 26.) Plaintiffs then allege that despite a large number of consumer complaints, “Defendants continue to conceal the existence of the Defect from current customers and potential customers alike. Defendants have not warned consumers at the point of sale.” (Compl. ¶¶ 31-38.)

         Plaintiffs bring this lawsuit as a proposed class action under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 23 on behalf of themselves and two proposed plaintiff classes: one nationwide class, and one class consisting of Florida residents only. Each class is comprised of persons or entities “who purchased or otherwise acquired the Class Water Filter, designed and/or manufactured by Defendants primarily for personal, family, or household purposes and not for resale.” (Compl. ¶¶ 49-51.) The nine causes of action asserted in the Complaint include claims for declaratory judgment and unjust enrichment pled on behalf of the nationwide class, and the Florida class in the alternative (Compl. ¶¶ 64-79); claims for negligence, breach of implied warranty, and breach of express warranty pled on behalf of the nationwide class only (Compl. ¶¶ 80-122); a claim for injunctive relief pled on behalf of both classes (Compl. ¶¶ 123-29); and three Florida statutory tort claims pled on behalf of the Florida class only (Compl. ¶¶ 130-80).

         B. Facts Relevant to Venue

         The sole evidentiary exhibit to the parties' briefing on Defendants' Motion to Dismiss Class Action Complaint for Lack of Personal Jurisdiction under Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(2) and Improper Venue under Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(3) is the Declaration of Mohammed Bayati, who attests that he is the current President ...


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