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Papasan v. Dometic Corp.

United States District Court, S.D. Florida

July 24, 2019

Catherine Papasan and others, Plaintiffs,
Dometic Corporation, Defendant.


          Robert N. Scola, Jr. United States District Judge.

         Catherine Papasan and 17 other individuals bring this class action suit against Dometic Corporation (“Dometic”) for manufacturing allegedly defective refrigerators. Currently pending before the Court is the Plaintiffs' Motion for Class Certification. (ECF No. 345.) The Defendant has timely responded (ECF No. 373) and the Plaintiffs have replied (ECF No. 386). Having reviewed the parties' briefing and exhibits, and the applicable law, the Court denies the motion for the reasons described below.

         I. Background

         The operative complaint is the Plaintiffs' Consolidated Class Action Complaint (the “Complaint”) (ECF No. 300). According to the Complaint, Dometic manufactures gas absorption refrigerators designed for use in recreational vehicles (“RVs”). (Id. ¶ 223.) The Plaintiffs allege that Dometic's refrigerators have a design defect that results in excessive corrosion on the inside of the gas absorption refrigerator's boiler tubes. (Id. ¶ 2.) The Plaintiffs allege that the corrosion causes the boiler tubes to internally “corrode, crack, and ultimately expel flammable ammonia, hydrogen gas, and carcinogenic sodium chromate at high pressure.” (Id. ¶ 1.) The Plaintiffs allege that the leaked gas can ignite, but even if it does not ignite, the corrosion eventually ruins the refrigerator's functionality. (ECF No. 345 at 5.) The Plaintiffs each own an allegedly defective Dometic refrigerator. (Id. at 4.)

         The Plaintiffs now move for class certification based on the allegations that they each “received an unmerchantable refrigerator and were damaged by overpaying for a defective product.” (Id. at 1.) In other words, they are not seeking class certification based on a fire, damage to property, or a broken refrigerator, but rather on a theory of economic loss at the point of purchase. (Id. at 3.) According to the Plaintiffs, “because the Defendant concealed material facts regarding the defect and continuing safety risk to every class member . . . every class member was induced at the point of sale to purchase their refrigerators at a premium price that they otherwise would not have paid[.]” (ECF No. 386 at 1.) The Complaint asserts claims for violations of the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act, 15 U.S.C. § 2301, et seq., breaches of implied warranty, unjust enrichment, and various state laws.

         The Motion seeks certification of nine subclasses, based on the various states in which the Plaintiffs purchased their refrigerators:

All persons who purchased in [insert one of nine states[1] Dometic Gas Absorption Refrigerator models RM 2620; RM/DM2652; RM/DM2662; RM/DM2663: RM3762 & DMR/DMC7-Series; RM 2820: DM2852 & DM2862; RM3862 & RM3863; RM3962: NDM1062; RM 1350: 1350WIM; NDA 1402: and 1402IMS built between January 1, 1997 and the present.

(ECF No. 345 at 3.)

         II. Legal Standard

         Class actions are “exception[s] to the usual rule that litigation is conducted by and on behalf of the individual named parties only.” Comcast Corp. v. Behrend, 133 S.Ct. 1426, 1432 (2013). Parties seeking to certify a class must “affirmatively demonstrate . . . compliance with Rule 21.” Id. Class certification analysis entails consideration of the factual and legal issues comprising the plaintiff's cause of action. Rutstein v. Avis Rent-A-Car Sys., Inc., 211 F.3d 1228, 1234 (11th Cir. 2000).

         The Court begins its review of a motion for class certification by determining whether “at least one named class representative has Article III standing to raise each class subclaim.” Prado-Steinman ex rel. Prado v. Bush, 221 F.3d 1266, 1279-80 (11th Cir. 2000); see also Griffin v. Dugger, 823 F.2d 1476, 1482 (11th Cir. 1987) (“[A]ny analysis of class certification must begin with the issue of standing. . . . Only after the court determines the issues for which the named plaintiffs have standing should it address the question of whether the named plaintiffs have representative capacity, as defined by Rule 23(a), to assert the rights of others.”).

         If the named plaintiffs possess Article III standing, the Court then determines whether class certification is appropriate under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 23. “Under Rule 23, certification is proper where the proposed classes satisfy an implicit ascertainability requirement, the four requirements listed in Rule 23(a), and the requirements listed in any of Rule 23(b)(1), (2), or (3).” Karhu v. Vital Pharms., Inc., 621 Fed.Appx. 945, 946 (11th Cir. 2015). Under Rule 23(a), the party seeking certification must demonstrate: “(1) that the class is so numerous that joinder of all members is impracticable; (2) that there are questions of law or fact common to the class; (3) that the claims or defenses of the representative parties are typical of the claims or defenses of the class; and (4) that the representative parties will fairly and adequately protect the interests of the class.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 23(a). Satisfaction of the Rule 23(a) factors, however, does not end the inquiry, and a class still may not be certified unless one of the requirements of Rule 23(b) are satisfied. Klay v. Humana, Inc., 382 F.3d 1241, 1250 (11th Cir. 2004).

         Where certification is sought under Rule 23(b)(3), the plaintiff must show that “the questions of law or fact common to class members predominate over any questions affecting only individual members, and that a class action is superior to other available methods for fairly and efficiently adjudicating the controversy.” See Fed. R. Civ. P. 23(b)(3). In making such determinations, courts consider “the class members' interests in individually controlling the prosecution or defense of separate actions”; “the extent and nature of any litigation concerning the controversy already begun by or against class members”; “the desirability of undesirability of concentrating the litigation of the claims in the particular forum”; and “the likely difficulties in managing a class action.” Id.

         In reviewing a motion for class certification, the Court must conduct a “rigorous analysis” of the facts and law to determine whether the plaintiff has met its burden of demonstrating compliance with Rule 23. Gen. Tel. Co. of the S.W. v. Falcon, 457 U.S. 147, 161 (1982); see also Sacred Heart Health Sys., Inc. v. Humana Military Healthcare Servs., Inc., 601 F.3d 1159, 1169 (11th Cir. 2010) (citation omitted); Vega v. T-Mobile USA, Inc., 564 F.3d 1256, 1265 (11th Cir. 2009) (the “burden of proof to establish the propriety of class certification rests with the advocate of the class.”). While the district court's class certification analysis “may ‘entail some overlap with the merits of the plaintiff's underlying claim,' Rule 23 grants courts no license to engage in free-ranging merits inquiries at the certification stage.” See Amgen Inc. v. Conn. Ret. Plans & Trust Funds, 133 S.Ct. ...

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