Law School Case Brief
Butler v. Sears - 702 F.3d 359 (7th Cir. 2012)
A class action is the more efficient procedure for determining liability and damages in a case involving a defect that may have imposed costs on tens of thousands of consumers, yet not a cost to any one of them large enough to justify the expense of an individual suit. If necessary, a determination of liability could be followed by individual hearings to determine the damages sustained by each class member.
The issue in both complaints was the concept of predominance in class action litigation under Fed. R. Civ. P. 23(b)(3). Plaintiff consumers challenged an order from the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois that denied class certification in an action against Sears complaining about a defect in Kenmore-brand Sears washing machines that caused mold. Sears challenged the grant of class certification in a complaint alleging a defect in a control unit that stopped the washers inopportunely.
Did the district court err in granting of class certification in a complaint alleging a defect in a control unit that stopped the washers inopportunely?
The appellate court concluded that the basic question in the mold litigation, which was whether the machines were defective in permitting mold to accumulate and generate odor, was common to the entire mold class, although the answer might vary with the differences in the design of the washers. Sears argued that most members of the class did not experience a mold problem, but that was not an argument for refusing to certify it but for certifying it and then entering a judgment in favor of Sears. As to Sears’ appeal from the certification of defective control unit class, the court found that it was more efficient for the question of whether the washing machines were defective, which was the question common to all class members, to be resolved in a single proceeding than for it to be litigated separately in hundreds of different trials.
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