Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Northern District Certifies Deceptive Promotion Class on Behalf of Superior/Lennox Brand Fireplace Owners in Keilholtz v. Lennox Hearth Prods.

On February 16, 2010, Northern District Judge Claudia Wilken certified a National and California class of approximately 556,639 owners of Superior or Lennox brand single-pane sealed glass front fireplaces in Keilholtz v. Lennox Hearth Prods., 2010 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 14553 (N.D. Cal. Feb. 16, 2010). The Court’s order certified claims brought under the UCL, CLRA and unjust enrichment based on defendants’ alleged concealment/failure to disclose “the fact that the fireplaces are dangerous and unsafe given that the unguarded single pane glass-sealed front may reach temperatures in excess of 475 degrees Fahrenheit, which may cause third degree burns to skin contacting the glass.” See Keilholtz, 2010 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 14553, at 1-3.

In holding that common issues predominated, the Court concluded that California law could be applied nationwide in light of the fact that the bulk of defendants’ fireplaces were manufactured, in part, in California:
Defendants manufacture, assemble and package their fireplaces in Lynwood, California; Union City, Tennessee; Toronto, Canada; and Auburn, Washington. Dischner Decl. P 5. Since February 1, 2004, 117,016 fireplaces (twenty-one percent) were exclusively manufactured, assembled and packaged outside of California and 17,628 (three percent) were exclusively manufactured, assembled and packaged inside of California. The remaining 421,725 (seventy-six percent) were partly manufactured, assembled or packaged at plants in California and partly in at least one other state. Although many fireplaces were produced exclusively outside of California, the fact that seventy-six percent maintained a production connection to California weighs in favor of finding that applying California law to the class claims would not be arbitrary or unfair. Plaintiffs have shown that a significant portion of Defendants' alleged harmful conduct emanated from California. Overall, this class action involves a sufficient degree of contact between Defendants' alleged conduct, the claims asserted and California to satisfy due process concerns. See Parkinson v. Hyundai Motor America, 258 F.R.D. 580, 597-98 (C.D. Cal. 2008); Mazza v. American Honda Motor Co., 254 F.R.D. 610, 620-21 (C.D. Cal. 2008).
See Keilholtz, 2010 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 14553, 23-24.

The Court rejected defendants’ argument that individualized “inquiry into the specific warnings each putative class member received” would be required under the UCL, as “[r]elief under the UCL is available without individualized proof of deception, reliance and injury." See id., at 31-32 (citing In re Tobacco II Cases, 46 Cal. 4th 298, 320 (2009)). With regard to plaintiffs’ CLRA claim, the Court similarly concluded that common issues would predominate notwithstanding the fact the CLRA, unlike the UCL, imposes a causation component. As reasoned by the Court, a common inference of class member reliance was permitted in light of the materiality of defendants’ uniform “alleged failure adequately to disclose to consumers that Defendants' fireplaces could reach temperatures of 475 degrees and cause third-degree burns on contact.” See id., at 34-35 (citing Mass. Mut. Life Ins. Co. v. Superior Court, 97 Cal. App. 4th 1282, 1294 (2002). However, the Court acknowledged that this issue could be revisited in the event it is subsequently determined that “a single determination of materiality is not possible.” See id.

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