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Lawyers use class action to take you to cleaners
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My front-end washing machine generated an odor after a number of uses.
That means some lawyers in New York City could be raking in $14.7 million.
I — if I decide to go for it — can get 5 percent off the purchase of “certain new” Whirlpool washers and dryers.
Isn’t America great for lawyers?
It’s not the first time I’ve received a notice of a proposed class action settlement in the mail for some item I had purchased. Nor will it be the last time I won’t act on it.
What makes this one special is the sheer idiocy required to have advanced beyond the 5 percent rebate that is being offered to everyone that bought specific front-end washing machines between 2001 and 2010. The settlement is about the washing machines creating odors and mold issues after failing to clean out properly. Those people — if they can prove that happened to them more than six years ago — get $50 cash or 20 percent off a future washer or dryer purchase. And those that incurred out-of-pocket expenses for either fixing the odor problem or replacing the washer can get up to $500 providing they can document such costs.
Besides the fact most people probably couldn’t produce the necessary paperwork documenting such losses, the settlement is overreach at best and another way class action attorneys can line their pockets at worse. If someone occurred monetary losses and can document it, the action makes sense.
But here’s the inconvenient truth. If you had an odor issue it wasn’t that hard to address.
You didn’t need to call a repairman nor did you need to run to a lawyer. All you had to do was to keep the washer door open between washes.
I know. You shouldn’t have to do that. Besides it could create a safety hazard for small kids and is terribly inconvenient. The front-end washer was designed to keep the door closed even when not in use. I happen to have a laundry room where keeping the door open is no big deal.  I’ll admit that it did start to bug me.
So what did I do? Did I call a lawyer? No. I simply asked how I could address the odor. The Manteca store staff that sold the washing machine to me suggested I use a powdered washing machine cleaner once a month just as I would use detergent to wash clothes.
Maybe it’s because I don’t have that many clothes to wash and therefore I don’t do that many loads, but I can go three to four months before having to spend the equivalent of 80 cents to clean the washer.
The point is the washing machine neither ruined my clothes nor is it any longer a source of odor.
Is it the ideal situation? I guess not. Is it workable? Yes. Should a washing machine have been sold that had a tendency to create odors and possibly mold build up? No, but then again I don’t think they had a design team tasked to make sure it creates odors either.
The fact it was hit and miss among the units they sold obviously points to an issue.
But does it rise to the level of a class action lawsuit where the biggest benefactors are lawyers pocketing $14.7 million as opposed to essentially everyone that was effected saving perhaps $20 or so on their next washing machine or dryer purchase providing they buy certain models?
If the problem was that severe, I guarantee you the washing machine manufacturers would be forced by the court in a settlement agreement to send $20 in cash to everyone that bought them. And if there was wanton disregard for consumer safety or product reliability you can bet that the lawyers would have landed a much bigger settlement for the class action group and an even fatter pay off for themselves.
Unfortunately most class action suits today deal with minor consequences such as whether melting ice should count toward the advertised fluids in a cup of Starbucks iced coffee that the perceived damages often don’t rise to the level of fraud.
As a result such lawsuits are factored into the cost of doing business and passed on in the form of higher prices to consumers.
If people incurred dollar losses to make such repairs, I have no problem with those being reimbursed through a class action lawsuit. But to toss everyone else in that happened to buy the same models regardless of whether they had a problem or could address it serves only one purpose — increase the payday of lawyers.
Class action lawyers get a percentage of the settlement. The more “injured” parties they can drum up the more money they get.
So in exchange for you maybe saving $20 on your next washing machine purchase providing you buy a certain make or model New York lawyers get more dough to buy Lamborghinis, travel to Paris, buy $2,000 suits, and hire household staff to do their laundry.
Isn’t America great?

This column is the opinion of executive editor, Dennis Wyatt, and does not necessarily represent the opinion of The Bulletin or Morris Newspaper Corp. of CA.  He can be contacted at or 209.249.3519.