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Federal Judge Grants Class Certification, But Denies Certifications as to Plaintiff’s Strict Liability Claims

January 25, 2016 | Topics: Class Actions, Product Liability

A United States District Judge for the Southern District of California certified a nationwide class and a subclass of California consumers in November 2015. 

In Czuchaj v. Conair Corporation et al., 3:13-cv-01901, plaintiffs’ sued Conair Corporation (hereafter “Conair”) in a class action, after purchasing a hair dryer with an allegedly defective coil and cord.  According to the complaint, the lead plaintiff contends the alleged defect caused the hair dryer to burst into flames while in use.  Plaintiffs’ sought the certification of a nationwide class asserting breach of implied warranty and strict product liability claims, and the certification of five state subclasses.  The court granted in part and denied in part, plaintiffs’ motion for class certification. 

The request to certify a nationwide class as to the product liability claims was denied because plaintiffs’ asserted two different design defects (only one of which applied to all hair dryers at issue), the statute of limitations varies among the states, and an award for property damage would only apply to a subset of the class.  Based on the substantial differences in state strict product liability laws, along with deficiencies in the plaintiff’s complaint, the court found that these issues raised individual questions that disqualified her strict product liability claims for class certification.

The court certified the nationwide class related to plaintiffs’ unopposed implied warranty claims, reasoning the questions of “whether the dryer was defective” and “whether Conair breached the implied warranty of merchantability” are appropriate for class certification.  The class is defined for all persons that purchased the hair dryer, between August 15, 2009 and present, for primarily personal, family, or household purposes, and not for resale.  The court also certified the subclass of California consumers raising claims under the False Advertising Law, Consumer Legal Remedies Act, and the Song-Beverly Warranty Act, reasoning the common question of whether Conair’s advertisements were deficient is appropriate for class certification because it is a question of whether the public are likely to be deceived, which does not require individual inquiry.