Chambers v. Whirlpool Corporation

Case # 11-cv-01733
Case Name Chambers v. Whirlpool Corporation
Jurisdiction US District Court for C.D. CA
Summary

Plaintiffs allege that Defendants retailed dishwashers under the Whirlpool, KitchenAid, and Kenmore brand names with a known defect in the electronic controls.  This defect caused the dishwasher's electronic control boards to "spontaneously overheat, emit smoke, fumes and sparks and erupt in flames" (see Complaint, page 4). 

Final Approval Date 10/11/2016
Result
  1. Final Approval granted.
    • The Court noted that, "[m]ost of the objections were filed by 'serial' objectors who are well-known for routinely filing meritless objections to class action settlements for the improper purpose of extracting a fee rather than to benefit the Class.  These serial objectors include:  (1) Timothy R. Hanigan and Christopher Bandas...(2) Steve A. Miller, John C. Kress, and Jonathan E. Fortman...(3) Patrick S. Sweeney...(4) Jan L. Miorelli...(5) Christopher T. Cain...(6) W. Allen McDonald...(7) Steven Helfand...and (8) Joseph Darrell Palmer (see Final Approval Order at 12:16-13:6).
  2. All serial objectors (with the exception of the withdrawn Bowes Objection and the stricken Whaley/Hightower Objection) appealed the Final Approval.
  3. The appeals are ongoing.
Dismissal of Last Appeal ongoing
Attachments Docket Report.pdf
Fourth Amended Class Action Complaint.pdf
Preliminary Approval Order.pdf
Plaintiff's Response Following Objector Discovery.pdf
Final Approval Order.pdf
Final Approval Hearing Transcript.pdf
Memorandum in Support of Motion for Sanctions.pdf
Memorandum in Opposition to Motion for Sanctions.pdf
Reply in Support of Motion for Sanctions.pdf
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Objection of Kara Bowes

Objectors Kara Bowes
Signers John W. Davis
Attorneys John W. Davis
Eric Alan Isaacson
C. Benjamin Nutley
Summary
  1. $100,000 side payment to class representative is improper and creates a conflict of interest.
    • Side payment leads to improper class representation.
  2. Class counsel billing records are improperly subject to protective order.

NOTE:  These objections were voluntarily withdrawn, finding that she did not have adequate documentation to establish her ability to receive compensation under the settlement.

Attachments Objection of Kara Bowes.pdf
Objection of Kara Bowes (Protective Order).pdf
Withdrawal of Bowes Objection.pdf
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Objection of George Liacopoulos

Objectors George Liacopoulos
Signers Jan Liacopoulos Morelli
Attorneys Sam A. Miorelli
Summary
  1. Settlement structure creates improper intra-class conflict.
  2. Settlement amount represents a fraction of the actual damages.
  3. "Cash rebates" should be considered "coupons" under the Class Action Fairness Act.
    • Settlement valuation is thus inflated.
  4. Class representative award is excessive.
  5. Attorneys' fees are excessive.
Attachments Objection of George Liacopoulos.pdf
Miorelli Appearance for Objector Liacopoulos.pdf
Appeal of Objector Liacopoulos.pdf
Liacopoulos Appeal Docket.pdf
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Objection of Patrick Sweeney

Objectors Patrick Sweeney
Signers Patrick Sweeney
Attorneys
Summary
  1. Claims administration process lacks adequate oversight.
  2. Claims administration process lacks definitive timeframes.
  3. Attorneys' fees are divorced from actual recovery by the class.
  4. Attorneys' fees are not supported by the record available on PACER.
  5. Payments to the class representative are improper.
  6. Potential cy pres provisions are not adequately disclosed.
  7. Attorneys' fees are excessive.

The Court struck this objection at the Final Approval, finding that "Sweeney and McDonald had failed to comply with discovery obligations imposed on them as objectors and str[iking] their objections on the record, reasoning that objectors cannot refuse to participate in discovery and still have their objections considered by the court" (see Order Certifying McDonald and Sweeney Appeals as Frivolous, at 2:4-7).  Indeed, part of Mr. Sweeney's response involved citing this website as his only available concrete record of his objections (see Email Correspondence, page 3).

Objector Sweeney appealed the Final Approval, despite the District Court certifying that his appeal was frivolous.

Attachments Objection of Patrick Sweeney.pdf
Email Correspondence With Objector Sweeney.pdf
Appeal of Objector Sweeney.pdf
Order Certifying McDonald and Sweeney Appeals as Frivolous.pdf
Order Dismissing Sweeney Appeal for Lack of Jurisdiction.pdf
Mandate Dismissing Sweeney Appeal.pdf
Second Amended Appeal of Objector Sweeney.pdf
Sweeney Appeal Docket.pdf
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Objection of Geri Whaley, John Hightower

Objectors Geri Whaley
John Hightower
Signers Joseph Darrell Palmer
Attorneys Joseph Darrell Palmer
Steven F. Helfand
Summary
  1. Settlement is illusory, since the rebate provisions should be considered coupons.
  2. Settlement does not compensate class members for collateral damages from a qualifying event.
  3. Class representative suffers from conflict of interest problems.
  4. Non-class members can be impermissibly compensated.
  5. Attorneys' fees are excessive and should be calculated based on the actual recovery by the class.

Attorney Palmer was suspended by the California bar from practicing law, effective June 17, 2016.  Attorney Palmer notified the Court of this suspension in a notice that was dated June 17, but was mailed June 28 and not received until July 1.  Attorney Palmer was barred from making any appearances in this case and the objections of his clients were stricken.

Attachments Objection of Geri Whaley and John Hightower.pdf
Motion to Disqualify Attorney Palmer.pdf
Memorandum in Support of Motion to Disqualify Attorney Palmer.pdf
Declaration in Support of Motion to Disqualify Attorney Palmer.pdf
Helfand Appearance for Objectors Whaley and Hightower.pdf
Notice of Non-Receipt of Palmer Response to Motion to Disqualify.pdf
Notice of Suspension of Attorney Palmer.pdf
Plaintiff's Objection to Notice of Suspension of Attorney Palmer.pdf
Order Granting Motion to Dismiss Attorney Palmer.pdf
Correspondence with Attorney Helfand.pdf
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Objection of W. Allen McDonald

Objectors W. Allen McDonald
Signers Christopher T. Cain
Attorneys Christopher T. Cain
Summary
  1. Attorneys' fees are excessive and improperly calculated.
  2. Coupon provisions lead to overvaluation of the settlement.
  3. Non-class members unfairly benefit from the settlement.
  4. Class representative incentive awards and side payments are excessive and lead to inadequate class representation.
  5. The class administrator distributed inaccurate information to class members regarding deadlines.

The Court struck this objection at the Final Approval, finding that "Sweeney and McDonald had failed to comply with discovery obligations imposed on them as objectors and str[iking] their objections on the record, reasoning that objectors cannot refuse to participate in discovery and still have their objections considered by the court" (see Order Certifying McDonald and Sweeney Appeals as Frivolous, at 2:4-7).

Objector McDonald appealed both the Order Striking his Objection and the Final Approval Order.

Attachments Objection of W. Allen McDonald.pdf
Cain Appearance for Objector McDonald.pdf
Email Correspondence with Cain and McDonald.pdf
Appeal of Objector McDonald.pdf
Order Certifying McDonald and Sweeney Appeals as Frivolous.pdf
Amended Appeal of Objector McDonald.pdf
McDonald Response to Order to Show Cause.pdf
McDonald Appeal Docket.pdf
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Objection of Kelly Kress

Objectors Kelly Kress
Signers Steve A. Miller
Attorneys Steve A. Miller
John C. Kress
Jonathan E. Fortman
Summary
  1. Conflicts of interest exist between the named plaintiffs (who receive a large payment) and the class members (who receive nothing.)
  2. Settlement is structured as a marketing ploy for Defendants, since most relief is simply a coupon for a future purchase.
  3. Attorneys' fees are excessive and divorced from the actual recovery by the class.

The District Court compelled discovery from Objector Kress, including deposition of two of her lawyers, John C. Kress and Jonathan E. Fortman.  In their depositions, both attorneys disclosed that they have been paid to drop their appeals numerous times, without corresponding benefits to the Class. (see John C. Kress Transcript at 22:13-26:19, Fortman Transcript at 30:8-37:5).

Objector Kress voluntarily withdrew her objection and appeal on November 30, 2016.

Attachments Objection of Kelly Kress.pdf
Correspondence Regarding Kress Objector Discovery.pdf
Motion to Compel Objector Kress Discovery.pdf
Declaration in Support of Motion to Compel Objector Kress Discovery.pdf
Opposition to Motion to Compel Objector Kress Discovery.pdf
Reply in Support of Motion to Compel Objector Kress Discovery.pdf
Order Requiring Kress Objectors to Comply With Discovery Requests.pdf
Kelly Kress Deposition Transcript.pdf
John C Kress Deposition Excerpts.pdf
Fortman Deposition Excerpts.pdf
Appeal of Objector Kress.pdf
Withdrawal of Kress Objection.pdf
Withdrawal of Kress Appeal.pdf
Kress Appeal Docket.pdf
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Objection of Christine Knott, Kimberly Smith

Objectors Christine Knott
Kimberly Smith
Signers Timothy R. Hanigan
Attorneys Timothy R. Hanigan
Christopher A. Bandas
Robert W. Clore
Summary
  1. Settlement should be considered a "coupon settlement" under the Class Action Fairness Act.
  2. Class representative award is excessive and leads to inadequate representation.
  3. Attorneys' fees are excessive.
Attachments Objection of Christine Knott and Kimberly Smith.pdf
Motion to Compel Attorneys Hanigan and Bandas Discovery.pdf
Supplemental Memorandum in Support of Motion to Compel Attorneys Hanigan and Bandas Discovery.pdf
Response to Supplemental Memorandum in Support of Motion to Compel Attorneys Hanigan and Bandas Discovery.pdf
Order Requiring Hanigan Compliance with Discovery.pdf
Declaration of Timothy Hanigan.pdf
Knott Deposition Excerpts.pdf
Smith Deposition Excerpts.pdf
Hanigan Deposition Excerpts.pdf
Appeal of Objectors Knott and Smith.pdf
Hanigan Declaration in Opposition to Sanctions.pdf
Bandas Appearance for Knott and Smith Objector-Appellants.pdf
Clore Appearance for Knott and Smith Objector-Appellants.pdf
Withdrawal of Smith Objection.pdf
Objector-Appellant Knott Motion for Summary Reversal.pdf
Plaintiff's Response to Knott Motion for Summary Reversal.pdf
Knott Reply in Support of Motion for Summary Reversal.pdf
Knott and Smith Appeal Docket.pdf
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