A New Jersey federal judge on Thursday allowed most claims to proceed in a pair of consolidated putative class actions against Samsung and Lowe’s for the alleged mislabeling of energy-efficient refrigerators.
In both cases, Judge Kevin McNulty denied motions by Samsung and Lowe’s to dismiss the plaintiffs’ claims accusing the companies of breaching both implied and express warranties. The plaintiffs in the two cases, Lynne Avram and Margaret Lark, are claiming they were duped by both Samsung and Lowe’s when they purchased high-priced refrigerators bearing the Energy Star label guaranteeing greater energy efficiency, which was later revoked by the U.S. Department of Energy.
In allowing the express warranty breach claims to proceed, Judge McNulty ruled that the plaintiffs sufficiently proved that the existence of the Energy Star logo was an affirmation or promise of the device’s ability to conserve energy and that the logo became the basis for their purchase.
“I find that the complaints sufficiently allege that the Energy Star logo constitutes an express warranty, which defendants breached,” Judge McNulty wrote. “Any disclaimer in the user manual’s limited warranty is ineffective; at least, it cannot be presumed effective as a matter of law for the purposes of a motion to dismiss.”
Not all of the plaintiffs’ claims advanced to the next stage of the case. The court did dismiss Avram’s implied warranty claim against Samsung because Avram, as an Arizona resident, fell under that state’s privity of contract laws, which the judge interpreted to exclude Samsung from the implied warranty claims because Lowe’s is the entity that performed the sale. Lark’s implied warranty claims against both defendants and Avram’s against Lowe’s proceeded.
Judge McNulty also tossed the plaintiffs’ allegations of violation of New Jersey and Maryland consumer fraud statutes and unjust enrichment claims against Samsung. The unjust enrichment claims against Lowe’s remain intact.
In dismissing the state law fraud claims, Judge McNulty vacated Avram’s claims for the violation of New Jersey fraud laws were invalid because he had ruled earlier that Arizona state law actually applies.
Lark attempted to argue a violation of Maryland law, but the judge said she failed to sufficiently allege that the Energy Star logo “substantially induced her to purchase the refrigerator,” calling her claims of reliance “somewhat vague and conclusory.”
The cases are Avram et al. v. Samsung Electronics America Inc. et al., case number 2:11-cv-06973; and Lark et al. v. Samsung Electronics America Inc. et al., case number 2:12-cv-00976; in the U.S. District Court for the District of New Jersey.