Detroit - A judge here has given the green light to a class-action lawsuit charging GE with marketing microwave ovens that could spontaneously activate.
The suit, representing three individual plaintiffs, claims the ovens present a fire hazard and that GE has concealed the defect for nearly a decade.
According to the law firm of Tycko & Zavareei, which filed the suit in Michigan's Eastern District Court in May, a motion by GE to dismiss the case was rejected on most counts by Judge Victoria A. Roberts, who ruled that the manufacturer's statute of limitations argument was outweighed by the allegations of fraudulent concealment of a dangerous defect.
GE said the court dismissed the plaintiffs' product liability claim that the ovens were defective and/or created an unreasonably dangerous condition, and allowed only the remaining claims relating to warranties and the consumer protection act to proceed.
In a statement issued to TWICE, GE said the lawsuit is "totally without merit," accused the law firm of issuing "false and misleading statements," and said allegations that literally every GE microwave sold since 2000 can begin operating spontaneously and presents a fire hazard are "completely false."
GE has sold approximately 48 million microwave ovens since 1998, the company said, and each "was designed with safety features that meet or exceed industry standards and comply with the requirements of Underwriters Laboratories and all applicable regulatory agencies. The product design for GE-branded microwaves poses no safety risk to consumers, and GE stands behind these products."
Tycko & Zavareei noted that GE had initially refused to comply with Judge Roberts' request to produce all reports of spontaneous activation, arguing that compiling them would be too burdensome a task. GE's argument was rejected in August by U.S. Magistrate Judge Michael Hluchaniuk, who imposed monetary sanctions and ordered the company to provide the documents.
GE has not appealed the sanctions nor the order to produce the documents, the law firm said, suggesting that the case will soon move forward. GE called the remaining claims "groundless" and expects that they will ultimately be dismissed.
In other GE news, the company will invest $68 million in its Bloomington, Ind., side-by-side refrigerator plant to prepare it for stricter majap energy-efficiency requirements that are expected to go into effect in 2014. The move will also help save more than 500 jobs, according to published reports, and was reportedly dependent on a union agreement to freeze current wages and accept lower salaries for new employees.