An Ohio federal judge has denied the request by Tristar Products Inc. to decertify a class of consumers that claims its pressure cookers are explosively defective and worthless. U.S. District Judge James S. Gwin found that the cookers’ fluctuating price and the currently unknown number of cookers sold wasn’t enough to scrap the class.
In addition to refusing Tristar’s decertification bid Judge Gwin decided to bifurcate the upcoming trial due to potentially different damages for class members and an uncertain class size. As a result, the jury will first decide whether the cookers have a defect that allows them to be opened while still pressurized and whether that defect makes them worthless. If the jury finds that to be true, the parties will then move on to the proof of appropriate damages.
The three named Plaintiffs, who are from Ohio, Pennsylvania and Colorado, say the cookers appeared to be safe to open, and could be opened, but still contained a dangerous amount of pressure. They said opening the cookers caused scalding food to explode out onto their bodies. They claim that the defect makes the cookers worthless and are seeking a full refund.
In late April, the court certified a class comprised of Ohio, Pennsylvania and Colorado residents who bought Tristar pressure cookers. The company moved to decertify the classes, saying the fluctuating price of the cookers and the unknown number of cookers sold by third-party retailers in the three states were fatal to the class.
But Judge Gwin disagreed. He found that neither issue was enough to get rid of the class, adding:
The fact that class members bought cookers at different prices than other members does not “necessitate decertification.”
The judge noted that the cookers are currently sold by Kohl’s at prices ranging from $110 to $160. Judge Gwin, citing the Seventh Circuit’s 2013 decision in Butler v. Sears, Roebuck & Co., said:
After all, ‘it would drive a stake through the heart of the class action device, in cases in which damages were sought … to require that every member of the class have identical damages.
Tristar’s argument that the consumers can’t measure their damages without a more solid idea of how many cookers are involved in the lawsuit was rejected by Judge Gwin. He said that the Plaintiffs can collect Tristar’s online sales data and information from retailers to get the numbers they need to sufficiently figure out damages.
The Plaintiffs are represented by Gregory F. Coleman, Adam E. Edwards and Mark E. Silvey of Greg Coleman Law PC; Shanon J. Carson and Arthur Stock of Berger & Montague PC; Drew Legando of Landskroner Grieco Merriman LLC, and Edward A. Wallace; and Tyler J. Story of Wexler Wallace LLP. The case is Chapman, et al., v. Tristar Products Inc. (case number 1:16-cv-01114) in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Ohio.
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