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Old 04-22-2016, 05:52 PM   #1
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Dometic Class Action Suit


For all of you Dometic refrigerator owners (and that's MOST of you); a little 'lite' reading…………………..

Class Action Suit Filed Against Dometic Corp.
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April 22, 2016 by RVBusiness

In a press release issued today (April 22), Hagens Berman Sobol Shapiro LLP, a consumer-rights class-action law firm, announced that it had filed a class-action lawsuit on behalf of a group of RV owners against Dometic Corp., alleging that the company sold defective gas absorption refrigerators with cooling systems that can spontaneously ignite in RVs and boats, putting consumers at risk.
The lawsuit claims that the defective refrigerators have caused or contributed to at least 3,000 fires since 1997, resulting in more than $100 million in property damage and personal injury claims, all of which, according to the suit, Dometic tracked through multiple nonpublic, internal databases. Despite this knowledge, the suit maintains, Dometic “failed and refused to eliminate the defects and/or provide consumers with adequate warnings.”
In response, Dometic stated that it takes the accusations seriously but vehemently denies that the company would consciously have refrained from eliminating defects in the product. A Dometic spokesman indicated that the company had not yet been officially served with notice of the suit.
“Dometic conducts its operations in strongly regulated environment and it is a vital requirement that all products comply with applicable laws and regulations regarding safety,” according to the Dometic statement. “Dometic works proactively with product safety in an open and close cooperation with governmental authorities and strictly follows the applicable legislation and recommendations. Dometic will come back with more detailed information on this matter.”
The lawsuit contends that “every gas absorption refrigerator manufactured by Dometic since 1997 shares common technology, common cooling unit design and common defects, including the propensity of the refrigerator’s cooling unit boiler tube to corrode, crack and expel hydrogen gas at high pressure, which can spontaneously combust, or reach other ignition sources, causing a fire.”
The 80-page lawsuit filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California in San Francisco seeks to force Dometic to repair or replace defective refrigerators and compensate consumers for the diminution of value of their RVs and boats as a result of these manufacturer defects.
The suit, in addressing two recalls issued by Dometic, further alleges, “defendants have used and manipulated the recall process to conceal the true dangers and safety risks inherent in their defective gas absorption refrigerators from both federal regulators and consumers.”

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Old 04-22-2016, 06:29 PM   #2
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Appears that a similar suit was filed against Norcold. Showed up in USA Today, 22 Apr 16.

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Old 04-22-2016, 06:39 PM   #3
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Originally Posted by BAB View Post
Appears that a similar suit was filed against Norcold. Showed up in USA Today, 22 Apr 16.
Norcold and Dometic have issued similar recalls for almost identical issues.
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Old 04-22-2016, 07:28 PM   #4
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This sounds like a lot of class actions suits in which the only one making any money out of it is the lawyers.
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Old 04-22-2016, 08:02 PM   #5
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I wonder what the basis for this suit is? It would have to be that the boiler tube was made thinner or of a new alloy from the older ones to have a basis in reality. Most gas refrigerators seem to spring a leak in the freezer area or somewhere where the pipes get rusty from moisture; at least the older ones that I've seen. Hydrogen leaks through the tiniest hole! However it can combust spontaneously if released quickly so it would be a problem if the allegations of the suit were true. I'd be shocked if the company thought they could hide something like this.
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Old 04-22-2016, 08:40 PM   #6
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I'm surprised somebody hasn't launched a class action lawsuit against God for planting a bad apple tree, on behalf of all humanity.

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Old 04-22-2016, 08:41 PM   #7
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My view: (if anyone's interested!)

I have not seen any fires that were directly caused be a gas/absorption refrigerator made by Dometic, but have heard of them in the 'industry'.

I DO have direct experience with Norcold, however. When they came out with their first 'recall' about 11 years ago, their 'fix' was an entire cooling unit replcement for their problem-plagued 1200 series. After doing 10 in one season, I got very good at changing the entire cooling units and could do one in about 2.5 hours including removal of the unit and replacement.

The next 'recall' was a heat sensor riveted to the metal column that wraps around the boiler section, as this was the primary location of the 'leaking refrigerant'. This was a series connection thru a resettable thermostat (like thermal circuit breaker) that had a series connection of the 12VDC power supply to the control board. Too much heat=open t/stat=no control voltage to the board=normally closed LP valve closes and 'theoretically' stops the combustion. Dometic came out with a similar 'recall' kit with some additional sheet metal to contain a 'combustion event' as they called it.

The present Norcold 'recall' takes the former a bit further and adds a banded heat sensor to inside the metallic wrap covering of the boiler section. This new sensor sends a signal to a 'little black box' that has the positive 12VDC feed going into it, a ground wire, positive DC coming out of the box into the control board and the sensor cable. Oh, it also has a little red LED that when lit, tells you the box has failed 'open' and it interrupts the flow of control voltage as above and removes all DC from your refrigerator.

After installing over 200 of these recall units over a couple of years, I had not seen a fire but did start to see failures of the 'little black box' for no apparent reason. It did do it's job on several occasions though, as the owner had experienced a refrigerant leak as evidenced by the bright yellow staining of the sodium chromate that is an integral part of the ammonia/hydrogen refrigerant mix and had leaked out in the boiler section. Time for a new cooling unit!!!

Note that up to this point; we are at the 8 year or so mark in my 'association' with Norcold, There has not been a single attempt to remediate the known problem of weak welds in the boiler section of the refrigerator's cooling unit that was causing the leaking and fire potential.

Fast forward a year or so, and I did experience an incendiary event to a client's motorhome. It was parked in his usual spot in this particular RV park, as it had been every year since I started in the business. I just happened to be finishing a repair in this same park, when several folks started yelling fire and someone on a bicycle came to me asking for help.

I drove a couple of blocks only to see my clients rig smoking from the area of the refrigerator. First instinct…TURN OFF THE LP AND SHORE POWER!!!! (owners were out to lunch…NO PETS)!! Next, get some additional extinguishers and attempt to but out the blaze. After emptying my 10 lb. dry chemical unit and several other 5 lb. units into the back of the fridge compartment, the fire company showed and took over. IT WAS NOT PRETTY!!!………and the fire source was obviously the fridge as the entire fiberglass wall directly above the side access door was brown/black and smoking.

The interesting fact was that this unit was plugged into shore power and WAS OPERATING SOLELY ON THE 120VAC HEATING ELEMENTS AND NOT LP.

This happened just before Thanksgiving, and the owner's insurance company (who will remain nameless lest I get accused of slander, which I will explain in a bit) had the rig towed to a restoration specialist in central FL.

On New Year's Eve day, I received a certified letter from said insurance company basically accusing me of negligence in the installation of the 'recall' kit and demanding the name of MY insurance company (Happy New year to you too!!). Knowing how these things work and that I know that the recall kit was placed EXACTLY to the given directions from Norcold, I refused and contacted Norcold and was directed to their 'Incident Response Unit'.

After a long conversation basically looking for them to give me some backing for this incident, I was told that they could not as they had no idea 'IF' the recall kit was installed correctly, even though the unit was operating on electric and the recall kit was specifically designed for LP operation and the fact that they had seen fit to have me install over 200 of these recall kits.

Time to lawyer up!!!

After finding a competent attorney, I drafted a letter, at his direction, to the unnamed insurance company stating the facts and including a 6 page dissertation of why 2 - 120VAC cal rod heating elements operating at close to 600ºF placed in steel sleeves, wrapped in insulation and a metal canister would retain sufficient heat to ignite the leaking refrigerant for a period of at least 10 minutes AFTER THE POWER WAS REMOVED BY THE RECALL KIT!!!!!!! Ever try to place your hand on an electric range's 'burner' after the power has been shut off???

Didn't matter to the company, as they were looking for a scapegoat and Norcold basically threw me under the bus. Forward to Feb. and their official 'inquiry' into the event.

I had to travel (with my attorney) to the central FL site that was housing the coach in question and met with 3 paid fire inspectors: one from Norcold, one from the insurance company and a third from Lazy Days RV, as they sold the unit to the client. Talk about the shotgun technique for claims recovery!!! My attorney was there to 'keep things honest'.

After 3 hours of using MY TOOLS, ladders, expertise AND ME, the outer wall was removed and the fire path was traced….. and do you know where it started????? RIGHT AT THAT PESKY LITTLE TUBING BEND WHERE ALL OF THE RV FRIDGE FIRES START. Yep, the very same one that both Norcold and Dometic refuse to change even though they have experienced numerous failures at this point in their cooling units.

The Norcold guy proved that it started there by pressurizing the coil system with air and sprayed the area with soap solution…..BUBBLES!!! The consensus was that I had placed the recall sensor and additional materials perfectly, and that the little black box (remember that?) had worked as designed.

The discussion then went into the heat retention of the electric elements and how they provided the continual heat source to propel the flames. After it was all over, I asked the Norcold guy 'off the record' why they refused to directly address the problem and was told "it's cheaper to go case by case than to change the design, as doing so would open Pandora's Box of liability by admitting that there was a design problem from the start". And per the Norcold guy, it was the highly pressurized and super heated AMMONIA which is now a plasma that causes these fires and NOT the hydrogen, which is contained in the top of the cooling unit in and around the condenser section.


I could have sued Norcold and the unnamed insurance company, but at that point, I wrote it off as one more expensive experience. Needless to say that as of that day, I stopped doing any work for Norcold and in fact, would not touch another LP appliance again, even though I was properly licensed and trained to do so and fully insured.

This is pretty serious stuff when major corporations that supply tens of thousands of these units refuse to admit they have a problem and refuse to address same as it would be an overt expression of their prior guilt. It would certainly give me pause if I had ANY ammonia/absorption refrigeration unit on my RV!

Does anyone wonder WHY I am such a big proponent of marine compressor refrigeration????
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Old 04-22-2016, 08:55 PM   #8
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Defective Dometic refrigerators caused 3000 RV fires in 19 years? Maybe. RoadTrip America estimates that there are approximately 3,100 RV fires per year from various causes. Other sources estimate 4000 RV fires per year or even 10,000 RV fires per year. Which tells me that no one really knows how many RV fires happen per year.

So how is it, exactly, that Dometic supposedly knows exactly how many RV fires were caused exclusively by defective Dometic refrigerators, when no one seems to know how many fires there are from other causes? And how does the law firm filing the suit know that these fires are tracked on non-public databases, which by definition wouldn't be available for examination by the law firm until after the data was subpoenaed?

Methinks the law firm in question saw how the suit against Norcold went back in 2014 with a $33 million payout, of which the law firm handling the suit probably got a third— they sure didn't handle it pro bono— and then said, "Well, if they can do it, why can't we do it?" Then they looked around for a manufacturer who hadn't been class-action sued yet, and went after Dometic.

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Old 04-22-2016, 09:05 PM   #9
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Every time I get a notice in the mail to see if I'd like to join a class action lawsuit I throw it in the garbage.
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Old 04-23-2016, 10:49 AM   #10
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I didn't get the warm and fuzzy feeling after Dometic did their cheap recall fix on my refrigerator in my 2007 25' Safari in 2008. I then installed some extra protection with an automatic fire extinguisher in the refrigerator compartment, just in case their cheap fix does not work.
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Old 04-23-2016, 11:24 AM   #11
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My '03 Alfa was included in the recall/repair on Dometic units made early 2000.
My refer failed due to chimney heat causing metal fatigue and lost its' ammonia.

I sent it out for a rebuilt cooling system and it came back with the revised chimney shielding.

So the design is still bad and newer refers are still subject to failure from heat cycled metal fatigue?
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Old 04-23-2016, 11:40 AM   #12
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That poor design of refrigeration by Dometic will be replaced next month in both of our trailers with a Vitrifrigo DP2600 going into our Classic and the DP150iL going into our 23D. We already had both solar cells and lithium batteries installed in/on both trailers, so the 12Vdc power source will not be an issue.
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Old 04-23-2016, 12:50 PM   #13
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1st Mod to any RV I buy in the future is additional battery capacity and 12v compressor refrigerator.
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Old 04-23-2016, 12:55 PM   #14
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What is the difference between a lawyer and a carp?
One is a bottom feeding, scum sucking scavenger and the other is a fish!

What do you call it when a bus full of lawyers drives off a cliff?
A good start!

Maybe we can file a class action against all class action lawyers since they are the only ones that make any money off them.

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