Can Defective Dehumidifiers Cause Fires in Your Home?
Homeowners whose homes have a basement, crawlspace, bathroom or other location where humidity and moisture can accumulate, know all too well about the damage that long-term exposure to water can cause. Aside from potentially causing aesthetic imperfections, long-term exposure to moisture can weaken building materials and provide the conditions that mold, bacteria, and other unwelcome house guests need to develop.
Therefore, it is not uncommon for homeowners with these types of concerns to purchase a dehumidifier unit. The unit is intended to reduce humidity levels. By reducing humidity levels, a homeowner can minimize the likelihood that water will accumulate on surfaces and cause building materials, such as support beams or fasteners, to deteriorate and fail. Thus, most homeowners purchase a dehumidifier because they want to prevent the development of potentially dangerous conditions that could result in structural integrity issues, wet spots on floors that could lead to a slip and fall, mold or mildew, or other problems.
Are You In Need of a Philadelphia Product Liability Lawyer?
When people purchase and bring consumer products into their home, they expect the product to work as intended and to be free from serious product defects that can cause injury, death, or serious property damage. Unfortunately, some products make it store shelves with problems due to mistakes in the design or manufacturing process. Homeowners who purchased certain dehumidifiers manufactured by Gree Electric Appliances have reported the unit catching on fire. Reports of the defect are still coming in despite a 2013 recall and a 2014 recall expansion. In fact, due to continuing reports of fires and property damage, CPSC has re-announced and expanded the recall once again. Furthermore, consumer reports regarding problems with Midea-manufactured units catching on fire resulted in a second massive recall campaign.
Gree DeHumidifier Recall is Ongoing Since 2013
The recall due to Gree-manufactured dehumidifier units that can overheat and catch fire was first announced in September 2013. The original recall covered at least twelve models of dehumidifiers that could, “overheat, smoke and catch fire, posing fire and burn hazards to consumers.” Units affected by the original recall included 20, 25, 30, 40, 45, 50, 65 and 70-pint dehumidifiers sold by:
At the time of the original recall, 325 incidents including 71 fires and nearly $3 million in property damage had been reported. Consumers were instructed to immediately unplug and stop using these devices.
In January 2014, the recall was expanded for the first time “due to serious fire and burn hazards.” The expanded recall included about 350,000 General Electric branded dehumidifiers. At the time of the recall, the CPSC had received 16 reports of fires or overheating in certain GE branded units. If you were severely injured from a defective product or recalled product, contact a Philadelphia product liability attorney of The Reiff Law Firm.
Efficacy of the Recall Has Been Stymied by Numerous Problems
Unfortunately, the initial recalls appear to have been ineffective at getting consumers to turn in their defective product. According to reports at Consumerist.com, customers reported significant trouble and frustrations with the recall process starting in 2014. Consumerist posted a news article reporting some of the trouble that concerned readers reported. One consumer reported spending over an hour on hold wrote that “I called the number on the paperwork and sat on hold for over an hour before I finally hung up.” Another consumer who wrote Consumerist was surprised to discover that Gree had no record of his recall request despite previous assurances to the contrary. This consumer wrote:
Return kit was mailed on March 22???? On April 15 I spoke to [a customer service rep] re: [serial number] Model SGDEH701 and she indicated you had received the return kit and claim would be sent to escalation department and had not been processed yet???? This is the time of year that we NEED these units!
However, the most troubling part of the post is the fact that the Consumerist had apparently tried to help readers through the process but “the number of people contacting [Consumerist] has increased sharply in the last few weeks.” The number of people with recall problems was apparently so significant that working as an intermediary for individual customers became overwhelming for the website and its employees. Perhaps this post should have been the canary in the coal mine that let the CPSC know that things were not proceeding according to plan and that defective units presenting a fire risk were still in homes.
In March 2016, Gree was fined by CPSC a record $15.45 million following allegations that the company had failed to report fires. Additional allegations against the company included the company placed Underwriter Laboratories (UL) logo on products that didn’t meet required standards. CPSC also alleged that Gree had knowingly misrepresented facts to CPSC staff members during the course of the recall.
House Fire Risk Remains as Expanded Recall Covers 2.5 Million Dehumidifiers Sold Under Numerous Popular Brands
Due to continuing reports of fires and incidents, the reported value of property damage caused has skyrocketed. Whereas the initial recall reported property damage in the range of $3 to $4 million, the current cost has skyrocketed to nearly $19 million in damage.
The newly re-announced recall covers at least 2.5 million units. According to CPSC, these units were sold at retail locations including AAFES, Amazon.com, Ebay.com HH Gregg, Home Depot, Kmart, Lowe’s, Menards, Mills Fleet Farm, Sam’s Club, Sears, and Walmart from January 2005 until August 2013. Affected units include model sizes ranging from 20 to 70-pints sold by the following expanded list of brands:
For a full list of affected model numbers, please consult the CPSC’s 2016 Gree dehumidifier recall page. Consumers who own an affected model are urged to stop using it immediately due to the risk of fire. A household appliance that sparks, smokes, overheats, or catches on fire can spread throughout a home and inflict severe, life-altering, or fatal injuries.
Re-Announcement of Gree Recall Comes Just One Month After Similar Recall Affecting 3.4 Million Midea-Manufactured Units
In a November 2, 2016, recall announcement, CPSC indicated that dehumidifiers sold by a different manufacturer, Midea, had problems similar to the Gree-manufactured units. That is, more than 3.4 million units from this manufacturer also present a serious overheating, fire, and burn risk. To date, the company has received at least 38 reports of the units catching on fire or giving off smoke. While no fatalities have been reported, the risk of a fire that consumes a home and its occupant is real. Thus far, the defect is believed to be responsible for nearly $5 million in damages.
Affected models have been sold under a vast array of brand names including:
Airworks, Alen, Arcticaire, Arctic King, Beaumark, Coolworks, ComfortAire, Comfort Star, Continental Electic, Crosley, Daewoo, Danby, Danby & Designer, Dayton, Degree, Diplomat, Edgestar, Excell, Fellini, Forest Air, Frigidaire, GE, Grunaire, Hanover, Honeywell, Homestyles, Hyundai, Ideal Air, Kenmore (Canada), Keystone, Kul, Midea, Nantucket, Ocean Breeze, Pelonis, Perfect Aire, Perfect Home, Polar Wind, Premiere, Professional Series, Royal Sovereign, Simplicity, Sunbeam, SPT, Sylvania, TGM, Touch Point, Trutemp, Uberhaus, Westpointe, Winix, and Winixl
Owners of affected units should immediately cease use of the product due to the risk of overheating and fires that can lead to smoke inhalation, burns, or even death should the fire spread throughout the home.
In all, close to 6 million dehumidifier units sold over the past decade have the potential to start a fire, inflict severe burns, or cause smoke inhalation injuries. The fact that up to 6 million households have faced and continue to face a risk of serious injury is extremely troubling – especially when most homeowners purchased the product to prevent problems and injuries. If you or a loved one have suffered serious, life-altering injuries due to a dehumidifier or other appliance that overheated or caught fire, the Bucks County product liability attorneys of The Reiff Law Firm may be able to fight for you. To schedule a free, no obligation consultation at our Center City Philadelphia law office, call (215) 709-6940 today.