Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Allstate Insurance Co. v. Electrolux Home Products, Inc.

United States District Court, D. South Carolina, Florence Division

May 19, 2017

Allstate Insurance Company, Allstate Property & Casualty Insurance Company, Allstate Indemnity Company, and Allstate Vehicle and Property Insurance Company, Plaintiffs,
v.
Electrolux Home Products, Inc., Defendant.

          ORDER

          R. Bryan Harwell United States District Judge.

         This is an insurance subrogation action. The matter is before the Court for a ruling on Defendant's Motion to Sever, to Dismiss, and to Transfer Divisions. See ECF No. 6. The Court denies in part and grants in part Defendant's motion for the reasons herein.[1]

         Background

         Plaintiffs provided insurance coverage to five different property owners in South Carolina who suffered losses in fires allegedly caused by a defective design in clothes dryers manufactured by Defendant. Plaintiffs, as subrogees of their insureds, filed this products liability action against Defendant alleging causes of action for strict liability and negligence and seeking both actual and punitive damages. See Complaint [ECF No. 1]. The Court has diversity jurisdiction over this matter pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1332.

         In their complaint, Plaintiffs allege Defendant designs, manufactures, and sells gas and electric “ball-hitch” style clothes dryers. Id. at ¶ 3. The ball-hitch design includes the following features: (1) a dryer drum that rotates around a fixed rear axis and contains a void space located directly behind the dryer drum, (2) a blower motor encased in a blower housing, and (3) a trap duct with a mesh lint trap located in front of the dryer cabinet. Id. at ¶¶ 12-13. In 1995 and 1996, Defendant changed the materials used in certain components-including the blower housing and trap duct-from steel to combustible plastics. Id. at ¶¶ 14-16. During testing, a dryer lit on fire: the fire ignited in the dryer cabinet and spread to the plastic trap duct. Id. at ¶ 18. Further testing showed a fire that started in the dryer cabinet could spread to the blower housing and trap duct, where the plastic components could melt and spread fire outside the dryer cabinet. Id. at ¶¶ 19-20. Additionally, Defendant received consumer complaints and warranty claims about fires in the dryers, and one of Defendant's product engineers acknowledged during an investigation by the Japanese government that lint could travel from the dryer drum and ignite either the contents of the drum or lint accumulated in the lint trap. Id. at ¶¶ 21-22, 24-25. The Japanese government forced a recall of Defendant's ball-hitch dryers in 2005, but Defendant never issued a similar recall in the United States and never informed the Consumer Product Safety Commission of the fire risks associated with the dryers. Id. at ¶¶ 25-28.

         Plaintiffs further allege that their insureds/subrogors had Defendant's ball-hitch dryers installed on their properties and that the dryers ignited and caused significant fire-related property damage. Id. at ¶¶ 31-34. Plaintiffs' complaint includes the following chart summarizing the five separate losses:

Subrogors

Dates of Loss

Loss Locations

[Plaintiffs] Paid Out in Excess of

Lewis Mark & Erin Bryant

7/26/2015

117 Elrod Place Drive Piedmont, South Carolina

$23, 917.81

b.

Mark W. & Erika Chapman

11/18/2013

1112 South Edisto Drive Florence, South Carolina

$33, 208.77

c.

James M. & Laura Jennings

11/19/2014

1115 Flint Hill Street Rock Hill, South Carolina

$226, 806.16

d.

Carrie C. Samuel

11/29/2013

103 Manning Court Greenwood, South Carolina

$15, 138.28

e.

Cynthia Tipler

2/15/2014

26 War Admiral Way Greenville, South Carolina

$12, 971.92

Id. at ¶ 4. As a result of the losses caused by the fires, Plaintiffs' insureds/subrogors made claims on their respective insurance policies, and Plaintiffs duly paid these claims. Id. at ¶ 35. Plaintiffs then brought this subrogation action against Defendant, and Defendant filed the instant Motion to Sever, to Dismiss, and to Transfer Divisions. See ECF No. 6. Plaintiffs filed a response in opposition, and Defendant filed a reply. See ECF Nos. 8 & 9.

         Discussion

         In its motion, Defendant requests that the Court (1) sever the five claims asserted in Plaintiffs' complaint, (2) dismiss four of the severed claims for lack of subject matter jurisdiction, (3) transfer the remaining claim to the Rock Hill Division of this Court, and (4) dismiss Plaintiffs' claim for punitive damages. See ECF No. 6.

         I. Severance

         Defendant asserts Plaintiffs' complaint asserts “five improperly consolidated claims, ” and Defendant asks the Court to sever these claims pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 21. ECF No. 6 at 1; ECF No. 6-1 at pp. 3-10. Defendant argues severance is necessary to avoid unfairness, prejudice, and jury confusion. ECF No. 6-1 at p. 3. As explained below, the Court finds severance is not warranted.

         A. Applicable Law

         “Under the Rules [of Civil Procedure], the impulse is toward entertaining the broadest possible scope of action consistent with fairness to the parties; joinder of claims, parties and remedies is strongly encouraged.” United Mine Workers of Am. v. Gibbs, 383 U.S. 715, 724 (1966). Rule 18 permits a party to join “as many claims as it has against an opposing party.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 18(a). Rule 20 governs permissive joinder of parties and allows plaintiffs to join in one action if “(A) they assert any right to relief jointly, severally, or in the alternative with respect to or arising out of the same transaction, ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.