Madison County miniblind class action would shut down industry

Steve Korris Oct. 12, 2007, 12:36am

Judge Daniel Stack

In the grandest of all class action claims attorney Jeffrey Lowe of Clayton, Mo. proposes hundreds of millions of refunds repudiating purchases of more than a billion window miniblinds.

He claims in Madison County circuit court that manufacturers, distributors and retailers of miniblinds placed everyone at risk of strangulation.

He would remove and replace all the blinds.

He would shut down an industry that sells 40 to 50 million miniblinds a year in the U.S.

According to Lowe, 339 people strangled on miniblind cords in 30 years, but he doesn't seek damages from their deaths.

He seeks damages for everyone who didn't die.

He means every American, and Puerto Ricans too.

He filed the suit in 2005, ahead of the effective date of a class action reform law Congress enacted.

After the effective date he would have had to sue in federal court.

He sued on behalf of Ronald Alsup of Edwardsville, Robert Crews of Granite City, and Magnum Properties, a Missouri landlord.

He accused 61 businesses including retail giants Wal-Mart, K-Mart, May, Big Lots, Super Dollar, Ace Hardware, Pier 1 Imports and Ikea.

He amended the complaint Oct. 3 with permission from Circuit Judge Daniel Stack, over defense objections.

The new complaint accuses 28 businesses. Among the giant retailers on defense, only Ikea remains.

The complaint seeks compensation for financial and other costs.

"If plaintiffs and the members of the class had known the true facts, they would not have purchased the miniblinds," Lowe wrote.

"…[T]hey were defectively designed and not safe for use throughout the household, as warranted…

"…[T]hey were unsafe for use anywhere small children would play and thus not suitable for the purpose for which it was manufactured…"

He wrote that defendants denied plaintiffs the reasonable use of the product and the benefit of the bargain.

"Plaintiffs and the members of the class are entitled to either repudiation of their agreements and repayment of the money they spent to purchase the miniblinds, or actual damages…,"
Lowe wrote.

"…[T]he class will have to either eliminate miniblinds and purchase alternative window coverings, remedy the problem themselves at a substantial cost or be at the risk of having their children or tenants injured, thereby suffering actual damages."

He wrote that the class is comprised of hundreds of millions of individuals.

"It is estimated that over one billion sets of defective miniblinds are currently in use in the United States," he wrote.

On an optimistic note considering the scale of the action, he wrote that class members could be ascertained from defendant files and other sources.

He alleged conspiracy, claiming defendants met at Chicago in 1994 and "agreed to engage in a conscious course of conduct to lie, conceal and misrepresent by omission the hazards associated with miniblind cords."

He asked Stack for an injunction prohibiting defendants from further sales of defective miniblinds.

Evan Schaeffer and Andrea LaMere of Godfrey put their names on Lowe's amended complaint.

So did James Onder and Michael Kruse of Webster Groves, Mo.

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