Sears class certification reversed at Fifth District

Ann Knef May 26, 2011, 5:14am



The Fifth District Appellate Court has reversed St. Clair County Associate Judge Andrew Gleeson who in 2009 certified a class action against Sears Roebuck over fees paid for refrigerator waterline installation.

In a Rule 23 order filed May 17, Justice Stephen Spomer wrote that the amended class definition included members who no longer lived in the homes where the "saddle" valves were installed and "therefore have suffered no actual injury, and therefore the definition is overbroad."

Saddle valves are illegal under state plumbing code.

The case was filed in 2006 by St. Louis attorney Erich Vieth on behalf of plaintiffs Louise Bradley and Earleen Morris. The class included Illinois residents who, since Feb. 10, 1996, paid Sears a fee for the installation of a refrigerator waterline for icemakers.

Justices Melissa Chapman and Thomas Welch concurred with Spomer.

Though the justices reversed class certification and remanded the case to St. Clair County for further proceedings, the court held that the general requirements for certification were met on issues of commonality and adequacy of representation.

They also found that the cost of bringing waterline installations up to code would constitute actual damages under state law if a violation could be proven.

But, in this case, when a class member who purchased a waterline installation subsequently moved and/or no longer possessed the refrigerator, he or she would have no claim of injury, the justices held.

"These class members are not entitled to relief because they are not at risk of an injury and are no longer in a position to have the allegedly defective installations corrected," Spomer wrote.

"As a result, the class definition is overbroad and must be amended so that class membership is limited to individuals with valid claims for relief."

William "Barney" Shultz of Edwardsville represents Sears.

On the front page of the decision, Gleeson's name is misspelled "Gleason."

Rule 23 orders are non-precedential.

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