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Dishwasher that came with house catches fire, and owner learns it was subject of Whirlpool class action

London

A London, Ont., man said he learned his dishwasher was the subject of a class-action lawsuit settled by Whirlpool Corp. only after the appliance that came with the house he bought more than a decade ago caught fire.

Since Ontario man didn't buy the appliance, he wasn't contacted by manufacturer when lawsuit was settled

Geoff Evans stands with his burnt dishwasher and the two fire extinguishers he bought after he said the appliance spontaneously caught fire.(Paula Duhatschek/CBC)

A man in London, Ont., said he'll think twice about leaving his dishwasher running overnight after the appliance's control board overheated and caught fire and left his kitchen covered in soot.

Geoff Evans had kicked up his feet to watch TV on May 12 when he heard an unusual buzzing noise coming from his kitchen. He went upstairs to investigate and saw a flame coming out of the top corner of his KitchenAid dishwasher.

"You don't think the appliance filled with water is gonna catch fire," said Evans, who, after a moment of shock, opened the door of the dishwasher to deactivate it.

It worked, but not the way he'd hoped.

"I opened the door, the flame went away, and then the massive gust of black electrical fire [and] soot filled the house," he said.

"So that was [the] initial moment of, 'What the hell just happened?'"

'No idea' about class-action suit, settlement

Turning to Google for answers, Evans learned his KitchenAid dishwasher was among those included in a class-action lawsuit settled last July.

The settlement affects dishwashers made between October 2000 and January 2006 with "Rushmore" or "Rush" electronic control boards, which are manufactured by Whirlpool Corp.

It concerns alleged "past or future overheating events," according to the website dishwashersettlement.ca, and may entitle members of the class to:

  • Certain past repair expenses;
  • Partial reimbursement for replacing the dishwasher;
  • A cash rebate on the purchase of a new Whirlpool, Kenmore or KitchenAid brand dishwasher.

Whirlpool told CBC News it strongly disagrees with the lawsuit's allegations but that the settlement spared all parties the expense of litigation.

"Whirlpool continues to stand behind its dishwashers, which are safe, reliable, designed and tested using our award-winning safety processes, and include multiple built-in safety features," the company said in an email statement.

The KitchenAid dishwasher Evans said caught fire.(Paula Duhatschek/CBC)

Evans's KitchenAid dishwasher is one of several in a series with a model number beginning with the letters "KUD."

Dishwashers sold under the Kenmore and Whirlpool brands are also included in the settlement.

Evans, who bought his home in 2006 with the appliances already installed, said he'd had no contact with the manufacturers and was "completely in the dark" about the lawsuit.

As part of the settlement, Whirlpool sent notices in December 2018 to people who bought an affected dishwasher. The company also ran newspaper and online banner ads and created the dishwasher-settlement website the same month.

Evans said he missed all of that.

"[I had] no idea, until there [was] a fire that I should be doing some research into possible recalls [and] risks," he said.

'Big onus on the shoulders of the consumer'

Situations like the one Evans found himself in demonstrate a common problem with consumer products that are the subject of recalls or lawsuits, said Kersi Antia, an associate professor of marketing at the University of Western Ontario's Ivey Business School in London, Ont., about 190 kilometres southwest of Toronto.

"Here we have somebody who didn't buy the product originally. It came with his house, and as a result of that, he was not contactable by the manufacturer," said Antia.

"It's almost incumbent on the person who's taking over a house to look up the serial number by individual appliance and [do a] Google search … So, it's a big onus on the shoulders of the consumer."

A closeup of the dishwasher's electronic control board.(Paula Duhatschek/CBC)

In the aftermath of the fire, Evans said he's done just that, checking the make and model of every major appliance in his house.

He has also bought two fire extinguishers and vowed never to leave his dishwasher running while he's sleeping or out of the house.

Evans said he wants to warn other people about the possible risks of products that are already in their homes.

"If you didn't buy the original appliances … figure out what the brand is, what the model is, go to Google and see what you can find," he said.

The deadline to register claims for affected dishwashers has been extended to Nov. 25, 2019, Whirlpool Corp. said.

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