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Sears Again Must Face Washing Machine Class-Action Suit

Sears Holdings Corp. must face consumer class-action litigation over alleged washing machine defects, a federal appeals court in Chicago ruled after being asked to reconsider the issue by the U.S. Supreme Court.

Consumers accused the suburban-Chicago based retailer of selling appliances with faulty computer control systems. They also alleged that the front-loading machines, made by Whirlpool Corp. and sold under Sears’s Kenmore brand, accumulate mold.

After the appeals court last year said consumers in six states could pursue their claims collectively, Sears gained Supreme Court review. The high court, having earlier rejected class status in a case against Comcast Corp. for a lack of common damages, asked the Chicago panel to reconsider its ruling.

“There is a single, central, common issue of liability: whether the Sears washing machine was defective,” U.S. Circuit Judge Richard Posner said in a ruling released late yesterday reiterating that two classes be recognized.

“It would drive a stake through the heart of the class action device, in cases in which damages were sought,” Posner said, “to require that every member of the class have identical damages.”

Sears and Whirlpool “respectfully disagree,” with the appeals court decision, Chris Brathwaite, a spokesman for Hoffman Estates, Illinois-based Sears, said in an e-mailed statement. The companies will again seek Supreme Court review, he said.

The case is Butler v. Sears, Roebuck & Co., 11-8029, 12-8030, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit (Chicago).

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