$7 Million Products Liability Settlement in Arkansas

An Arkansas woman whose husband died of smoke inhalation and burns in a camper fire resulting from a refrigerator defect settled her lawsuit against Norcold Refrigerators and a camper dealership for $7 million last week.

The cause of the fire was cracked tubing in the camper’s Norcold refrigerator, which resulted in the leaking of flammable hydrogen. Norcold apparently knew of the potential fire hazard as early as 1999 and notified federal officials that it would be recalling more than 40,000 refrigerators. Much like the “FDA approved the drug” defense I have been blogging about in recent months, Norcold contended that it followed federal regulations in conducting the recall.

But the Plaintiff did not receive a recall notice until 6 years after Norcold knew of the defect. Norcold could have found the owners of all the campers by checking their Vehicle Identification Numbers (VIN), but it did not do that until late 2004, too late to get notice out to the Plaintiff. In a tragic irony, Plaintiff received the recall notice seven months after the accident.

The problem here is that refrigerators’ cooling units can just heat up to the point where the steal tubing is almost 1000 degrees. You don’t need a engineering degree to know that’s hot. As a result, it can ignite the flammable gases and cause a fire which is probably exactly what happened in this case.

Plaintiff’s attorney in this case deserves a lot of praise. This is the only lawsuit ever filed against this company for this product, although you can be virtually certain it has killed many others (and there are still 12,000 of these refrigerators that have not yet been recalled). Many of the best products liability and medical malpractice cases our lawyers have had were accident cases like this, the cases that other lawyers rejected because they really did not want to turn over a lot of stones to figure out what really happened. But it is the turning of these stones that brings about not only justice for the individual Plaintiff, but it further provides the checks and balances that are required to make sure that companies keep their products safe. You can bet next time Norcold has a problem with one of its products that creates a public safety risk, they will respond with a lot more haste and diligence than they did in this case.

A class-action lawsuit has been filed against Norcold alleging it knew of fire with these refrigerators and did nothing but keep on selling them. When Norcold finally did come up with a plan to fix it, many of refrigerators broke before catching fire. A better outcome, sure, but little consolation to the owner of the product.

Please share your experiences as many other have below.

  • Wes Carter

    I applaud the vigor of the attornies in this case. We lost our RV to an identical fire, even through our RV was inspected and the refrigerator repaired just months before our fire. Our serial number was a few numbers outside the range of the recall – the manufacturer’s attitude was “why call us? You’re not in the recall range.”

  • Karen Davis

    Who was the attorney who settled the Norcold refrigerator case for 7 million in Arkansas? We have a similar case and would like to talk to the attorney involved.

    Also, I would be interested in learning more about the refrigerator fire mentioned in Wes Carter’s comment to your posting.

    Karen M. Davis
    The Pardieck Law Firm
    Seymour, Indiana

  • Lorna Hylton

    July we had our 5th wh. plugged into shore power and cooling the refrig getting it ready for a trip. That evening the 5th caught on fire and burned to the ground. The rig was 11/2 years new and used 4 times. That fire ingulfed the truck a shed 2 boats and a comp. vehicle. We have been trying to talk with the mfg. Keystone. They tell us we don’t have a case. They had refused to send their investigators out . We had a fire investigator that could not pin point the exact appliance because of the total distruction but out lined the fact it was electrical.Our ins. payed market value for the 5r and truck, also we are out a lot of money for the boats and equipment in the shed. We feel Keystone should take some responsiblity for this fire as it was proved it was not arson. Isn’t there something like a consumer law or a breach of implied warranty that would work in a law suit? We could have easly been killed in that fire. The refrig was a Norcold. We would appreciate any help. We just don’t know what way to turn. Thank you in advance.

  • Larry Bending

    I bought a Norcold N641R to replace a old norcold. When it was installed we found that it had a bad board it it. We were told by Norcold to take it to a warranty dealer to have it serviced. The closest one to us refered us to another service dealer. Come to find out that this place did not service norcold warranty, due to unknown problems with Norcold. When you have a RV and on the road what do you do? I paid $897 for a new refrigator and then had to pay $506 to get it repaired. I should have told them to pull the unit back out and send it back to Norcold. But I though that Norcold would stand behind there product. Sorry but shame on me. I’ll not buy anything from Thetford/ Norcold again. They say it was a problem with my batteries. Buyer beware of THETFORD/NORCOLD!!

  • Troy E. Walton

    Ron, a friend of mine just sent me to your blog (admittedly two years after your post). Nevertheless, it is impressive and informative. I am the plaintiff’s attorney who represented the lady (actually from IL not AR) in the case you discussed against Norcold. On behalf of myself, my law firm, and most importantly, my client, I appreciate your efforts in spreading the word on dangerous products and the need for corporate accountability. Thank you.

  • ERBrock

    I have a New Vision that was made in 1998.In September of 2007 a fire erupted
    in or on the backside of the norcold
    ref.The resulting fire made it uninhabitable
    It completeley gutted the upper part.Had I
    been informed of this problem,BERORE
    it was a problem than I would still have my
    place to live in.Because it was sitting on a
    private lot and not being moved,I didn’t keep insurance on it.Should I still have to
    live off of other people because of a problem caused by a part manufacturer to the home that I lived in?

  • Todd

    Im writing because i use to work at norcold and i never heard of so many fires from norcold im so glad to not be there but before i left they was cutting out the run time where after building them they let them run for 15 min to check for leaks in system and make sure it runs and gets cold now its right off the line in to the box and someone diffrents problem

  • Michelle Hogg

    My parents lost their RV to a Norcold refigerator fire in March. Their refrigerator was not on the recall list… It was a total loss, but luckily they were not home at the time. Being full timers, they had everything in their RV…. This happened in Arizona. Any suggestions on what to do next? Does anyone know a good attorney in Arizona.

  • Linda Larsen

    Victim of Norcold fire in our motorhome 7-30-09. We have been told by our ins. co. that Norcold won’t pay to make us whole again. Anyone have any lawsuits/class action against Norcold?

  • Norcold Engineer

    If anyone is considering a lawsuit against them for this type of fire please contact me, as an engineer there I have some very important information that will show criminal intent with how they handled the situation. This may drastically help your case with the information I have. Email me at norcoldfires@yahoo.com and I will gladly help you.

  • Dennis Cox

    I hade a fire that started right behind the refridge.It is very easy to see because one of people working in the building seen the fire and put it out with a fire ext.So now come the BS with norcold.Any one have any tips

  • Les

    I own an RV Park and I was just in an explosion. When helping the gentleman get his 2008-09 Carraige 5th wheel backed in they noticed smoke coming out of the back of the refrigerator area. When he opened the door with his left hand the door blew open knocking him back and burning his legs with 1st and 2nd degree burns the door protected the rest of his body, I receive the blast which knocked me back several feet and now have severe inner ear concussion damage. And very possibly a head concussion also. I am dizzy all of the time, My balance is really bad, headaches, etc. The blast only flashed and shinged the carpets, nylon under the leather furniture and a nylon pillow on the kitchen counter. Then the fire started erupting out the back wall where the refrigerator was. The blast caused major swelling and/or ruptor in my inner ears causing a sever case of vertigo, about 12 days ago where I had to be taken to ER, I am seeing a Ear Specilist. I really need help. My livelyhood is at jeoperdy here.

  • Clyde Fowlar

    I wish you could help me then, I after saving for over a year to buy a refrigerator for my camper, 4 moths after my frige is freezing everything, and norcold will not honor the warenty, or replace or do anything about mine.. It’s major defect, and could do the same thing, I have noticed on the pipes in the back are icing over, I was told by repair shops, and Norcold that’s not possible. But to me it sounds like mine is leaking too..

  • Donny Gentry

    Ron I am looking to join the class action norcold law suit more as an inconvience than an injury. Nordoold had a recall and I took mine in as a responsible owner and now every three months or so I have to take it to be repaired at my expnese , I have been left with out the regrig working on numerious occasions. The recall the did wasnt a fix to the problem, it was a total way out to the rv owners expense. I hope you can help me. A respectable company would have replaced the refrig units. Thank you in advance or at least point me in the right direction for relief. Thank you in advance

  • Ron Miller

    Donny, our law firm is not handling these cases. But a Google search will find many who are.

    Good luck! – Ron

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