(Crain’s) — Sears Roebuck & Co. is one among four appliance retailers named in a federal lawsuit that claims they were negligent in ignoring fire-hazard warnings by using metal foil and plastic vents when installing dryers. Home Depot Inc., Lowe’s Cos. and HHGregg Inc. are also named in the complaint filed Wednesday in four U.S. District Courts, including in Northern Illinois. The plaintiffs are seeking class-action status.
The lawsuit claims that all dryer manufacturers instruct owners to use heavy all metal dryer vents when setting up the appliance, which also bears a label stating that doing otherwise can lead to a fire or death. The retailers’ installers ignored those warnings, says Paul Geller, a Florida lawyer who is one of five attorneys representing the plaintiffs. None were in the Chicago area; one was in Indiana.
“This is not an innocuous mistake,” Mr. Geller says. “This is a very dangerous and serious mistake.”
The suit against Sears Roebuck, a unit of Hoffman Estates-based Sears Holdins corp., does not link any dryer fires to retailer installations.The suit says, “The leading cause of clothes dryer fires is due to improper installation of vents and excessive buildup of lint within the dryer.” It cites figures from the U.S. Fire Administration, a division of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, showing dryers were involved in an estimated 15,600 building fires, causing 15 deaths, between 2002 and 2004. A Sears spokesman declined to comment