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RV owners sue Dometic over fire-prone refrigerators

SAN FRANCISCO — A group of RV owners filed a nationwide class-action lawsuit against Dometic Corporation, stating that the company sold defective gas absorption refrigerators with cooling systems that can spontaneously ignite in RVs and boats, a law firm announced today.
The products put consumers at risk of deadly fires, explosions, loss of property and loss of the value of their RV/boat, according to consumer-rights law firm Hagens Berman.
The lawsuit states that the defective refrigerators have caused or contributed to at least 3,000 fires since 1997, resulting in more than $100 million in property damage and personal injury claims, all of which Dometic tracked through multiple non-public, internal databases.
Despite this knowledge, Dometic “failed and refused to eliminate the defects and/or provide consumers with adequate warnings,” according to the complaint.
“As millions of owners prep RVs and boats for summer activities, they’re completely unaware that the vehicles they will soon use to transport family and friends essentially contain a pressurized tank of hydrogen gas that can leak and ignite a fire,” said Steve Berman, managing partner of Hagens Berman. “While Dometic promised consumers that its refrigerators were safe for use, it chose to overlook reports of fires and failures of its products and never publicly disclosed the true risk of this defect.
“We don’t think owners should risk their lives on every trip and have to wait for a potentially deadly hydrogen-fueled fire to get a safe refrigerator or receive payback for Dometic’s brazen misconduct,” Berman added.
The lawsuit states that every gas absorption refrigerator manufactured by Dometic since 1997 shares common technology, common cooling unit design and common defects, including the propensity of the refrigerator’s cooling unit boiler tube to corrode, crack and expel hydrogen gas at high pressure, which can spontaneously combust, or reach other ignition sources, causing a fire.
The 80-page lawsuit filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California in San Francisco seeks to force Dometic to repair or replace defective refrigerators and compensate consumers for the diminution of value of their RVs and boats as a result of these manufacturer defects.
Owners of a boat or RV equipped with a Dometic gas absorption refrigerator may be entitled to compensation. For more information or to sign up for the class-action lawsuit, click here.
“It’s an alarming issue, especially when you consider the layout of an RV,” Berman added. “If a Dometic refrigerator were to suddenly release this pressurized, flammable gas and start a fire, occupants could easily become trapped inside.”
The suit also addresses two recalls issued by Dometic.
“Defendants have used and manipulated the recall process to conceal the true dangers and safety risks inherent in their defective gas absorption refrigerators from both federal regulators and consumers,” the complaint charges. “As a result, United States highways and campgrounds are flush with RVs containing defective gas absorption refrigerators that can, and with alarming regularity do, spontaneously burst into flames.”
The company continues to receive new fire claims “at an alarming rate,” the suit states.
In addition, the suit states that Dometic resorted to “retaining a cadre of regionally based fire investigators, third-party claims administrators, attorneys and various engineering and metallurgical experts” upon each report of a refrigerator fire or explosion deployed.
That was done “for the express purpose of diverting attention” from the refrigerators as the cause of the fire and to hide the issue from the public, the law firm noted.
To find out more about the lawsuit against Dometic, click here.
SOURCE: Hagens Berman press release


Three killed in northwest Arizona motor home fire
 
KINGMAN, Ariz. - Three Lake Havasu City residents were killed in a fiery motor home accident about eight miles north of the northwestern Arizona city Monday.
The Department of Public Safety said the 2006 motor home towing a Jeep blew a right front tire about 12:05 p.m. on Arizona Route 95.
"The fire started on the right front wheel, which is directly adjacent to the main doorway that you come in and out," Desert Hills Fire Chief Matt Espinoza said. "In that case the primary entrance and exit was blocked by fire which basically forced the occupants to the rear of the RV."
Espinoza said the bodies of the occupants were all located in the rear of the motor home.
The victims were identified as John P. Thomas and Susan L. Thomas, both 63, and Joyce Lowry, 73.

Full Story
 
 
Hi Mac,
"This is tragic. We also had a fire in our MH but thanks to Mac's Fire Safety Class we not only got out safely, but were able to save the MH and tow vehicle as well. We owe it all to Mac, practice and excellent extinguishers. Practice using those emergency exits!!!"  
-Priscilla
 
Hi Mac,
"That is so sad to read about. Every RV person should watch the video from Mac. Thanks for posting." 
-Jeannine
 
All, 
As I have been reading all the comments that have been put on the YouTube video and the American Coach yahoo group of how many people couldn't get their windows open. I have really taken it to heart that I haven't done enough to be sure everyone can get out of their rigs no matter what kind. I will be coming to rallies where you also will be, so think a little bit of what you want me to do. What can we do together to never have this happen again because people didn't know how their windows worked. I'm willing to do what ever you would like me to do.
 Safe Travels
 -Mac
 
 

 
 
A right front tire blowout at less than 65 mph on I-95 in South Carolina  2005
A right front tire blowout at less than 65 mph on I-95 in South Carolina resulting in our 2000 Newmar Mountain Aire coach burning to the ground, on Friday, April 22, 2005.

I was traveling Northbound on I-95, in the right lane and the coach was climbing an overpass and at about 300 feet from the top, the right front tire blew out. The coach immediately pulled hard right into the parking lane and it took a lot of strength to keep the coach in that parking lane and not going off the right edge of the road and into the grass and down the grade. I was able to regain control and bring the coach back into the right traffic lane so that I could continue over the overpass and miss the narrowing guard rail. After returning to the right lane and while on the overpass, I was able to begin to apply the brakes and slowly moved to the right and back into the parking lane on the down grade. At this point I already noticed flames in the right rear view mirror. I was unable to stop in the next 600 ft, because of the guard rail adjacent to the parking lane, which would have made it impossible to open the exit door, which is located in front of the right front blown, burning tire. I was able to stop about 600 ft past the end of the guard rail and off the road in the parking lane. By the time I stopped, the flames were over the top of the exit door, and it was now impossible to exit via the front door. As I attempted to get the FOAM filled fire extinguisher from behind the passenger's seat, I noticed flames between the front door and the passenger seat about a foot high in the coach. I couldn't believe the volume of fire which had developed within less that 1 minute from the time of the blowout. Without any further expectations of possibly being able to extinguishing the fire, my immediate interest shifted to how we were going to get out of the coach. Since the traffic was still screaming by us without stopping, the bedroom emergency exit on the driver's side was out of the question, so the bedroom non-emergency window on the passenger side was the only one left. Exiting the coach via this window wasn't bad, but the edge of the grass was on fire from the end of the guard rail, 600 ft back to the front of the coach and I had to jump clear of the fire. I jumped first and beyond the flames, and ended up several feet down the steep grade because of the overpass. I climbed back up to the flames and kicked dirt on the fire with my stocking feet. Then I lifted my wife from the rear window to safety. I had her run to the back of our toad and I proceeded to unhook the car. Needless to say, that took less than another minute, and out came the brake buddy, and we were out of there.
For the next 15 minutes we watched our coach burn with all our possessions, jewelry, cloths, identification, money, computers, everything, until the fire department arrived and by that time the coach was fully involved. The fire department couldn't do anything but cool the ashes. I-95 was blocked for about 2 hours and we just stood there, thankful we were alive and trying to figure it all out.
I wanted everyone to know, that I was very safety conscious, and never expected that this could happen to us, but it did. I thought I had thought of everything and prepared for most everything, but never expected it could happen to us. With all the safety preparations we still lost everything. Now there is more, the insurance issues, contents coverage. When you are a full-timer or a most timer we carry a lot of STUFF. We have more than you think you have. Our coverage may not be enough. And of course then there is the insurance for the Motorhome itself. Believe me, I am an insurable person, and I still may have missed things. My insurance is via Mendota, and my homeowner's in Florida is Allstate. I hope I can help better prepare someone better than I was, if we can ever be better prepared.

-Tony & Mary, Pembroke Pines, Fl. NEWMAR CLUB, DATASTORM