Insurance giant Allstate has filed a product liability lawsuit in Illinois federal court looking to recover $3.6 million in payouts associated with clothes dryer fires.
The suit alleges Electrolux knew its ball-hitch dryers made between 2002-2011 were defective and failed to warn federal safety regulators of the potential risk.
Allstate says it paid policyholders more than $3.6 million for damages stemming from 44 fires in 32 Illinois cities. Electrolux is fighting to break up those claims, saying they have almost nothing in common beyond a model of dryer.
The fires start inside the dryer after lint gets trapped in a place consumers say they can’t see or reach, perilously close to a heating source. Scores of incidents have been reported across the country, including a close call last summer that NBC 5 Responds reported on at Liz Rathgeber’s Island Lake townhome.
"The smell was overwhelming, that electrical burning smell,” Liz Rathgeber recalled. “My house could have burned down.”
The Rathgeber’s 2007 Electrolux Frigidaire dryer caught fire in the laundry room, causing $12,000 in damage. The family is back in their home now after their insurance company, Allstate, picked up the tab for the cleanup.
"The reason we're telling this is so that other people know that if they have it in their home, it's not safe," Rathgeber told NBC 5 Responds.
In 2014, Electrolux settled a class action lawsuit for $8 million, that included Rathgeber’s model, along with a list of other well-known brands made by Electrolux between 2002-2011 including Kenmore, Tappan, White Westinghouse, Kelvinator, Gibson and Crosley. Electrolux admitted no wrongdoing as part of the settlement.
While there has been no recall, the Consumer Product Safety Commission confirms it is still looking incidents connected to these dryers.
Lawyers representing Allstate in this recent suit did not offer comment, citing pending litigation. So far, the insurer has brought at least six similar suits against Electrolux.
Electrolux continues to deny any allegations that its dryers are defective. The company maintains the dryers are safe when installed, maintained and operated correctly.