U.S. top court sends back consumer lawsuit on Whirlpool washers

WASHINGTON, April 1 Mon Apr 1, 2013 10:25am EDT

WASHINGTON, April 1 (Reuters) - The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday wiped out an appeals court ruling in favor of consumers who bought front-loading washing machines made by Whirlpool Corp .

The court said the Cincinnati-based 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals decision endorsing a group lawsuit, known as class action certification, had to be reconsidered in light of the Supreme Court's 5-4 ruling last week in another consumer case involving Comcast Corp.

The class action lawsuit against Whirlpool said that the high-efficiency washers were defective because they emitted unpleasant odors.

In the Comcast case, the court ruled in favor of the cable company over how much it charged a group of cable TV subscribers. The court said 2 million subscribers in the Philadelphia area could not sue Comcast as a group.

Whirlpool's lawyers, in a petition seeking high court review, said that the case would also affect similar claims against the company and other manufacturers, including General Electric Co and Sears.

The justices also ordered on Monday that another case pending before the court, involving employee wage claims against Charter One Bank, should be reconsidered in light of the Comcast ruling.

The Chicago-based 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the claims could go ahead.

The bank said there was insufficient evidence to show that there was a unofficial policy to deny workers overtime. The official policy is to pay overtime to anyone who worked more than 40 hours in a week.

The Whirlpool case is Whirlpool Group v. Glazer, U.S. Supreme Court, No. 12-322. The Charter One case is RBS Citizens v. Ross, U.S. Supreme Court, No. 12-165.