Plyler v. Whirlpool Corp., No. 12-2798 (7th Cir. 2014)Annotate this Case
Seven years after Plyler installed a Whirlpool microwave oven and eight hours after using that oven, a houseguest woke him because of a fire in the microwave. Firefighters extinguished the fire. Plyler claims that he injured his elbow and knee while he ran into and out of his house and that he experienced post-traumatic stress disorder. At trial on negligent recall and strict liability claims, a fire department investigator could not identify a specific cause of the fire. Plyler blamed the fire on a product defect that had led Whirlpool to recall microwaves in 2001. Whirlpool’s Director of Global Product Safety testified that the ovens posed a fire hazard only if they contained splattered food. uncleaned for an extended time, and were running at the time of the fire. After Whirlpool discovered that 1.8 million microwaves contained the defect, it issued a recall through the Consumer Product Safety Commission, mailed notices to owners who had submitted a product registration card, and released news announcements. Although the average recall leads to repair or replacement of 10 to 15 percent of affected units, Whirlpool repaired 75 percent of the recalled microwave. Plyler stated that he kept his microwave clean; that he never received notice; that he paid for it with a credit card; and that Whirlpool should have been able to contact him. The jury found in favor of Whirlpool. The Seventh Circuit affirmed, rejecting challenges to rulings that limited Plyler’s testimony to his observations and that allowed questions about the relationship between the fire and his divorce.