Consumers in California and Florida have filed a lawsuit alleging that the manufacturers of Norcold brand gas absorption refrigerators used in RVs and boats knowingly sold defective refrigerators that posed a serious fire risk but hid that information from the public and federal regulators, according to a press release from the plaintiff’s attorneys, Zimmerman Reed, PLLP, Minneapolis.
The release states that the class action lawsuit filed Dec. 12 in Orange County, Calif., seeks relief on behalf of all persons who purchased or owned RVs or boats in California and Florida equipped with three models of Norcold-brand gas absorption refrigerators. The complaint names Norcold Inc., Thetford Corp. and Dyson-Kissner-Moran Corporation (DKM) as defendants.
“Although Norcold has not been officially served with the class action suit, we have in fact received a copy of the court filing as well as a copy of the press release issued by the attorneys who initiated the suit,” Norcold spokesman Larry Weis told RVBUSINESS.com via email on Thursday (Dec. 20). “We’ve referred the matter to our lawyers for review. On its surface, the claims are totally without merit. The suit apparently was filed in the Superior Court of California in Orange County. There’s no indication that a similar suit was filed in Florida.”
The lawsuit alleges that since 1999 Norcold’s refrigerators have caused at least 2,000 fires resulting in millions of dollars in property damage, personal injury and death.
“The refrigerators contain flammable gases under high pressure, including hydrogen,” plaintiffs’ attorneys state in the release. “The gases are heated by electricity or propane to circulate and provide the refrigeration effect. Fires are caused when defects in the refrigerator design release the flammable gases, which can then explosively ignite and spread quickly through the refrigerator compartment and into the passenger area of the RV.”
The lawsuit alleges that the companies knew of the potential fire hazard associated with these refrigerators, yet “tried to conceal and minimize these dangers through a series of limited manufacturer-initiated product safety recalls through the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), beginning in 2000.”
Ann Arbor, Mich.-based Thetford Corp. and its Norcold Inc. subsidiary announced today (Dec. 14) that the companies had partnered with The Community Dental Foundation in Arizona to equip a mobile clinic in an effort to help the foundation provide dental services to underserved children without insurance.
“Community Dental’s volunteer service to children without insurance is generous and fulfills a real need,” said Kevin Phillips, vice president of Thetford Corp. “We are glad to be able to help them with their mission with this donation of our products.”
The companies recently provided the foundation with two AC/DC refrigerators and a Porta-Potti for the foundation’s third mobile clinic.
“Many families don’t have transportation or can’t take time off from work to take their child to the dentist,” said Carsten Loelke, Community Dental chairman and CEO, “so our foundation takes dental service directly to them. Our state-of-the-art dental clinic provides everything from preventive work, such as cleaning, sealants and dental exams to restorative work, like fillings and stainless-steel crowns.”
According to Loelke, Thetford’s expertise in mobile refrigeration and sanitation made them the only choice for Community Dental.
“Arizona weather is very hot, so our mobile clinic needs refrigerators to store anesthesia and dental supplies that require certain temperatures,” he said. “Sometimes, we are on-site for over 12 hours, so a portable toilet can be essential.
“Thetford and Norcold are reputable companies with quality products for mobile use. We know they are a big supporter of the community,” Loelke added, “and we are very grateful to Thetford for supplying these products.”
Distributor members from the Recreational Vehicle Aftermarket Association (RVAA) rated Thetford Corp. and Norcold Inc. as the highest performing Tier-1 supplier for 2010.
The award is based on how RVAA distributor members rated performance in 14 categories, including marketing, philosophy, delivery, product warranty and customer service, according to a news release.
“On behalf of all the associates of Thetford and Norcold, we would like to express our pride in being recognized as the top-performing Tier-1 supplier,” said Kevin Philips, Thetford vice president of sales and marketing. “We are honored to be recognized for our best-in-class performance as a leading supplier to the RV industry.”
Headquartered in Ann Arbor, Mich., Thetford Corp. is the world’s leading supplier of sanitation and refrigeration products for the recreational vehicle, marine and heavy-duty truck industries.
Thetford subsidiaries include Norcold, America’s leading manufacturer of gas-absorption refrigerators and freezers for the RV, marine and truck markets; Tecma, a producer of fine-china toilets and powerful waste-transfer systems based in Italy; and Spinflo, a unit in England that manufactures high-quality cooking and heating appliances as well as accessories.