Sears Settles Suit by Agreeing to Install Safety Brackets on Stoves

By Jim Suhr
Associated Press
Thursday, February 21, 2008

Sears will install safety brackets on its stoves in millions of households or offer gift cards in settling an Illinois class-action lawsuit over the appliances' supposed propensity to topple.

Under an agreement a judge signed off on last month, Sears will offer to fix all brands of its freestanding or slide-in kitchen ranges in as many as 3.9 million homes by bolting them to a wall or floor.

The deal covers ranges sold from mid-2000 through Sept. 18, when a judge granted the settlement temporary approval. The deal resolving the lawsuit dating to July 2004 also requires Sears to install safety brackets in newly purchased ranges for the next three years.

Attorneys for the plaintiffs estimate the settlement could cost Sears more than $500 million. But Sears, in a statement yesterday, said only that "the parties dispute many aspects of the case, including the value of the settlement, which Sears estimates to be a small fraction of what plaintiffs counsel estimates."

Consumer groups, which were not involved in the lawsuit, said more than 100 people have been killed or injured from being crushed by the weight of a stove that has tipped over or from scalding and burns caused by hot foods and liquids spilling from the stove top.

Those groups insist Sears and other retailers that deliver stoves often fail to connect "anti-tip brackets" meant to prevent injuries by keeping the appliance stable if a sufficient amount of weight is placed on an open door or storage bin drawer.

Consumer groups pointed to stove manufacturers' use of lighter-gauge steel since the 1980s to cut costs, making those appliances more prone to tip when weight is applied to the oven door.

Consumers will have the option of having an anti-tip device installed for free, receiving $100 if they already had Sears or a third party install the device, or getting a $50 gift card to help pay for a new, regularly priced stove from Sears if they don't want the anti-tip device.

The lawyers will split $17 million in fees, according to the settlement.

There is a Web site for the settlement: http://www.searsrangesettlement.com.


© 2008 The Washington Post Company