Kenmore Grilled for Hazardous Products

Summer grilling, by Wikimedia Commons user Frettie, licensed by Creative Commons.

Fired up over defective grills

In February 2017, a class action lawsuit was brought against Sears Roebuck and Co.(Sears) for selling Kenmore-brand barbecue grills with serious safety risks.

Plaintiffs claim that the grills in question – gas powered, and made with galvanized steel fireboxes – are unfit for use. Their firebox trays have been found to prematurely age and corrode within the grills’ normal lifespan, even when used in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions. The resulting hazard is that the disintegrating firebox trays leave the grills’ propane tanks exposed to flames, which can produce a deadly explosion.

As evidenced by statistics from the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), home grill fires are a significant problem. Between 2008 and 2013, the NFPA reports a total of 8,900 home grill fires, which caused approximately 160 injuries, 10 deaths, and nearly $120M in property damage. Gas-powered grills are responsible for almost 75% of incidents, while charcoal or coal-powered grills account for 11%. User error (such as leaving grills unattended or failing to clean them properly) accounts for most accidents, but using defective and dangerous products leads to fires too.

Despite the evidence against it, Sears has denied any problems with the Kenmore grills that it sells to customers. Plaintiffs contend that Sears has failed to repair defective grills, forcing them to spend approximately $300 apiece on repairs. They are asking for a settlement of $300 each as reimbursement for money spent on repairs or to cover the cost of a new grill. Specific models, produced between Oct. 1, 2011 and Sept. 30, 2014 are affected by the lawsuit. Sears has not yet issued a recall, but it has agreed to settle the class action to avoid lengthy and expensive litigation.

In addition to Kenmore, several other major brands have been faulted for making unsafe grills, including Master Forge, John Deere, and Char-Broil. Those manufacturers eventually recalled their affected products. However, it is unclear yet whether Kenmore will cease production of its own troubled line.

With spring and summer approaching, millions of Americans will soon start the annual tradition of grilling and barbecuing. Let’s hope the only damage they encounter is overcooked steaks and hamburgers.

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