Judge Delivers Blow to Biden’s Climate Agenda by Ruling Against Lawsuit on Gas Stoves

A federal court has largely dismissed a class-action lawsuit filed by a California citizen who claimed that a major appliance maker committed fraud by misrepresenting his gas-powered stove as safe despite its emissions.

Last Monday, Judge Araceli Martínez-Olguín of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, who was nominated by President Biden and confirmed by the Senate last year, rejected with prejudice the bulk of allegations made by the plaintiff, Charles Drake.

The only complaint that has not been totally dismissed is Drake’s claim that the defendant, GE Appliances’ parent company, Haier Appliances, breached an implied promise of merchantability.

“Drake does not allege the necessary elements of fraud by omission under California law,” Martínez-Olguín wrote in her decision. “Most glaringly, Drake fails to plead the second and fourth elements of fraud by omission: that Haier held a duty to disclose the fact of the emissions to him, or that Drake justifiably relied on Haier’s concealment of the dangerous emissions from his gas stove.”

“Drake alleges no connection between Haier and the studies he cites, appearing to conclude merely that Haier ‘should have known.’ This does not meet the specificity required for claims sounding in fraud,” she added. “Therefore, the claims sounding in fraud must also be dismissed on this basis.”

The dispute began in early March 2023, when Dovel & Luner, a California-based law firm, filed the class-action complaint on behalf of Drake. The lawsuit claims that gas stoves emit “health-harming pollutants,” such as nitrogen oxide, and cites a Consumer Reports article headlined “Is Your Gas Range a Health Risk?” as proof of such effects.

Drake’s lawsuit also cited a 2022 study financed by the Rocky Mountain Institute, a climate think group that has campaigned for a broad, economy-wide green energy transition. Richard Trumka Jr., a member of the United States Consumer Product Safety Commission, referenced the same research when he proposed a ban on gas stoves last year, causing fury among consumer groups and legislators.

And the lawsuit claimed that Haier Appliances should be aware of such study and, as a result, the possible risks posed by gas burners. According to Drake, such damages would constitute a “defect” in the product, and because Haier continues to sell the items, the corporation is committing consumer fraud.

“Like other makers of gas stoves, Defendant monitors and keeps track of research on the health effects of its products,” the lawsuit stated. “This is diligence that large companies like Defendant routinely do when selling a consumer product. Defendant is aware of the fact that its Products emit harmful pollutants. It is further aware that use of gas stoves increases the rates of respiratory illness in adults and children.”

As stated in Martínez-Olguín’s opinion, plaintiffs must demonstrate how the defendant knew about the fault before purchasing the product to prove the manufacturer was aware of it. Drake failed to meet that obstacle by generally asserting Haier “keeps track of research,” according to the judge.

The judge eventually allowed Drake until March 14 to file an additional lawsuit, so the dispute is still ongoing.

GE Appliances declined to comment, citing a company policy “not to comment on pending litigation.” Dovel and Luner did not reply to a request for comment.

Meanwhile, the verdict is the latest defeat for environmentalists who have advocated for statewide bans on gas stoves due to their climate effect. In January, a federal appeals court struck down a natural gas ban proposed by the city of Berkeley, California, and weeks later, the Biden administration scaled down restrictions aimed at gas stoves, a victory for the appliance business.

By Melinda Davies
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