Hazardous Refrigerators in Recreational Vehicles
Recreational Vehicles should be reasonably safe at this point in history. They are using well-tested, well-vetted components. Right?
RV manufacturers and consumers probably thought so.
No one had reason to suspect a component installed in thousands of RV’s – a refrigerator- could be the source of lethal danger. Right?
But someone did know — Dometic Corporation.
Dometic Corporation has been manufacturing gas absorption refrigerators for RV’s since 1997 and advertises theirs as being, the “world’s most popular refrigerators”. What Dometic does not tell prospective purchasers is that as leaks in Dometic refrigerator cooling units have an established history of starting fires.
And, the danger may not be limited to RV’s. Dometic manufactures refrigeration units not only for RVs, but also for marine, hotel, automotive, agriculture, and trucking industries. According to their website, Dometic manufactures its products through distribution channels including: WAECO, Marine Air, Cruisair, Condaria, SeaLand, Mobicool and Atwood.
In a lawsuit pending in the Southern District of Florida, Plaintiffs have asked the court to allow them to proceed in a class action lawsuit:
“Since at least 2001, Defendant has designed, manufactured, sold and otherwise placed into the stream of commerce several models of Dometic Defective Gas Absorption Refrigerators for installation and use in recreational vehicles, all of which share common design and manufacturing defects that create a substantial risk of fire when the refrigerators are used as designed and for their intended purpose during their expected usable life. These gas absorption refrigerators have caused and/or contributed to numerous cooling unit leaks of flammable gas and fires.”
The common defect in the Dometic RV refrigerators is boiler tubes in the cooling units that are prone to premature corrosion and fatigue failure. Ammonia and hydrogen are used in the sealed refrigeration system. If either the hydrogen or ammonia within the sealed system is released in proximity to a competent ignition source, a fire can occur.
The models of refrigerators involved in the class action lawsuit include:
- 6 cu ft. (RM 2620, RM/DM2652, RM/DM2662 &RM/DM2663);
- 7 cu ft. (RM3762 & DMR/DMC 7-Series);
- 7 cu ft. (RM 2820);
- 8 cu ft. (DM2852, DM2862, RM3862, RM3863);
- 9 cu ft. (RM3962);
- 2 cu ft. (NDM1062);
- 3 cu ft. (RM 1350, 1350WIM);
- 14 cu ft. (NDA1402, 1402IMS).
To further complicate the hazardous condition that can be present with a failure of the Dometic RV refrigeration systems, it can be very difficult for the average consumer to detect a problem. Fire investigators suggest paying attention to:
- Presence of the odor of ammonia.
- Presence of sodium chromate buildup on the exterior of the sealed system. Sodium chromate is a yellow crystalline compound.
- Cooling unit rupture.
- Thermal damage to sheet metal.
- Blow out of the temperature relief plug.
Lawsuits filed in California and now in Florida have disclosed allegations that Dometic has known the full extent of the dangers of the refrigerators, but has never disclosed the full extent of those dangers to consumers. A retrofit offered by Dometic was supposed to cure the problem, but it did not prevent the natural corrosion of the boiler tubes during the anticipated life of the refrigerator. The real defect causing fires in recreational vehicles was not solved and Dometic failed to disclose this continuing hazard.
Attorney Jack Scarola, one of the lead class counsel in the case, says that, “Defective Gas Absorption Refrigerators all continue to share common defects, which are dangerous to Class members who own them. They continue to be potential rolling fire hazards for all the unsuspecting owners of RV’s and Dometic has known of the defects for quite some time.”