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New Judge to Hapless Cook: That Whirlpool Range Is Going Nowhere

Oct. 10, 2019, 4:44 PM

Some new judges find themselves having to stake out their positions on hot legal issues right off the bat. And that proved true for a newly appointed Northern District of Illinois judge too, who, as the subject of one of his first written opinions, weighed in on whether to grant an emergency order on the literally hot issue of a Whirlpool range oven.

“Stoves can give rise to emergencies. Grease fires. Gas leaks. Burnt fingers. Even a pumpkin cake gone wrong,” Judge Steven C. Seeger wrote in one of his inaugural opinions for the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois.

“Bad things can happen whenever a home appliance climbs hundreds of degrees. Especially when a person is in a `rush,’” he said Oct. 9.

But, even so, one thing that’s neither an emergency, nor in a hurry to go anywhere, anytime soon, is the range oven at the heart of the suit by a man who, while trying to cook and work on his laptop at the same time, injured his head while trying to put out his burning lunch.

Denying Alvin Lloyd’s bid to get emergency access to the oven in the apartment he once lived in, presumably to collect more evidence in his suit against Whirlpool, Seeger wrote, “Stoves aren’t exactly mobile, and there is no indication in the motion that it is going anywhere anytime soon.”

Lloyd was cooking noodles and bacon while working on his laptop in the kitchen of his apartment.

This “multi-tasking became a real-world recipe for disaster,” Seeger said.

“The laptop apparently was more engrossing than the food, which continued to heat on the stove. The sizzle turned to smoke,” Seeger said.

Lloyd rushed to remove the skillet from the gas flame, causing him to hit his head “with great force” on the island canopy range hood, according to the complaint.

Lloyd sued Whirlpool, alleging that the range hood was unreasonably dangerous because it was too low.

The installation instructions mentioned 24 inches from the stovetop as an installation height, but failed to mention that the range hood could be higher, the complaint alleged.

Seeger found no problem in ruling no emergency access to the range was needed. In addition to the oven not going anywhere, the motion for access also failed because the emergency order provision only applies to parties, and Lloyd hasn’t sued his former landlords, only the range’s maker, Seeger said.

Lloyd’s request for an order enforcing interrogatories of his landlords to determine who installed the hood fails for the same reason, he said.

Seeger was confirmed to the bench last month.

Moor Law Office PC represents Lloyd.

Barnes & Thornburg LLP represents Whirlpool.

The case is Lloyd v. Whirlpool Corp., 2019 BL 388415, N.D. Ill., No. 19-cv-6225, 10/9/19.

To contact the reporter on this story: Peter Hayes in Washington at PHayes@bloomberglaw.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Jo-el J. Meyer at jmeyer@bloomberglaw.com; Steven Patrick at spatrick@bloomberglaw.com