Norcold Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of Thetford Corp., has agreed to a $33 million settlement of two class action lawsuits filed in 2012 pending in federal district court in Los Angeles. The suits were filed on behalf of customers who had purchased certain Norcold gas absorption RV refrigerators and alleged the refrigerators had design defects that created safety risks and that the company had sought to hide from the public.

As many as 569,000 refrigerators potentially could be included under the settlement, which involves both current and former Norcold owners and is still subject to court approval before being finalized, Thetford spokesmen report.

The tentative settlement, to which Thetford’s Dyson-Kissner-Moran Corp. (DKM) parent firm is also a party, applies to consumers who own owned Norcold 1200 Series refrigerators manufactured between Jan. 1, 2002, and Oct. 1, 2012, or who currently own Norcold Series N6 or N8 units assembled between Jan. 1, 2009 and Dec. 31, 2013.

Thetford President Kevin Phillips says the settlement allows Norcold, which denies the allegations, to avoid the uncertainty, risk, expense and distraction of further class-action litigation. Class action plaintiffs must approve the settlement, $8.23 million of which is earmarked for administrative costs and plaintiff’s attorneys, before it can be finalized by the court.

“We don’t expect there to be any problem with it being approved by the court in which case it will be pretty much done. It just takes some time to play out the paperwork side of things,” said Phillips, who hopes to have everything wrapped up within a year and stresses that the tentative settlement does not amount to an admission of guilt with regard to the plaintiff’s claims that defective refrigerators have caused fires in boats and RVs.

“Yes, we simply looked at it and said, “˜let’s wrap this up and get rid of the risk and the uncertainty and the time that it takes to deal with a class action lawsuit,” said Phillips. “We deny all the allegations that they’ve made, but we do want to get past it.”

Phillips further stressed that the tentative settlement is distinct from an ongoing recall with which Thetford’s Ohio-based Norcold division has been dealing. “The class action suit is separate from the recall we have going on,” said Phillips. “The recall itself is the defect they were talking about. So, we’ve been working on the recall for a long time. We’ve found 82% of the units manufactured during that time period – that’s pretty remarkable for any recall — and have disposed of and repaired them. We want to find the rest of the units.”