Tuesday, January 27, 2015 - Twelve lawsuits aimed at defective outdoor decking materials were consolidated into multidistrict litigation in the U.S. District Court of New Jersey on January 7. The Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation chose to transfer the cases to New Jersey because of its proximity of GAF Materials Corp. headquarters, relevant witnesses, and case specific documentation. Plaintiffs that originally filed the lawsuits and the defendants preferred centralization in New Jersey. There were plaintiffs that came into the case later that pushed for centralization in Northern Illinois, but those requests dealt mostly with proximity for those specific claimants and were denied. The lawsuits involved in this transfer stem from district courts in Colorado, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, North Carolina and Ohio.
The suits are centered around composite decking materials manufactured by GAF Materials Corp. that allegedly become misshapen and developed mold, mildew and fungus after minimal use. These characteristics were at odds with the company‘s description of the product‘s durability, and the lawsuits are aimed at recovering damages connected to the resulting of breach of warranty and unjust enrichment. Plaintiffs consider the defects inherent in GAF outdoor decking materials as universally inevitable given their poor design.
The claims follow the tenor of one made by a resident from Mackinac Island in Michigan, who had to replace an entire deck only two years after using the GAF decking materials. The decking allegedly became severely warped and stained well before the materials were advertised to show wear.
The specific decking materials named in the transfer orders are the Elk Cross Timbers and DuraLife brands. In addition to the warping and bacterial developments that take place with the decking, it is also prone to extensive discoloration as a result of the defects. The alleged problems with the materials began to show immediately upon their exposure to the elements.
The composite decking materials at the heart of the lawsuits are not an original GAF Materials Corp. product. The company acquired that wing of their business in a merger and have since decided to drop it from their business model. The plaintiffs claim that this fact has no bearing on the company‘s liability in the case.
The amount of lawsuits in the MDL is expected to rise well above the dozen that are currently named in the transfer order with some reports expecting the number to double. Six of the dozen were the focus of this centralization order, while the other half was included to the MDL as tag-along cases. The plaintiffs also claim that the severity of damage done to their property as a result of the decking materials is "pretty substantial."
GAF Materials Corp. has been involved in other lawsuits focusing on their building materials, as a separate class action lawsuit concerning their defective shingles was recently given provisional approval for an open-ended settlement, with litigation costs and lawyer fees reaching over $4 million. The accusations at the heart of this lawsuit are similar to ones made in the decking MDL, and claimants are expected to get thousands of dollars from their eventual settlements. The final fairness hearing in that case has been set for April 22, 2015.