By: Michael Lauzon
August 22, 2013
Plastic lumber major Trex Co. Inc. has preliminary court approval to settle a class action lawsuit alleging products had mold and color problems.
Trex of Winchester, Va., announced the court decision Aug. 22. The U.S. District Court in San Francisco granted preliminary approval on Aug. 19.
Trex estimates the cost of the settlement at $8.25 million plus $1.475 million in attorneys’ fees for the plaintiffs’ counsel, pending final court approval. Relief will be available to consumers who experienced a certain level of mold growth, color fading or color variation in first-generation Trex products bought between Aug. 1, 2004 and Aug. 19, 2013. Trex plans to post the claim resolution process on its website.
The class action was the second faced by Trex. Several years ago it settled a previous class action for first-generation Trex and Timbrex decking and railing alleged to rot, splinter and degrade. That settlement was for products sold up to July 31, 2004. The suit was approved for class action by the Superior Court of New Jersey in Newark, N.J. Under terms of the settlement, Trex was obligated to replace class members’ products and to refrain from advertising that its products did not require sealant and were maintenance-free.
Trex competitor Advanced Environmental Recycling Technologies Inc. also settled a class action suit several years ago. The suit, filed in Seattle, was for its ChoiceDek product line. AERT agreed to replace deck boards and to pay $1.75 million in legal fees. AERT also made available an instructional video tape about cleaning its products.
Trex officials said in an email correspondence that they expect final court approval for its latest settlement early in 2014. The company stated in a news release that it believes it would have successfully defended itself in a trial.
“Our decision to settle the case is by no means an admission of any of the allegations made by the plaintiffs,” said Trex Chairman, President and CEO Ronald Kaplan. “This settlement allows our company to avoid additional expensive, time-consuming litigation and to focus on delivering quality products and service to consumers, while providing certain relief to those customers affected by these issues.”
Kaplan claimed that mold growth results from environmental conditions and can affect all outdoor surfaces, including deck components made by other companies. Color changes naturally occur over time and color variation can be expected between newly made boards, he added. Trex stresses its marketing information informs customers of these issues.
Trex has developed higher performance wood/plastic composite decking to address consumer concerns, Kaplan explained. In 2010 it debuted Trex Transcend, which has a proprietary shell that resists fading, stains, scratching and mold. More recently it expanded choice of such protected decking with its Enhance and Select product lines. By the end of 2013 Trex’s plants in Winchester and in Fernley, Nev., will make only the new types of decking.
Trex said in an email that the new, protected decking is a wood/polyethylene composite with proprietary additives. It claims recycled content accounts for 95 percent of its decking.