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Deck lawsuits against Azek consolidated in New Jersey

By: Catherine Kavanaugh

February 28, 2014

Three lawsuits alleging PVC decks made by Azek Building Products and its parent company, CPG International, Inc., contain design and manufacturing defects and were deceptively marketed are being consolidated in New Jersey.

The decks are susceptible to cracking, discoloring, fading, chalking and degrading shortly after installation, according to the most recent lawsuit filed in January by a married couple in Massachusetts.

Their case was transferred to New Jersey on Feb. 25. The pair is joining at least 15 consumers from other states in suing Azek and CPG for breach of implied warranties, unjust enrichment and negligent misrepresentation, among other claims.

The other two lawsuits were filed in New Jersey in 2012 and Illinois in 2013 and include plaintiffs from Maryland, Virginia and Connecticut.

Two similar lawsuits filed in New York and Florida were voluntarily dismissed, according to court records.

Scranton, Pa.-based Azek and CPG are being represented by the New Jersey law firm of Buchanan Ingersoll & Rooney PC. The firm issued a three-paragraph statement to Plastics News on Feb. 27 that says in part:

“It is our policy not to discuss pending legal matters. We will continue to defend our company and our products against what we believe are meritless claims that relate to only a tiny fraction of the millions of feet of our product in use. At our request, these few lawsuits have been consolidated in New Jersey federal court, and motions to dismiss are currently pending.”

CPG ranks 13th among North American pipe, profile and tubing extruders with estimated sales of $260 million in the fencing, deck and railing end markets, according to the latest Plastics News ranking.

Its subsidiary, Azek, sells tens of thousands of decks annually and placed first in the quality category of Builder magazine’s 2014 brand study of composite and PVC decks. The results were obtained by mailing a survey to a sample of the magazine’s 10,800 readers.

CPG President Jason Grommon said in a Jan. 21 statement that Azek has topped the Builder’s quality category three years in a row, which “reaffirms our consistent and unwavering commitment to manufacturing excellence.”

However, the lawsuits allege otherwise. The court filings say the defendants’ design and material choices created a product that begins to fail immediately even if perfectly installed in its intended environment.

One lawsuit references Azek’s “engineered” deck boards and another says titanium dioxide powder is released from sun exposure and forms a surface layer known as chalking.

In its statement, the law firm says, “Quality and customer satisfaction are top priorities across all our product lines. Our decking and railing products meet or exceed national building code requirements from the International Code Council and Architectural Testing, Inc.

“…We have full confidence in all of our products and continue to stand behind their performance. All of our decking products are covered by a limited lifetime warranty. We respond to every customer inquiry that comes to our attention.”

However, the lawsuits say Azek deck buyers are being denied warranty coverage because the warranties are limited to performance issues and not aesthetic problems. The warranty says it is void under seven conditions, including “normal weathering of surfaces.”

The plaintiffs allege deceptive marketing by Azek — the company’s trademarked tagline is “Designed to last beautifully” — by pointing to deck product promotions with wording like “wood and composites rot, stain and fade. Azek does not.”

A U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation recommended Feb. 18 the existing lawsuits be centralized in New Jersey because the first lawsuit was filed there and the defendants are located nearby in Scranton, where much of the common evidence is located.

Going forward, any other related cases will be handled in New Jersey, according to Eric Holland, a lawyer who represents plaintiffs in the Illinois lawsuit.

“Additional filings are possible, which would be included in New Jersey as well,” Holland said in an email. “…this is now one consolidated case for all cases across the country.”

The number of potential class members is believed to consist of thousands of consumers and the amount of damages exceeds $5 million, according to the lawsuits.