EUTAW, ALA. - An Alabama judge opened the door June 30 to a nationwide, class-action lawsuit against Shell Oil Co. and Hoechst Celanese Corp., two suppliers of resin for polybutylene pipe systems. At stake are billions of dollars in damages in this latest legal chapter over the leaking plumbing systems, which consisted of PB piping and acetal fittings. Pete Petroski, a Houston lawyer representing homeowners, said owners of 4 million to 6 million U.S. dwellings are potential plaintiffs, with a $7 billion price tag to repair the damage.
Ruling in Eutaw, Circuit Judge Eddie Hardaway Jr. rejected claims by Shell and Hoechst Celanese that rural Greene County was not the correct place to hear the case.
Judge Hardaway signed an order of class certification on June 30.
One month earlier, the judge gave preliminary approval for a third resin company defendant, DuPont Co., to enter into a $120 million settlement.
Shell, Hoechst Celanese and DuPont earlier tried to settle another PB pipe class-action suit for $750 million - but a judge in Judicial District Court in Harris County, Texas, rejected the deal, saying that court lacks jurisdiction over a national class action.
But in Alabama, Judge Hardaway said his court does have such jurisdiction.
Juries in prior PB pipe trials have awarded an average of $30,000-$40,000 per housing unit, including all damages.