TORONTO — A Canadian lawsuit threatens to expand plastic piping settlement costs for DuPont Co., Hoechst Celanese Corp. and Shell Oil Co.
A Toronto lawyer launched a C$175 million (US$123 million) class-action lawsuit against the three companies, holding them responsible for damage caused by faulty piping systems based on polybutylene pipe and acetal fittings.
The product liability suit was launched Nov. 10, about two years after the three companies agreed to a $950 million class-action settlement in the United States.
Lawyer Doug Barnett filed the suit because the massive U.S. settlement did not apply to residents of the province of Ontario. Barnett expects the case to go to Ontario Court of Justice General Division by next spring or summer. The suit was launched in Newmarket, north of Toronto.
Barnett said in a telephone interview that 100,000-300,000 Ontario residents could be eligible for settlements. He did not disclose how many residents are participating in the lawsuit.
The representative plaintiff when the suit was filed was Tom Tranter of Orono, Ontario, who claimed his mobile home suffered extensive damage from a major water leak.
Hoechst Celanese spokeswoman Andrea Stine said her firm ``feels the suit has no merit.'' She said in a telephone interview from her firm's office in Warren, N.J., that Canadians can seek redress through the Plumbing Claims Group the three companies set up several years ago.
DuPont Co. spokeswoman Cathy Andriadis also said Canadians can use the Plumbing Claims Group, which has ``a program in place for immediate help.'' She said fewer than 24 valid claims have been uncovered in Canada since the group started in 1991, suggesting faulty systems have not been much of a problem in Canada.
Barnett said the Plumbing Claims Group was not promoted widely in Canada and its benefits are not as extensive as the three firms' class-action settlement.
``It must have been inadequate'' because U.S. lawyers and residents launched the lawsuit that led to the $950 million settlement, often referred to as the Cox settlement, he said.
Shell spokeswoman Kitty Borah said the Houston-based company's lawyers had not seen the lawsuit as of Dec. 1 and their only comment was: ``Canadian courts will make the determination if a filing is appropriate.''