Trex Co. Inc. of Winchester, Va., has agreed to settle a product-defects lawsuit that was certified as a class action in May.
``We were going to appeal it,'' said William Gupp, Trex vice president and general counsel. ``Unfortunately, we looked at the cost and expense of defending this to date and defending it going forward. Even though it's our position that the allegations are without merit, we felt it was in the best interest of all involved that we agree to settle it.
``The court never made any finding on the merits here. ... The plaintiff never presented to court evidence of actual issues with the product.''
The suit, certified as a class action by the Superior Court of New Jersey in Essex County in Newark, N.J., alleged that the company's Trex and Timbrex products rot, splinter and degrade as a result of inherent defects in the manufacturing process.
The settlement covers consumers who bought products from January 1, 1992, to July 31, 2004. The suit also named ExxonMobil Corp. of Irving, Texas, because Mobil Chemical Co. sold products under the Timbrex brand name before it spun off Trex as a separate firm.
Under the terms of the settlement, Trex will stop all advertising claims that its products do not require sealant and are maintenance-free. In addition, the company has to replace any class member's product that suffers from checking, splitting, splintering, rotting or decay that has compromised the structural integrity of the product, according to court documents.
``We haven't advertised in the last few years that it's maintenance-free,'' Gupp said in a Sept. 23 phone interview. ``We have confidence in our product and we believe we'll have very few claims.''
A final fairness hearing on the settlement will be held Dec. 10 in Newark.