A U.S. District Judge declined a wood shingles manufacturer’s motion to dismiss a class action last Wednesday, ruling that plaintiffs has sufficient plausibility to their claims that the singles cracked, warped, and violated warranty.
Allegedly, the shingles routinely rotted and cracked.
U.S. District Judge Peter G. Sheridan, hearing the case in New Jersey, was told by Maibec Inc. that plaintiffs’ claims were conclusory allegations and couldn’t constitute breach of contract. Disagreeing with this interpretation, however, Judge Sheridan notes that the amended allegations were based upon more than belief, and came from facts and personal knowledge. The ruling follows Maibec’s success in November in having several counts removed from the suit after the judge ruled against the class and said tort recovery could not be sought from Maibec for contractually-based economic loss. In Wednesday’s ruling, Judge Sheridan agreed that lead plaintiff Ilene Stern had presented enough detail and evidence for the allegations to be permitted.
Plaintiffs accuse the company of manufacturing wood shingles that crack and warp despite being covered by a fifty-year warranty against wood decay. The suit also claims that the company has failed to uniformly honor homeowners’ warranties if shingles do warp.
The five counts struck from the original complaint by Judge Sheridan included accusations of negligence, strict liability, unjust enrichment, and violation of the New Jersey Consumer Fraud Act with prejudice. A former New Jersey-based plaintiff, now voluntarily withdrawn from the suit, had proposed a subclass be created for that state. The unjust enrichment count was removed because plaintiffs had an express warranty agreement covering shingles, but no valid contract.
The company’s request to dismiss breach of contract, breach of express warranty, breach of implied warranty, and breach of warranty of merchantability counts was denied.
Plaintiffs say that the wood shingles were marketed as durable and able to withstand insect damage and rot. The warranty also guaranteed shingles for a fifty-year period against decay in the wood. There was also a thirty-year warranty on two coats of solid stain and a five-year labor warranty. Allegedly, the shingles routinely rotted and cracked in a much shorter timeframe.
Stern also claims that Maibec knows that its products fail long before the fifty-year mark, and attempts to hide this fact. The company also fails to provide warranty services, the complaint says.
The class action aims to represent all individuals and entities who used Maibec shingles in the U.S. since 1986 on properties they own or owned. Stern has alternatively asked for a class with the same parameters but made of New York-based individuals and entities.