The makers and installers of spray polyurethane foam insulation are currently facing multiple lawsuits over allegations that the foam remains toxic after installation, and so poses a health hazard to homeowners. With multiple companies involved in cases that stretch across Connecticut, Florida, Michigan, New Jersey, New York, Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania, lawyers for the plaintiffs filed last week for Multidistrict Litigation (MDL) – an act that would consolidate the cases to be heard at once in a single court.
Plaintiffs claim that the only true solution is the complete removal of the “toxic” foam.
The U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation, however, said no.
Plaintiffs had argued that despite the complexity – the multiple states and the various different manufacturers and businesses named in the lawsuits – the cases’ common factual questions were the same: whether the foam insulation emitted potentially dangerous organic matter after installation, and whether this was the result of a product defect.
Defendants, including Demilec LLC and Masco Corp., manufacturers of building products, disagreed. They pointed out that the cases were highly individual and depended on circumstances and situations that were not shared. They also suggested that voluntary coordination would be enough for any pretrial proceedings. Many of the defendants share their counsel.
The MDL Panel agreed – and also highlighted the potential conflict between manufacturers’ trade secrets and the necessary disclosure in an MDL. As such, they voted for voluntary coordination, but not to combine the lawsuits into a formal MDL. Separate manufacturers’ training and installation practices, they ruled, are more of a factor than any alleged similarities in the product’s flaws.
The lawsuits were filed after claims that polyurethane foam insulation is prone to a process known as “off-gassing”, whereby installed insulation foam allegedly continues to emit harmful chemicals. Plaintiffs claim that the only true solution is the complete removal of the “toxic” foam. Defendants deny any wrongdoing
The eight cases will now continue, with courts set to decide whether the product itself is faulty and prone to toxic off-gassing.