Shell Oil Company (doing business as Shell Chemical Company) and Celanese Corporation are the defendants in a proposed class action in which the plaintiff alleges the companies are responsible for supposedly defective polybutylene (PB) resin and acetal materials used in the manufacture of plumbing and water delivery systems. Filed in Arkansas, the lawsuit argues that contrary to the defendants’ representations that their PB resin and water delivery systems made with the material were durable, reliable and appropriate for use in most structures, the companies’ PB piping and acetal fittings are prone to degradation, corrosion, cracking and leaking.
The supposed defects described in the complaint were the subject of a 1995 settlement between the defendants and consumers (seeCox v. Shell Oil Co., No. 18,844 [Tenn. Ch. Ct. Obion Cnty. 1995]; see alsoBeeman v. Shell Oil Co., No. 93-047363 [Tex. Dist. Ct. Harris Cnty., filed Sept. 1993];Spencer v. Shell Oil Co., No. CV-94-074 [Ala. Cir. Ct. Greene Cnty., filed Nov. 1994] as related cases). This case, filed on November 20, seeks to represent consumers who encountered the same alleged defect but were not classified as an eligible claimant—one who, as a result of the defendants’ misrepresentations, encountered leaks before August 21, 1995, and within 10 to 16 years after the PB resin-comprised piping’s installation—for the mid-1990s settlement.
According to the lawsuit, Shell, which designed, manufactured, marketed and sold PB resin primarily for use for plastic water piping, and Celanese, responsible for the acetal resin for use in the pipes’ fittings, misrepresented to the public at large—builders, developers, government regulators, plumbers—that polybutylene plumbing systems could be installed easily and inexpensively without degradation or erosion. The defendants, the case says, eyed the residential home market in the late 1970s and early 1980s, with the companies’ sales teams enacting a nationwide lobbying effort to convince proposed class members of PB resin piping’s benefits.
From the lawsuit:
“Contrary to [the defendants’] representations and promises as to the products’ outstanding quality, long life, and great durability and reliability, the ‘plumbing systems’ are an unmitigated disaster. Indoor plumbing in this country is ordinarily expected to last at least four decades, but [the defendants’] plastic water delivery systems have an unusually high failure rate.”