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The flooring products in questions allegedly release formaldehyde, which can affect people's health and well-being.

The flooring products in questions allegedly release formaldehyde, which can affect people’s health and well-being.

Los Angeles, CA — It’s bad enough to be facing a parade of lawsuits ranging from allegations of stock price affectations to defective products. However, when Anderson Cooper and the venerable 60 Minutes comes knocking at your door, you know you’re not going to have a good day.

Such are the issues facing Lumber Liquidators, a US vendor of Chinese flooring products that are alleged to have not only failed California’s so-called CARB-2 safety standards, plaintiffs also claim levels of formaldehyde in the products exceed safe limits by serious margins.

The issue takes on greater significance given the adoption of the California Air Resource Board Phase 2 (CARB-2) emissions standard for formaldehyde in manufactured products as the US standard several years ago, which finally comes into effect nationwide later this year.

According to the report aired on 60 Minutes, glue used in the production of laminate flooring can sometimes contain formaldehyde. In low levels it’s not considered a problem, especially when the formaldehyde is encased in the product, preventing emissions from escaping into the air.

The problem with Lumber Liquidators Flooring formaldehyde, according to the allegations, is that a greater level of formaldehyde is used in the production of products for Lumber Liquidators, in an effort to keep costs down.

Such a high level of formaldehyde, according to environmental experts interviewed by CBS News for 60 Minutes, can succeed in escaping from the product into the air, making homeowners ill.

That’s the allegation carried in a Lumber Liquidators Defective Flooring Class Action Lawsuit filed by John and Tracie-Linn Tyrrell in federal court in California March 5.

According to the Richmond Times Dispatch (3/5/15), John Tyrrell began experiencing symptoms that include extreme shortness of breath, weakness, fatigue, and incessant coughing and sneezing shortly after he and his son-in-law installed the laminate flooring.

“Despite repeated medical tests, his doctors have not been able to identify the cause of these symptoms,” the lawsuit claims.

The proposed class action seeks to represent any consumer who purchased Chinese flooring products from Lumber Liquidators in the last four years. They seek re-imbursement for the material and installation, as well as unspecified damages.

The lawsuit also seeks to force Lumber Liquidators’s hand by having an injunction granted, preventing the company from selling the allegedly defective products.

“Based on lawsuits, articles and blog posts, [Lumber Liquidators] knew or should have known that its laminate wood flooring products were not compliant with [California emissions] standards,” the lawsuit said.

“Despite this knowledge, defendant failed to reformulate its flooring products so that they are compliant or to disclose to consumers that these products emit unlawful levels of formaldehyde.”

Lumber Liquidators, according to the Dispatch report, is “currently reviewing the allegations contained in this lawsuit,” the company said.

“It appears that many of the claims mimic contentions raised in a separate suit that was filed by a law firm that also represents a short-seller, which looks to benefit from decreases in our stock price, in another action against us. We believe in the safety of our products and intend to defend this suit vigorously.”

Out of 31 samples of Chinese flooring products imported by Lumber Liquidators independently tested by 60 Minutes at two certified testing labs, all but one sample presented with seriously high levels of formaldehyde that exceeded state and pending federal guidelines.

Upon dispatching reporters to the manufacturing facility in China, 60 Minutes was told the facility had the capability of manufacturing to the CARB-2 standard, but switched to cheaper manufacturing methods that utilized higher levels of formaldehyde in the wood glue for products manufactured for Lumber Liquidators.

Officials of the manufacturing facility also admitted to 60 Minutes reporters using a hidden camera that products were improperly labeled as CARB-2 compliant, or so it is alleged.

In a filing, Lumber Liquidators said “we believe that ‘60 Minutes’ used an improper test method in its reporting that is not included in California regulations and does not measure a product according to how it is actually used by consumers. We stand by every single plank of wood and laminate we sell all around the country.”

The case is John Tyrrell et al v. Lumber Liquidators Inc., Case No. 2:2015cv01615, California Central District Court.

Source: LawyersandSettlements.com

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IBM and plaintiffs settle over TCE spill suit.

IBM and plaintiffs settle over TCE spill suit.

IBM Corp. will settle a lawsuit brought by 1,000 plaintiffs who alleged that toxic spills from the company’s former Endicott manufacturing plant caused illnesses and deaths, damaged property values and hurt businesses.

Both sides announced the settlement without revealing details of the agreement.

“IBM and the plaintiffs’ counsel have reached this agreement in an effort to resolve these cases without further burdensome and expensive litigation,” said the joint statement from the litigants.

The settlement brings to a close a more-than six-year saga in which IBM and those who claim they were harmed by the toxic releases waged a fierce legal battle on monetary rewards.

Affected residents, in a multi-million-dollar liability lawsuit against IBM, claimed the company should pay for the damage caused to residents around what once was the company’s main domestic manufacturing facility.

From 1935 to the mid-1980s, IBM used TCE (trichloroethylene) to clean metal parts in degreasers at its industrial campus in the Village of Endicott. In 1979, the company discovered some of the TCE had pooled in groundwater beneath the facility and appeared to be migrating.

Soil vapor intrusion

Contamination from soil vapor intrusion was detected by the late 1990s, and by 2002, IBM began testing the air at the request of state health and environmental agencies. Basement ventilation systems were eventually installed in more than 400 homes.

Settlement negotiations between the parties began last July, when state Supreme Court Justice Ferrous D. Lebous requested that representatives of both sides start meeting about an out-of-court settlement. Negotiations were apparently successful, culminating with Tuesday night’s release that the parties agreed to a settlement that satisfied both sides.

Lawyers of those who brought the suit against IBM said they will conduct meetings with clients over the coming weeks to present terms of the settlement.

IBM representatives said the company will continue the environmental cleanup that has been ongoing since the widening toxic plume was discovered.

Pumps spread throughout Endicott pull pollution from the ground through structures called recovery wells.

Over time, these wells have grown in number from four to more than 22, and to date, they have recovered more than 815,000 pounds of trichloroethylene and other toxic chemicals, with an unknown amount remaining beneath the village.

Company officials have never publicly explained IBM’s role in the disaster, and their legal position was that the company always handled chemicals responsibly and in accordance with standards of the day. They have not denied their former operations were a primary contributor to the pollution. They have not admitted it, either, nor have they offered a detailed explanation of the source of the problem.

Cleaning up industrial solvents

Representatives of the company said it was cleaning up the solvents from multiple industries that have operated in the region’s industrial corridor for generations. Endicott was also home to the vast shoe manufacturing empire of Endicott Johnson Corp., once the region’s largest employer.

However, the toxic-liability suit named only IBM as the source of the chemicals that tainted parts of Endicott’s commercial district and nearby residences.

IBM sold the 140-acre campus to Huron Real Estate Associates in 2002. Current tenants include i3 Electronics (formerly Endicott Interconnect), BAE Systems and Binghamton University, among others.

Lawyers for IBM have long contended it was following the responsible path, picking up the sizable costs for cleaning the spill and providing venting systems for properties designated at-risk for vapor intrusion.

Both sides scored initial victories as the case wound its way through the courts. Lower courts ruled against IBM’s motion to have the case dismissed, and ruled in favor of a plaintiff’s motion to have charges of negligence — the underpinnings of the case — tried before a jury.

But lower court rulings also eliminated or limited some aspects of the litigation, including the charge that the pollution constitutes a trespass in all cases, and the claim that IBM should be held accountable for monitoring the medical condition of all plaintiffs, including non-property owners.

IBM was also able to limit claims for medical monitoring to only people claiming other damages, such as illness or property loss. That eliminated claims for a potentially large group of plaintiffs — renters and children, for example — who may have been exposed but did not develop illnesses or suffer property damage.

Source: PressConnects

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Soil vapor intrusion and other sources of chemical exposure can affect health and well-being – especially with long-term exposure.

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The judge's decision affects current and future asbestos victims.

The judge’s decision affects current and future asbestos victims.

A federal judge in Charlotte has delivered a startling victory for industries that are part of the country’s long-running asbestos-liability fight, cutting more than $1 billion from what a company owes to current and future victims.

U.S. Bankruptcy Judge George Hodges accepted the $125 million figure proposed by Garlock Sealing Technologies, a Palmyra, N.Y., subsidiary of EnPro Industries of Charlotte.

The amount covers claims for mesothelioma, a rare and deadly cancer of the lining of the lungs and one of a host of diseases linked to asbestos. Attorneys representing current and future mesothelioma victims had asked the court to set liability at $1.3 billion.

But in his 65-page order Friday, Hodges said the attorneys’ dollar figure did not fairly reflect Garlock’s liability. He accused asbestos lawyers and clients of withholding or manipulating evidence, as well as relying on “pseudoscience” to pump up the size of asbestos settlements and jury awards.

In regards to Garlock, Hodges said plaintiff attorneys withheld evidence about their clients’ exposure to company products, “unfairly inflating the recoveries against Garlock” for the decade leading up to the company’s bankruptcy filing.

According to the U.S. Chamber Institute for Legal Reform, an industry advocacy group, Hodges’ ruling marked the first time in more than 80 asbestos bankruptcies stretching back for more than 30 years that a judge refused to accept the plaintiffs’ estimate for future claims.

In his ruling, Hodges said previous settlements were not an appropriate measurement because they had been inflated by what he called “the impropriety of some law firms.”

Garlock, which makes seals and gaskets for a host of industries, has been a target of asbestos related lawsuits for some 40 years. It filed for Chapter 11 protection in 2010, one of dozens of otherwise solvent businesses that turned to the courts for help in settling thousands of claims of asbestos poisoning.

Asbestos is at the center of the country’s longest running liability case. And Garlock was among the last industrial targets to seek bankruptcy protection. This summer, attorneys from across the country gathered in Hodges’ courtroom for a 17-day trial to argue Garlock’s liability.

Up until the mid-1980s, asbestos was widely used in insulation and as a fire retardant. But its tiny, jagged particles can lodge in the linings of the lungs and other organs, causing cells to mutate.

Companies have been accused of knowing the risks of asbestos for decades but concealing them from their employees. One well-known Texas anti-asbestos attorney told the Wall Street Journal last year that his clients are victims of the “worst corporate mass genocide in history.”

But in his ruling, Hodges accepted company arguments that Garlock’s liability is highly limited, concluding that the concentrations of asbestos in company products are small and mostly made up of a less dangerous form of the fibers.

Source: Charlotte Observer

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Exposing workers to hazards may be costly for companies.

An Australian court reiterated the importance of safety in a workplace when it comes to asbestos when it ruled that a company exposed workers to asbestos dust even though it knew of the potential health consequences.

The company now faces claims for millions of dollars of punitive damages.

An 86-year-old former shipyard worker sued the company under the state’s Dust Diseases Act, saying he developed asbestosis because of the exposure to asbestos dust.

The court ruled in his favor because he could prove that the company knew he was at risk of exposure when he worked at the shipyard in the 1970s and that the company was also aware that he could get sick from it.

Asbestosis is a lung disease that occurs from breathing in asbestos fibers, which causes scar tissue to form inside the lung. Symptoms include chest pain, cough, shortness of breath and more. There is no cure.

The worker and his council said the decision was important not only for the interpretation of the Dust Diseases Act but also for hundreds of other similar claims that were still before the courts.

Source: The Australian

Air cleaners for asbestos remediation and other workplace hazards

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Class-action plaintiffs were exposed to high levels of formaldehyde from pressed wood products.

It was supposed to be a relief effort – but the trailer homes made available to hurricane Katrina and Rita victims turned out to release harmful chemical fumes.

Government tests on hundreds of trailers found formaldehyde levels that were, on average, five times higher than what people are exposed to in most modern homes.

Formaldehyde, used to manufacture many building materials, can irritate the skin, eyes, nose and throat. High exposure levels may also cause cancer.

A class-action settlement is asking about two dozen companies to pay a total of $37.5 million to resolve claims.

Four large manufacturers – Gulf Stream Coach Inc., Forest River Inc., Jayco Inc. and Monaco Coach Corp. – already agreed to pay about $22.7 million of the total amount.

The money will be distributed among 60,000 plaintiffs from Louisiana, Texas, Alabama and Mississippi, if they qualify.

The trailers were made with a lot of pressed wood products (particleboard and plywood), which were the main source of the indoor air pollution. The temporary homes also did not provide adequate ventilation, the lawsuit claimed.

A previous CDC study showed average formaldehyde levels in trailers and mobile homes was about 77 parts per billion — high enough to raise the odds of cancer and respiratory diseases.

Source: Star-Telegram

Air cleaners to remove formaldehyde and other chemicals

Formaldehyde and other volatile organic compounds (VOCs) can affect people’s health and well-being, but many workers and homeowners are still exposed to high levels of fumes.

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