Lumber Liquidators Lawsuit Consolidation to be Considered by U.S. JPML

The U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation (JPML) is scheduled to hear oral arguments tomorrow about whether to consolidate all lawsuits filed against Lumber Liquidators over allegedly toxic laminate flooring sold in recent years.

There are currently more than 118 Lumber Liquidator lawsuits pending in U.S. District Courts nationwide, and the panel of federal judges will consider competing proposals on where to centralize the cases for coordinated pretrial proceedings as part of an MDL, or multidistrict litigation.

The U.S. JPML hearing over the creation of a Lumber Liquidators MDL is scheduled for Thursday, coming the same month the company announced that it is halting sales of all Chinese laminate flooring amid allegations that it may release dangerous levels of formaldehyde.

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In March, a group of plaintiffs petitioned the JPML to establish a federal multidistrict litigation (MDL) for all lawsuits over Lumber Liquidator laminate flooring problems, which would centralize the cases before one judge to reduce duplicative discovery into common issues, avoid conflicting pretrial rulings and serve the convenience of the parties, witnesses and the courts. At that time, there were at least 10 class action complaints pending nationwide.

In a supplemental response (PDF) submitted on May 22, attorneys representing Lumber Liquidators told the JPML that the number of cases has increased ten-fold, with complaints pending in at least 42 different jurisdictions across 30 states.

The lawsuits have been brought following a segment that aired on 60 Minutes earlier this year, which found that certain Lumber Liquidator flooring imported from China and sold in California failed to meet the state’s formaldehyde emissions standards.

The number of cases have continued to increase amid concerns that problems with Lumber Liquidator flooring may be impacting thousands of homes throughout the U.S.

On May 7, Lumber Liquidators halted to sales of the flooring, and the company’s Chief Executive Officer, Robert Lynch, suddenly resigned last week. The company also faces an investigation by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission.

A number of states are also launching investigations into Lumber Liquidators flooring as a result of the 60 Minutes segment and complaints from consumers. Attorneys general in both New York and Connecticut have recently announced probes into the flooring and Lumber Liquidator’s business practices, and officials in California say they are considering an investigation as well.

Lumber Liquidator Formaldehyde Flooring Problems

Some experts suggest that tens of thousands of homes in the state, and potentially hundreds of thousands of homes and businesses nationwide, may be contaminated with toxic Chinese flooring.

Formaldehyde is a chemical used to manufacture building materials, resins, household products and is used as an embalming agent. It is classified as a probable carcinogen by the EPA and was determined by the National Academy of Sciences to cause cancer in humans. However, the EPA has never passed regulations which set acceptable formaldehyde gas levels for flooring.

Common symptoms of exposure to formaldehyde may include respiratory symptoms, eye, nose and throat irritation, headaches, nausea, chest pain, vomiting and rashes. The chemical has been linked to some forms of cancer and leukemia.

Investigators with a nonprofit group called Global Community Monitor says it tested more than 150 boxes of laminate flooring at various stores around California.

Researchers said that, on average, the Chinese-made Lumber Liquidators laminate flooring contained more than six to seven times the state standard for formaldehyde. Some samples contained nearly 20 times the acceptable amount of formaldehyde, the researchers warned.

Lumber Liquidators has defended the quality of its flooring. On its webpage, the company has issued a statement claiming that it’s flooring is safe and legal and posted its own test results indicating that its flooring meets state standards.

The company said it has its own special committee investigating the formaldehyde flooring claims. According to the committee’s review, the Chinese flooring suppliers certified the flooring sold to the company and labeled it as compliant with California formaldehyde emission standards.

Lumber Liquidators officials say that the company is now reviewing those certifications, labeling processes and practices of the flooring suppliers. It is also reviewing the allegations and its own policies.


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