(WASHINGTON, D.C.) – Charging Lumber Liquidators with fraudulently selling composite flooring that contains excessive and unlawful levels of formaldehyde, purchasers filed a representative complaint in federal court on behalf of classes of consumers in five states – California, Florida, Illinois, New York, and Texas.
The complaint, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia on Sept. 11, 2015, alleges that Lumber Liquidators sold Chinese-manufactured flooring that contained high levels of formaldehyde without disclosing that to purchasers. Instead, Lumber Liquidators falsely labeled their products as meeting or exceeding California Air Resources Board (CARB) formaldehyde emissions standards. CARB is an industry-accepted standard nationwide. This composite laminate flooring was sold nationwide under the brand name Lumber Liquidators “Dream Home.”
“These consumers believed that the flooring they purchased and installed in their homes, including in their children’s bedrooms, met product safety standards,” said plaintiffs’ co-lead counsel Steven J. Toll. “But independent testing found that the flooring was emitting levels of formaldehyde gas that exceeded emissions regulations.”
Formaldehyde, a common ingredient in the glue used in the composite laminate flooring base layer, often is used to reduce the price of manufacturing the base layer. Exposure to formaldehyde for periods as brief as 15 minutes has been shown to cause respiratory irritation, headaches, coughing, dizziness, nausea, and other symptoms. Chronic and long-term exposure to formaldehyde is linked to increased risk of various forms of cancer, including lung cancer and leukemia, and can aggravate asthma in formaldehyde-sensitive individuals. The gas poses a particularly acute risk to children.
From October 2013 through November 2014, three accredited laboratories tested the formaldehyde emissions of laminate wood flooring from several nationwide retail outlets, including Home Depot, Lowe’s, and Lumber Liquidators. Using testing methods consistent with CARB regulations and with CARB-recommended standard operating procedures, the laboratories found China-manufactured laminate flooring sold by Lumber Liquidators contained by far the highest levels of formaldehyde – on average, 23 times higher than U.S.-manufactured products. The levels were several times the maximum CARB limits and exceeded the standards set by the federal Toxic Substances Control Act.
The representative complaint covers purchasers of the Chinese-manufactured flooring products in California, Florida, Illinois, New York and Texas. The complaint will serve as a bellwether for the 134 cases sent to the U.S. District Court, Eastern District of Virginia, as part of Multi-District Litigation (MDL) against Lumber Liquidators. Plaintiffs seek restitution of money they spent on Lumber Liquidators flooring products, consequential damages, injunctive relieve enjoining the company’s unlawful, unfair and fraudulent business practices, and other damages on behalf of themselves and the classes. They also seek a jury trial.
In addition to Steven Toll, the plaintiffs are represented by co-lead counsels Nancy Fineman of Cotchett, Pitre & McCarthy LLP, of Burlingame, Calif., and Steve Berman, of Hagens Berman Sobol Shapiro LLP, of Seattle, Wash.
The case is entitled In re: Lumber Liquidators Chinese-Manufactured Flooring Products, Sales Practice and Product Liabilities Litigation.