On October 9, 2018, Judge Anthony J. Trenga for the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia granted final approval to a $36 million settlement that would end multidistrict product liability litigation against Lumber Liquidators. The litigation alleges that Lumber Liquidators made false statements that its Chinese-manufactured laminate flooring, sold between January 1, 2009 and May 31, 2015, complied with California Air Resource Board’s (CARB) formaldehyde emissions limits.
Under the terms of the settlement, Lumber Liquidators will pay $22 million in cash and $14 million in store-credit vouchers to members of two settlement classes who purchased the flooring for an aggregate settlement of $36 million to settle all claims.
Cohen Milstein served as co-lead counsel for the plaintiffs in this litigation.
In August 2015, Judge Anthony J. Trenga, of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, named Steven J. Toll, Managing Partner of Cohen Milstein, as co-lead counsel in a class action product liability lawsuit against Lumber Liquidators, the largest specialty retailer of hardwood flooring in North America. The lawsuit alleged that the flooring company represented that its Chinese-manufactured laminate flooring complied with CARB’s formaldehyde emissions limits when it fact, it did not.
According to a consolidated amended complaint filed in September 2015, Lumber Liquidators, which supervises and controls the manufacturing of laminate flooring products in several mills in China, and subsequently packages, distributes, markets, and/or sells the same laminate flooring products to consumers in California and throughout the country, labelled and sold the Chinese-made laminate flooring products as compliant with strict formaldehyde emission standards promulgated by CARB by stating “California 93120 Phase 2 Compliant Formaldehyde.” It further represented on its website and warranties that its flooring products complied with strict formaldehyde standards.
Numerous proposed class actions were filed starting March 3, 2015, shortly after “60 Minutes” aired two investigative stories in 2014 and 2015 finding Lumber Liquidators misrepresented that its Chinese-manufactured laminate flooring complied with CARB formaldehyde emissions limits. The investigation found that on average, the level of formaldehyde in the company’s flooring ranged from at least six times the California state standard, with some samples nearly as high as twenty times the standard.
In the aftermath of the media attention on the dangers of formaldehyde in its products, the lawsuit alleges that Lumber Liquidators further exacerbated the potential harm to consumers by launching a deceptive marketing campaign to publicly discredit the testing methods the laboratories used, as aired by “60 Minutes,” and to cover up the unsafe nature of the products it sold, including offering a free do-it-yourself air testing kit. Unlike the laboratory tests, the do-it-yourself testing kits did not comply with accepted industry standards and were therefore unreliable.
As a part of the settlement, on June 15, 2018, the court preliminarily certified a class of consumers who bought the flooring between January 1, 2009, and December 31, 2010, when CARB allowed formaldehyde levels as high as .21 parts per million, and a class of consumers who bought the flooring between January 1, 2011, and May 31, 2015, when CARB allowed formaldehyde levels as high as just .11 parts per million.