About 135 lawsuits have been filed to date against Lumber Liquidators on behalf of consumers. Those suits have been transferred to the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia for consolidated and coordinated pretrial proceedings. The impetus for these lawsuits was that, for at least two years, Lumber Liquidators had been selling about 30 composite laminate flooring products in the U.S. that it had manufactured in China. The company did this knowing that the flooring products emit formaldehyde at levels known to pose serious health risks. However, until recently, Lumber Liquidators continued to falsely label and market these products as being compliant with strict emissions limits set by the California Air Resources Board (“CARB”). As a result, consumers throughout the country have bought from Lumber Liquidators and installed in their homes flooring products without being aware that they are unsafe.
The focus of these lawsuits has been on the duping of consumers and on their exposure, without their knowledge, to unsafe levels of formaldehyde. However, much of Lumber Liquidators’ Chinese-made laminate flooring has been installed in U.S. homes by local, independent contractors, also known as flooring installers. Independent contractors who have routinely installed the Chinese-made laminate flooring that contains excessive levels of formaldehyde have been unaware that the flooring is unsafe.
Flooring installers are at risk because they often must cut the flooring according to the size of the room or rooms in the homes or buildings where the laminate flooring is being installed. Cutting the flooring releases the formaldehyde contained as a gas within the core board. In addition, installers may be exposed for hours per work day while working on or with the flooring. Some contractors work exclusively for Lumber Liquidators and could be exposed to excessive formaldehyde levels from the laminate flooring on a regular or continuous basis during work hours.
Cancer Risk – Formaldehyde In Laminate Flooring
Laminate wood flooring is generally composed of a base layer of a pressed composite of sawdust or wood particles bonded together with glue or resin. The base layer is covered with a veneer or other material, such as a plastic laminate with a photographic image of wood that is affixed as a decorative surface. Formaldehyde is a common ingredient in the glue used in the laminate flooring base layer. At low levels, the formaldehyde quickly dissipates during installation. However, at higher levels and over time, the formaldehyde is released as a gas that emanates from the flooring.
Long-term exposure to formaldehyde is associated with increased risk of cancer of the nose and sinuses, nasopharyngeal and oropharyngeal cancer, lung cancer and leukemia. Formaldehyde also causes burning eyes, nose and throat irritation, coughing, headaches, dizziness, joint pain and nausea. Also, it has been linked to the exacerbation of asthma in sensitive individuals.
Lab Testing For Formaldehyde
From October 2013 through November 2014, three accredited laboratories tested the formaldehyde emissions of laminate wood flooring from several nationwide retail outlets, including Lumber Liquidators. Of the dozens of products tested, by far the highest formaldehyde levels were found in the laminate wood flooring produced in China and sold by Lumber Liquidators.. The levels of formaldehyde gas emitted by these Chinese-made Lumber Liquidators products were several times the maximum CARB limits, CAL. CODE REGS., tit. 17, § 93120.2(a), and exceeded the standards promulgated in the Toxic Substances Control Act, 15 U.S.C. §§ 2601. In contrast, similar products manufactured in the U.S. by Lumber Liquidators generally had much lower formaldehyde levels that complied with the formaldehyde emission standards promulgated by CARB.
However, Lumber Liquidators did not differentiate in its labeling between its domestically manufactured floor laminates and those made in China. Indeed, Lumber Liquidators’ labels on its Chinese-made laminate wood flooring products falsely claimed that the products complied with strict formaldehyde emission standards promulgated by CARB even though they did not.
“60 Minutes” Report on Formaldehyde in Lumber Liquidators
On March 1, 2015, CBS’s “60 Minutes” aired a story about the formaldehyde in Lumber Liquidators’ Chinese-made laminate flooring. The story was rebroadcast on Aug. 16, 2015. The story reported that, in 2014 and early 2015, “60 Minutes” conducted an independent investigation into Lumber Liquidators’ Chinese-made flooring products. Investigators purchased 31 boxes of various Chinese-made flooring products from various Lumber Liquidators stores around the country and had them tested at two certified labs. Of the 31 samples, only one was compliant with CARB formaldehyde emissions standards. Some were more than 13 times greater than the California limit. http://www.cbsnews.com/news/lumber-liquidators-linked-to-health-and-safety-violations/ (last visited September 9, 2015).
“60 Minutes” also sent undercover investigators to three different mills in China that manufactured laminates on behalf of Lumber Liquidators. “60 Minutes” reported that employees at the mills openly admitted that they used core boards with higher levels of formaldehyde to make Lumber Liquidators’ laminates, saving the company 10 percent to 15 percent on the price, and they admitted to falsely labeling the company’s laminate flooring as CARB-compliant. Id.
W&L Files Consumer Lawsuits Against Lumber Liquidators And Investigates Claims By Flooring Installers
In March and April of 2015, Weitz & Luxenberg filed class action lawsuits in federal courts in Manhattan and San Francisco on behalf of aggrieved consumers. Those actions along with more than 130 other actions pending across the country have been transferred to the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia for consolidated and coordinated pretrial proceedings.
Two months after “Sixty Minutes” first broadcast its story, Lumber Liquidators pulled all of its Chinese-made laminate flooring from the U.S. market. Also since then, the chief executive officer resigned and the chief financial officer was replaced. The chief merchandising officer, who was in charge of sourcing from China, was fired. Moreover, multiple state and federal investigations of Lumber Liquidators are under way by agencies including the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, the California Air Resources Board and the U.S. Department of Justice.
Weitz & Luxenberg is investigating claims on behalf of independent installers of Lumber Liquidators’ Chinese-made laminate flooring. If you installed Chinese-made flooring from Lumber Liquidators, you may be entitled to recover damages. Please contact us today for a free consultation: www.weitzlux.com or (800) 476-6070