Polybute Settlement Money Still Available

Special to CONTRACTOR ATLANTA Class-action lawyers sent out yet another notice in late September that owners of houses, mobile homes and other structures with polybutylene plumbing systems and acetal plastic insert fittings can claim part of a settlement with du Pont. The $120 million nationwide settlement was originally reached in 1995 and provides relief to class members with polybutylene plumbing

Special to CONTRACTOR

ATLANTA — Class-action lawyers sent out yet another notice in late September that owners of houses, mobile homes and other structures with polybutylene plumbing systems and acetal plastic insert fittings can claim part of a settlement with du Pont.

The $120 million nationwide settlement was originally reached in 1995 and provides relief to class members with polybutylene plumbing who meet certain requirements. Under the settlement, homeowners may be entitled to receive 10% of the cost to replace the plumbing system and 10% of the cost to repair property damage caused by leaks in the PB plumbing system. The reimbursement comes from the Spencer National Class Action Settlement.

Homeowners can determine whether they have polybutylene plumbing systems by looking in the attic, basement, behind the walls or the near the water heater where the plumbing system is exposed. More information about the settlement is available at www.SpencerClass.com, phone 800/490-6997, plus an information packet is available by writing to Spencer Claims Facility, P.O. Box 81448, Atlanta, GA 30366.

Owners of a house, mobile home or other structure with polybutylene plumbing, which was purchased after Aug. 1, 1999, and who do not want to remain a class member and do not want to receive benefits under the settlement, must submit a signed letter postmarked no later than Dec. 1, 2003, to “opt out” of the settlement.

The settlement was reached in Spencer, et al. v. Shell Oil Co., et al., in the Circuit Court of Greene County, Alabama.

Plaintiff Garria Spencer and others brought the suit as a class action alleging that defendants Shell Oil Co., Hoechst Celanese Corp. and E. I. du Pont were negligent and committed fraud in connection with the manufacture, promotion and sale of polybutylene plumbing systems. The defendants denied (and still deny) any legal liability and wrongdoing relating to polybutylene plumbing.

A settlement of the lawsuit was reached with du Pont only.

The plumbing systems included in this class action are made of polybutylene pipe and acetal plastic insert fittings. The PB pipe is usually gray and sometimes black plastic. The acetal fittings are usually gray and occasionally white plastic. The pipe and fittings are secured together by crimp rings made of aluminum or copper.

The settlement does not include systems of polybutylene pipe with copper, brass or black plastic fittings; PB systems with compression fittings; or blue polybutylene water supply pipe supplying water to the house

The settlement excludes certain people, such as those who have already reached another settlement with du Pont or those who have previously opted out of the class action. It also excludes government entities and private water suppliers.

Du Pont has committed $120 million to a settlement fund. Du Pont will pay 10% of the cost to replumb the plumbing systems of a class member’s property unit and 10% of the actual cash value of physical damage to property of a class member caused by a leak in the polybutylene plumbing system occurring within 15 years of its installation, if the replumb is actually performed and completed within 15 years of the plumbing system’s installation. The 15-year limitation period does not apply to class members who acquired their property after Aug. 1, 1999, for the period from Oct. 1, 2003, to Dec. 31, 2003. After Dec. 31, 2003, this 15-year limitation period will apply to all class members.

The Spencer settlement is not to be confused with the Cox settlement in Cox, et al. v. Shell Oil Co., et ano., in the Chancery Court for Obion County, at Union City, Tenn.

Cox covered persons who own property in which PB plumbing with acetal insert fittings was installed between Jan. 1, 1978, and July 31, 1995. It also covers those who previously owned property with PB plumbing and acetal insert fittings that leaked and caused damage. The Cox defendants, Shell and Hoechst Celanese, committed $950 million to a settlement fund to pay for replacement of PB plumbing, and for expenses and damage.

A facility called the Consumer Plumbing Recovery Center has been established to administer the Cox settlement. Homeowners with damages from PB systems can get reimbursement from the Cox settlement, with certain time limits and exclusions.

Eligibility forms and further information are available from Consumer Plumbing Recovery Center, P.O. Box 869006, Plano, TX 75086-9006, phone 800/356-3496, or at www.pbpipe.com.