Products Distributor To Pay $16.5M To End Toilet-Part Row

Law360 (April 25, 2018, 1:33 PM EDT) — An industrial products distributor agreed Tuesday to pay $16.5 million to end a proposed class action filed in Tennessee federal court alleging a faulty toilet part causes flooding that damages homes and other structures.

The settlement would end claims brought almost four years ago over an alleged defect with Interline Brands Inc.’s DuraPro Toilet Connectors, the proposed class said in its bid for preliminary approval of the agreement. The part connects the water supply to the toilet with a coupling nut that allegedly cracks and allows pressurized water to flow into houses “unabated,” according to the homeowners.

“Although we do not agree with the claims made, Interline is glad to put this matter to rest,” Interline said in a statement. “We take great pride and care in the quality of the products we sell.”

The settlement class would include everyone who owned or leased a structure with a toilet connector at issue, or people who otherwise endured property damage from the product.

Under the terms of the agreement, members of the settlement class would be eligible for a $4 reimbursement for each toilet connector either still in their residence or that they already replaced, with a $20 maximum payment. Members of the settlement class who suffered property damage from the allegedly faulty parts would be eligible for a recovery between $4 and 30 percent of the property damage, according to the filing.

The proposed class first brought the allegations in August 2014, and amended the complaint about a year later. Between 2002 and 2013, Interline received the toilet connectors from China and distributed them throughout the United States, the suit alleged. Interline admitted that it did not test the connectors before distributing them, and employees have known of the alleged defect since at least 2007, according to the amended complaint.

The consumers claimed the coupling nut “failed to adhere to the most basic design standards in the plastics industry.” Counsel for the consumers didn’t respond Wednesday to a request for comment.

The consumers are represented by J. Gerard Stranch and Benjamin A. Gastel of Branstetter Stranch & Jennings PLLC; Simon Bahne Paris and Patrick Howard of Saltz Mongeluzzi & Bendesky PC; Joseph G. Sauder of Sauder Schelkopf LLC; and Shanon J. Carson, Glen L. Abramson and Jeffrey L. Osterwise of Berger & Montague PC.

Interline is represented by John R. Tarpley of Lewis Thomason and Hilarie Bass, Mark A. Salky and Timothy A. Kolaya of Greenberg Traurig PA.

The case is Jacquelyn Ajose et al. v. Interline Brands Inc., case number 3:14-cv-01707, in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Tennessee.

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