Pella Settles Lawsuit Over Wood WindowsFebruary 12th, 2018 by Trey Barrineau
A 12-year-old class-action lawsuit against Pella is over after the company agreed to pay $25.75 million to homeowners who purchased aluminum-clad wood casement windows between January 1, 1991 and December 31, 2009.
A filing last week in the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois shows that Pella has agreed to set up a $25.75 million fund for those who filed claims about its ProLine windows, which the plaintiffs say “contain a latent defect that allows water to penetrate and leak behind the aluminum cladding, resulting in premature wood rot and other physical damage to both the window and the main structure.” The company will also set aside another $9 million in attorney’s fees, costs and expenses.
If all 700,000-plus members of the plaintiff class submit eligible claims, each would get about $35, according to The Cook County Record. However, the legal publication cites a study by Duke University School of Law that shows less than 10 percent of eligible claimants in class-action suits actually submit claims. If that turns out to be the situation in the Pella case, each claimant could get about $350.
Pella agreed to place ads in Good Housekeeping, People and Reader’s Digest announcing the settlement. Additionally, a website for claims will be established, and potential class claimants will also receive letters.
“We are pleased to have created a settlement framework to resolve this 12-year-old case,” Pella said in a statement. “The settlement provides Pella’s customers with a claims process for older ProLine casement, awning and transom windows. In the overwhelming majority of cases, these Pella windows performed extremely well, as designed. The settlement is structured to address the relatively small number of windows that may have experienced a problem. The lawsuit does not involve any products currently sold by Pella and Pella continues to innovate in the design and features of our windows and doors to improve their performance and customer benefits.”
The class-action lawsuit has been in the federal court system since 2006. In 2013, a $90 million settlement was announced that gave the lawyers working on the case $11 million in legal fees.
However, that decision was appealed, and in 2014 it was overturned by the U.S. Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals, according to The Cook County Record. The appeals court cited a “grave conflict of interest” because the lead counsel in the class action litigation, Paul Weiss, was the son-in-law of Leonard Saltzman, the man who had initially filed the lawsuit. Additionally, Saltzman’s daughter and Weiss’ wife also worked at the law firm handling the case.
“Only a tiny number of class members would have known about the family relationship between the lead class representative and the lead class counsel – a relationship that created a grave conflict of interest; for the larger the fee award to class counsel, the better off Saltzman’s daughter and son-in-law would be financially – and (which sharped the conflict of interest) by a lot,” wrote former judge Richard Posner in the decision.
Weiss was eventually disbarred in 2015 by the Illinois Supreme Court.