Lawyers in Miami, Florida have filed what they say could be a huge national class-action lawsuit against a dozen manufacturing firms that supply CPVC piping for fire sprinkler systems. The Miami Herald has a report (see: "Lawsuit alleges faulty fire sprinklers in Miami high-rise condo buildings," by David Ovalle). "Lawyers for condo associations at the Wind Condominium and Latitude on the River buildings are suing a dozen manufacturers, suppliers and distributors behind the sprinkler systems," the Herald reported. "According to the complaint, pipes made of 'chlorinated polyvinyl chloride' or CPVC, were popular in fire sprinkler systems during a nationwide building boom that started around 2005. But the pipes contain a resin that breaks down easily when combined with other common building materials, the suit contends, leading to leaks, cracks and a loss of pressure."

Although only two plaintiffs are named in the complaint (both Miami condo associations), defendants in the case span the piping industry, and the nation, Daily Business Review reports (see: "Condos Claim Faulty Sprinkler Pipes Need to Be Replaced for Millions," by Monika Gonzalez Mesa). "The named defendants are Allied Tube & Conduit Corp., Tyco International PLC, Tyco Fire Products LP, all of Delaware; Lubrizol Advanced Materials of Ohio; Viking Corp. of Michigan; Victaulic Co. of New Jersey; Georg Fischel Harvel of Pennsylvania; Nibco Inc. of Indiana; Spears Manufacturing Co. of California; Atkore International Inc. of Delaware; HD Supply Watermarks Group of Delaware and HD Supply Watermarks Ltd. of Florida," the paper reported.

Plaintiffs attorney Ervin A. Gonzalez said repairs required for the two condos named in the suit could cost $50 million to $100 million per building. But Gonzalez said that faulty plastic tubing is a nationwide problem, and that damages nationwide in the case could top a billion dollars.

In a complaint filed in Federal court, plaintiffs' attorneys describe what they say was a pattern of conduct by suppliers of CPVC tubing and metal pipe components to suppress internal company findings of incompatibility between the corrosion inhibitors applied to the steel pipes and the plastic resins in the CPVC components of the sprinkler systems. Citing internal company emails from Lubrizol, a CPVC pipe manufacturer, to Allied Tube & Conduit, makers of steel pipes, the plaintiffs say that Lubrizol's chemists knew in 2007 that the steel pipe shouldn't be connected to the plastic pipe because of likely damage to the plastic. But a warning notice posted on Lubrizol's website was taken down after just one day because of objections from Allied, the lawsuit alleges — and no warning was later issued, even as Lubrizol technicians continued to confirm the damage in multiple samples tested by the company that came from failed installations in the field.

The products described in the lawsuit were pulled from the market in 2010, but plaintiffs' attorney Gonzalez estimates that there may be 10,000 big multifamily projects in the U.S. containing the allegedly defective pairing of steel and plastic tubing, which may have already failed or be at risk of failing. The manufacturers named in the lawsuit have not yet presented any response to the complaint. The complaint itself is posted here (see: "Wind Condominium v. Allied Tube").

For background on sprinkler systems, see Residential Fire Sprinklers.