Tag Archives: Polybutylene Law

History of Dealing with Legal Remedies for Property Owners with Polybutylene

Anyone whose business or interests lie in real estate would want to know about a product liability case that effected property values nationwide. It concerns the Qest Quik Sert plastic (polybutylene) plumbing system that was installed in the supply lines of a large number of single family homes condominiums, town homes, apartments, mobile homes, and manufactured homes throughout the United States. It is estimated that between 20,000 and 40,000 properties in Colorado have this system.
The plastic system is a component plumbing system which is manufactured from polybutylene and celcon resins (i.e. plastic). It is assembled with a combination of plastic tubing, plastic fittings, and metal crimp rings. The system was installed in homes built between approximately 1978 through 1993, however, in 1987, the plastic fittings were replaced by metal. Experts have testified that the system is defective (i.e. the fittings crack causing leaks, pipes and fittings pull apart, plastic resins chemically react to chlorine which causes the pipes to erode, continuously circulating hot water weakens the pipes causing leaks and under freezing conditions the pipe/fittings connections loosen).
The system was developed, manufactured, and marketed by U.S. Brass and Vanguard Plastics, Inc. in conjunction with Shell Oil Company, Hoescht-Celanese Corporation, and E.I. du Pont de Nemours & Company. U.S. Brass, Vanguard and other manufactures designed, manufactured, and sold the polybutylene plumbing system. The system was marketed nationally to plumbing manufacturers and cities and counties were lobbied in order to put polybutylene plumbing systems on the list of approved products, despite knowledge of numerous failures and ongoing litigation involving the system. The plastic was marketed as a material suitable for use as fittings for plumbing applications, despite conclusive data that was available in the 1960s and 1970s that chlorinated tap water could erode the fittings. Juries in numerous court cases have found that the manufacturers sold the system despite knowledge of the problems and that they misrepresented their products, knowingly engaged in deceptive trade practices, and acted with gross negligence.
The system is identifiable by looking under a kitchen or bathroom sink, and/or at the plumbing leading to and from the water heater. The piping and fittings are light grey in color and the letters Q-E-S-T, or simply the letter Q are often embossed on a valve or fitting. The piping and fittings are connected with an aluminum, copper or brass crimp ring which is approximately one-half inch wide.
This plumbing has affected property value. Owners and realtors have had difficulty selling property because of the problems associated with the plumbing. Plumbing leaks have damaged and stained carpets, walls, and baseboards. Vinyl flooring curls up at the edges or the seam. Insulation, sheet rock, furniture, and rugs have been ruined. In some cases, ant, spider, roach, and termite problems have developed due to wood rot.
Other damages include the loss of personal time and wages to deal with plumbing problems. Some property owners have had to pay hotel bills while their tenants were turned out of their homes while repairs were being made to the property. Some people have experienced an increase in insurance premiums and utility bills. Many plumbers refuse to work on the polybutylene plumbing system.
In 1989, I became involved in litigation involving the system almost everywhere it was installed and became a national problem. This system was the subject matter of a “60 Minutes” segment in 1990 and was also highlighted on the “Good Morning America” show on March 11, 1993.
I researched and handled claims regarding serious problems with this defective plastic plumbing system for several years. After extensive negotiations with the manufacturers of this product we settled the claims of over 10,000 single-family home, town home, condominium, apartment, manufactured, and mobile home owners which were plumbed with the system throughout Colorado. We were part of a national settlement of $1.2 billion in 1993, the largest property settlement in history as of that time.