Civil Litigation, Construction

Options available if you discover Kitec plumbing: Cormier

By Paul Russell, AdvocateDaily.com Contributor

If you have bright blue or orange lines running from your water heater or baseboards, there is a good chance your home’s plumbing needs to be replaced — and you will have to pick up at least some of the tab, says Toronto trial and appellate lawyer Joel Cormier.

“I know people personally who are dealing with this,” says Cormier, an associate with Will Davidson LLP.

He explains that colourful Kitec plumbing was heavily used in homes built between 1995 and 2007, as it was cheaper and easier to work with than traditional copper piping.

“As homeowners across the continent are now discovering, sooner or later it will fail, as both the pipes and the fittings deteriorate over time, causing major headaches and expenses due to water damage,” he tells AdvocateDaily.com.

“If you see the bright orange and blue lines, you need to get rid of them right away,” Cormier advises.

According to a CBC News story, Kitec plumbing was used across Canada primarily in hot water baseboard and in-floor heating systems and was sold under other brand names such as PlumbBetter, IPEX AQUA and WarmRite. The piping is labelled ASTM 1281.

The cost to homeowners to replace it ranges from $4,000 to $15,000, depending on the size of the home, the story states. Cormier says homeowners with Kitec plumbing have three options when trying to recover at least some of this expense.

Contact your home insurer

“Depending on the terms of your policy, your home insurer is on the hook for any floods that occur in your house,” he says. “It’s in your insurer’s best interest to see that you have plumbing that is not going to fail, so it may cover all or some of the repairs, instead of having to pay a flood claim.”

Since home policies vary widely, Cormier says some insurance companies may not be under any obligation to fund the cost of replacement.

“There is also a risk that the insurer may increase your premiums if you inform them that you have this plumbing and don’t replace it,” he says.

In any case, Cormier recommends that a good first step is to talk with your home insurer about what can be done.

Join a class-action lawsuit

According to the CBC story, Kitec settled a class-action lawsuit for US$125 million. Homeowners in Canada and the United States are eligible for 50 per cent of the average cost to repair or replace the piping and fittings, with a January 2020 deadline to make a claim.

“The problem is you don’t know how much you’re going to get since that depends on the number of claimants,” says Cormier.

According to the story, the class-action settlement website estimates there are approximately 292,000 installations/properties with the Kitec system in North America.

“I think the usage of Kitec plumbing has been underestimated,” says Cormier. “It was also used in condos, and there was a real condo building boom between 1995 and 2007, so homeowners who apply may not receive much compensation at all.”

Sue for damages

“If you know who installed the plumbing, and the company didn’t inform you of the recall, you can sue for repair costs,” says Cormier.

He says homeowners can also file a claim against the Canadian distributor of the product under the Sale of Goods Act, considering the product did not perform adequately.

“What that statute says is that products have to serve their intended purpose, and we now know that this plumbing was basically designed to fail,” Cormier says, adding that identifying the plumbing company and the distributor could be problematic.

“If you bought the house after the plumbing was installed, you might not be able to identify who the plumber was, which means you likely won’t be able to identify the distributor either,” he says

Homeowners can try to make a claim against the manufacturer, but that could be even more difficult, Cormier says.

“Since most of the Kitec plumbing came from China, it doesnt contain markings that let us know where exactly it was made,” he says.

“While technically you do have a claim against the manufacturer for making a defective item, it will be an uphill battle if the firm is located in China, and it may not be worth the cost.”

For that reason, Cormier recommends launching legal action against the plumbing firm and distributor and letting them go after the manufacturer for damages.

Though not involved in any court actions involving Kitec, Cormier says he is providing legal counsel in another case involving a different Chinese manufacturer of flex hoses that connect to faucets from the supply line.

“A big batch of those that came over from China are known to be faulty, and have resulted in millions of dollars in flood damage,” he says.

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