The Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation has ordered that pre-trial proceedings in twelve putative class actions alleging defects in composite outdoor decking materials be coordinated or consolidated in the United States District Court for the District of New Jersey. The suits contend that decking materials sold by GAF Materials Corp. tend to warp, crack, and swell. The suits also allege that these materials develop mold, mildew, and fungus, resulting in discoloration. The actions include claims for violation of consumer protection laws, breach of warranty, and unjust enrichment.
The Order covers six cases that originated in Colorado, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, North Carolina, and Ohio, as well as six “tag-along” cases filed after the multi-district litigation docket was opened. The Panel found that centralization was appropriate because it would eliminate duplicative discovery and prevent inconsistent pre-trial rulings, particularly with regard to class certification.
Although all of the litigants supported centralization, they disagreed as the appropriate forum. While centralization in the District of New Jersey was supported by GAF and a plaintiff that had initially filed in the District of New Jersey, plaintiffs in the six primary actions and four “tag-along” cases supported centralization in the Southern District of Ohio. According to the Order, the District of New Jersey was selected because GAF is headquartered there, and relevant documents and witnesses are located in the state.
Additional actions against GAF regarding the same allegations are expected to be filed and subsequently centralized in the District of New Jersey.