A federal judge in the US state of New Jersey has ruled that a case against synthetic turf producer FieldTurf could become a class action suit. In doing so, the judge allows for other municipalities and school districts throughout the state as well as New York, Pennsylvania, and California to get involved.
The issue revolves around a lawsuit that the borough of Carteret filed against FieldTurf in 2016, claiming that the North American synthetic turf producer had knowingly sold a defective product. Court records show that the borough of Carteret had bought six synthetic turf fields between 2006 and 2010 from FieldTurf at a total cost of more than USD2 million.
In April 2013, the borough reached out to FieldTurf for the first time to discuss a warranty claim. Representatives of FieldTurf visited the field five months later and it took another full year before the borough received a feedback report. Despite sending three additional letters, the borough claims that FieldTurf continued to stall.
Only in June 2016 did FieldTurf offer to pay thousands of USD in repair and replacement costs, an offer that was unacceptable to the borough.
Defect and deception
In July this year, District Judge Michael A. Shipp ruled that the 16 plaintiffs are allowed to move forward with a class action suit on the grounds of defect and deception. He found that “by a preponderance of the evidence, plaintiffs ‘present a pair of issues that can most efficiently be determined on a class-wide basis.’”
The plaintiffs represent several cases that have already been filed against FieldTurf.
The judge wrote that the court had found class-wide evidence that “FieldTurf concealed the defects impacting durability when marketing and selling to plaintiffs” with “discovery produced thus far indicating that FieldTurf was aware of issues with the Duraspine turf and did not disclose those issues to purchasers.”
Allegedly, Duraspine lasted half as long FieldTurf promised. It is claimed that it deteriorated rapidly, thereby leaving athletes vulnerable to injuries. In 2022, the product was discontinued. However, local website NJ.com claims that FieldTurf had sold 1,428 of the fields throughout the US. 164 of those were installed in New Jersey.
The plaintiffs are requesting a seven-day jury trial by the end of the year. But representation for FieldTurf and its parent company Tarkett have asked the judge to delay a trial, pending appeal.
In a statement, FieldTurf said it was “disappointed with the court’s recent decision” and was considering all its options, including an appeal.
“We have always lived up to our warranties and did everything possible to take care of our customers in a fair manner,” the company added. “A trial on the certified issues would not lead to any finding of liability or damages.”
“The court was clear that, despite the ruling to certify the issue class action, questions of liability and damages would still need to be decided at later, individual trials. We are confident in our position and believe we would prevail in defeating claims for liability and damages in any later potential individual trial,” a spokesperson for FieldTurf said.
The judge is expected to rule on the motion on September 5.