California Certifies Class Action Against Pella

Alleges leaking windows, nonexistent service

A California state court certified the class in a suit involving leaking windows manufactured by a subsidiary of the popular manufacturer Pella. The ruling allows the class action, which plaintiffs' counsel believes affects around 100,000 homeowners, to move forward.

The suit claims that Viking Series 3000 windows, manufactured by a Pella subsidiary, leak out of the bottom corners, substantially shortening their lifespan. The suit involves several types of windows, including horizontal sliding, vertical sliding (or "hung"), and fixed windows. The suit also includes the Viking Series 3000 sliding glass door.

In addition to the defects, the suit alleges that Viking has refused to replace the windows or otherwise remedy the problem, despite a conspicuous "lifetime warranty" label affixed to every window. On April 3, 2007, lead plaintiffs' attorney Stuart Eppsteiner of San Diego-based Eppsteiner & Fiorica, wrote Pella to demand that they replace the defective windows. He never received an answer.

An expert for the plaintiffs tested the windows and found that 61 percent leaked out of the bottom corners. The expert further found a "reasonable engineering certainty" that the other 39 percent would eventually leak during their expected useful life. This may not be surprising; judges and legal experts often dismiss expert witnesses as "worthless" since they are working for an interested party. Shockingly, however, Pella's own expert witness admitted in sworn testimony that 43 percent of the 1.2 windows sold have leaked — an astonishing figure in its own right.

Even under Pella's relatively conservative estimation, then, between 336,000 and 696,000 of the subject windows leak. Pella's refusal to provide assistance to affected consumers has led some to throw up their hands and replace the windows out of their own pockets.

The suit is brought on behalf of California homeowners who bought the windows through a retailer or as part of a new home. While the suit likely involves about 100,000 homeowners, plaintiffs' counsel currently only know the identities of several hundred. Homeowners who think they are part of the class can fill out a class member information form on the Eppsteiner firm's website.

Viking 3000 windows were manufactured between 1989 and 1999. Pella bought Viking in 1998 and subsequently renamed the subsidiary Thermastar. The relative age of the windows is more than offset by the purported "lifetime" warranty.

The windows were sold at major home improvement retailers, including Home Depot, Home Base, Lowes and Yardbirds. Home Depot, which sold about 500,000 units, is named as a codefendant in the suit.

The class was certified in a one-page minute order by Judge Holly Carter of the California Superior Court in San Joaquin County. The case is being prosecuted by Eppsteiners firm and Milstein, Adelman & Kreger in Santa Monica, CA.

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