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New Jersey MDL Involves More Than One-Dozen Lawsuits

A federal judicial panel recently ordered a New Jersey judge to oversee more than one dozen lawsuits that similarly allege high-end artificial turf installed at high schools and other athletic facilities has rapidly crumbled. The litigation is In Re Artificial Turf Litigation, MDL case number 2779, in the U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation.

The lawsuits allege that FieldTurf USA Inc., based in Calhoun, Georgia, installed artificial turf in 1,700 soccer, baseball, and other sports venues in the United States from 2005 to 2012, generating $570 million, according to The New Jersey Law Journal. Half of the lawsuits filed are class actions and were filed following a series of articles published in December 2016 by NJ Advance Media reported that FieldTurf USA’s turf was defective.

FieldTurf is a division of France’s FieldTurf Tarkett SAS. The international headquarters are located in Montreal, Canada and moved to coordinate the litigation before United States District Judge Esther Salas of the Newark division. Dr. Salas has previous multidistrict (MDL) experience, The New Jersey Law Journal reported.

In a June 1, 2017 order, the U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation (JPML) agreed that New Jersey was the correct venue for this litigation, noting that “the district enjoys the support of not only FieldTurf but also some plaintiffs.” The panel wrote that “centralization in the District of New Jersey enables us to assign the litigation to Judge Michael A. Shipp, an able and experienced jurist who has not yet had the opportunity to preside over an MDL.” Judge Shipp sits at the Trenton division and was appointed in 2012 by President Barack Obama. The JPML continues to expand the field of transferee judges by sending cases to those who have not yet handled an MDL, with many relatively new to the bench, The New Jersey Law Journal wrote.

For its part, “FieldTurf stands behind its products and customers, and we are fully confident that when considered in full, the facts will show that customers were well-served by FieldTurf,” the company wrote in an emailed statement to The New Jersey Law Journal.

Parker Waichman LLP is a national personal injury law firm with decades of experience representing clients in product liability lawsuits. The firm continues to offer free legal consultations to individuals with questions about filing a product defect lawsuit.

In 2011, FieldTurf filed a $30 million suit against a supplier, TenCate Thiolon Middle East LLC, due to defective fiber used in its turf. The companies settled during trial in 2014. The new lawsuits allege that FieldTurf continued to sell the defective turf despite knowing the fields would deteriorate before the guaranteed 10 years.

One of the plaintiffs’ attorneys said that, “The fields were being sold as being basically superior and safer than grass…. But in [a] short time period, the synthetic grass was falling over, it was limp, and the fibers would split.” Meanwhile, according to The New Jersey Law Journal schools and towns used tax dollars for the fields and have filed most of the lawsuits. One plaintiff’s attorney supported coordination, while other plaintiffs’ attorneys argued for the Central District of California, Minnesota, and the Southern District of Texas. Despite objections, the JPML agreed to consolidate the five lawsuits over allegedly inferior sports field turf in New Jersey federal court for convenience; this, over the objections of some who originally filed their cases in California and Minnesota.

All of the cases before the panel allege FieldTurf USA Inc. and its related companies sold defective synthetic turf for athletic fields that deteriorated faster than touted. All the cases involve common questions of fact about the development, manufacture, testing, and marketing of the turf, as well as the turf manufacturer’s knowledge of the alleged defects.

According to Law360, consolidation in New Jersey, where five cases are currently pending, would be the most convenient for all parties and witnesses and “promote the just and efficient conduct of this litigation,” the panel indicated. “Centralization will eliminate duplicative discovery, prevent inconsistent pretrial rulings on [admissibility] issues, class certification, and other pretrial matters, and conserve the resources of the parties, their counsel, and the judiciary,” the transfer decision indicated.

The panel did favor centralization of the lawsuits, noting that cases are pending in nine districts and several “tag-along” cases were likely, especially taking into account that the turf was installed in 1,400 locations between 2005 and 2012. “The district is a relatively convenient venue for most parties,” according to the JPML, wrote Law360. FieldTurf suggested New Jersey for the MDL court as several cases had been filed there. Also, New Jersey’s Star-Ledger published an article that alleged FieldTurf sold the defective turf despite knowing about the turf’s alleged deficiencies.

What is Product Liability?

Product defect lawsuits are filed when a product is alleged to be defective or dangerous. Defects typically fall into one of three main categories: Design defect, manufacturing defect and marketing defect.

A design defect involves a product is inherently defective, even before it is manufacture or assembly. A manufacturing defect involves a product that becomes defective during the production or assembly process. A product that has a manufacturing defect may be safe in design; however, the end product but deviated from the original design. Marketing defects include failure to warn, inadequate labeling, or insufficient instructions.

Product defect lawsuits may be filed over alleged problems with consumer products, medical devices, and medications. Product defect lawsuits filed over drug injuries generally allege that the drug makers neglected to warn about the risk of a side effect.

Under product liability law, manufacturers are liable for products that cause harm. Lawsuits filed over consumer fraud allege that a plaintiff suffered a loss due to the defendant being involved in deceptive or unfair business practices. In this case, plaintiffs allege that FieldTurf intentionally sold defective turf for financial gain.

Filing a Product Liability Lawsuit

If you or someone you know suffered injuries due to a defective or dangerous product, you may have valuable legal rights. Our product defect lawyers offer free, no-obligation case evaluations. For more information, fill out our online form or call 1-800-YOURLAWYER (1-800-968-7529).