Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co. was ordered to pay more than $23 million to a Colorado vacation home developer in a decision by an Arapahoe County jury, who found the Entran II tubing used in the homes' radiant heating systems to be faulty.
Vista Resorts, developer of several high-end vacation homes, spent millions replacing or repairing the radiant systems in six of its Beaver Creek exclusive Chateau Chalet Condominiums, according to Dick Clark of the law firm Rothgerber, Johnson & Lyons, who tried the case.
In 1995, several homeowners began to experience problems with their homes' heating systems: failure of expansion tanks and valves, tubing hardening and leaks, and black sludge dripping throughout the homes.
Vista paid for the damages, but decided to file a case against Goodyear in 1998.
"We always believed the Entran II tubing to be at fault, never the installers," Clark says.
Goodyear's Entran II hose was used exclusively by Missouri-based Heatway, which designed the heating systems installed in the Beaver Creek homes. Heatway bought 25 million feet of the hose between 1989 and 1993. But the hose soon began to crack and leak, causing extensive damages.
In February 2000, Heatway lost a contractual legal battle against Goodyear in an Ohio court when the company refused to pay Goodyear for the hose it had ordered after the tubing failed in several hundred installations.
Entran II tubes started out orange and flexible, like garden hoses. Over time, the tube released plasticizers that hardened the tube, effectively dissolving in hot water, according to expert testimony.
There are more than 10,000 radiant heating systems in the United States that contain Entran II tubes. Heatway spent more than $6.5 million to settle more than 100 claims since 1992. A fund of $2.9 million was established by the now-bankrupt company for homeowners' claims until August 2002.
Goodyear has long argued that the hose failures were due to Heatway's radiant system design, as well as problems with installation and maintenance by contractors. But this most recent decision clearly finds Goodyear at fault, says Clark.
"Our jury verdict vindicates the people accused by Goodyear. The plumbers, mechanical contractors and mechanical engineers were victims just like the homeowners," he says.
Goodyear will appeal the decision, according to spokesperson Donna Jennings, but the company's legal battles are far from over.
At least 35 other lawsuits across the United States and Canada have been filed by homeowners and developers whose homes are heated with Entran II.
"It is our belief that the Colorado jury properly viewed the evidence and made the right decision," says Clark of Goodyear's appeal. "The action will be sustained."