Plaintiffs are lining up across the country after having their homes severely damaged by the Viking VK-457 model fire protection system. A class action suit is underway to recover damages from the home sprinkler system that is being referred to as a “ticking time bomb.” They are designed to release water from a network of sprinkler heads when a fire occurs; however, they have been activating when no fire, smoke, or heat exists. The suit, filed in a U.S. District Court, names the product's manufacturer Viking Group Inc. as the defendant and is seeking damages and attorney fees.
Widely Installed Product
A plaintiff attorney estimated that the system is currently installed in “tens of thousands” of properties. Fire Sprinkler Systems Inc. is a local company in Nevada that alone has installed the system in hundreds of homes. They say that an internal failure in the system relates to a defect within an assembly part. Viking Corporation has faced several individual suits already, yet they insist the product is not defective.
Case in Maryland
Gayl Jackson and Tammy Foster brought the civil action in a U.S. District Court in Maryland. Their claim asserts that the product had significantly damaged their homes and valuable personal property. Those systems have since had to be removed and replaced at the expense of homeowners. One plaintiff stated the system engaged in their upstairs master bedroom and created water damage throughout the home beneath and into the basement.
Durlye Warren is a homeowner that had her property destroyed recently. Her home has since been completely “gutted” to the frame with the carpets and floors removed. Nearly 100 people who purchased homes manufactured by Lennar Homes gathered at a Roseville library seeking answers from the company, as they are fearful of potential problems. Warren summarizes the situation as being “a nightmare.” A spokesman for Viking Corporation says they “are aware of a limited number of activations” when there was no presence of a fire. The system is no longer currently being produced.
Maryland Consumer Protection Act
Maryland's Consumer Protection Act is a measure that allows consumers to pursue damages when a seller engages in false or misleading business practices. For a plaintiff to prevail they must prove the following:
- The defendant(s) falsely represented their product or service
- Defendant(s) was aware of the misrepresentation or was recklessly indifferent
- There was intent to defraud
- Plaintiff(s) interpreted the misrepresentation as being truth and acted accordingly
- The plaintiff(s) incurred the damages as a direct result of the misrepresentation
The claim states that the defendant has experience in the design, manufacturing, and testing of products used for fire suppression. The defendants were aware (or should have been) that the system was defective. The damages were a direct result of the product's failure.
Lawsuits that are class action involve a group of plaintiffs with a common consumer claim. These claims usually stem from product liability or personal injuries with damages that harmed many people and are thus not suitable for independent (individual) claims. Plaintiffs do retain the option of “opting-out” of the class action. In Maryland, these claims may be filed in a state or federal court venue.
Product Defect Liability
In cases involved with defective products, the named defendant may be the manufacturer, a distributor or seller. Common types of claims include allegations of defects that existed in the design or manufacturing of the product. A failure to warn is also common when the defendant should have recognized the potential for danger and provided a warning to consumers.