Settlement Hearing Set in Toilet Class Action

Settlement Hearing Set in Toilet Class Action Photo: Consumer Product Safety Commission Series 503 Flushmate III Pressure Assist flushing system.

A hearing has been set for final approval of an $18 million class action settlement to compensate owners of Flushmate toilets containing a flaw that has caused more than 300 of the devices to explode.

The Aug. 25 hearing in U.S. District Court for the Central District of California will bring hundreds of thousands of potential class members closer to receiving at least $50 each to make up for the trouble their toilets caused them.

Since the Consumer Product Safety Commission declared the toilets defective in 2012, more than 2.4 million Series 503 Flushmate III Pressure-Assist Flushing Systems have been recalled. That year, the commission said it had received 304 reports of toilet-tank explosions and 14 reports of impact or laceration injuries.

The flawed mechanism involves a sealed plastic vessel that sits inside the toilet tank. Unlike ordinary commodes, which use gravity to flush the water out, the Flushmate system compresses and pressurizes air inside the vessel which, when the toilet is flushed, releases the air, which then forces water into the bowl, which then “pushes” the waste out. The system was touted as a water saver that was more effective than traditional johns, and was sold as a “premium” product that added about $100 to the cost of toilet, according to the complaint in United Desert Charities v. Sloan Valve Co.

The problem was, according to the complaint, that the pressure in the vessels proved too strong for seams which, when they burst, propelled the forced air at a velocity so strong it could lift the lid off the toilets’ tanks, shattering them and often causing collateral bathroom damage.

Sloan Valve Co., the parent company of Flushmate products, offered a repair kit to toilet owners who wanted to preclude such an explosion, but refused to pay the cost of installation, according to the complaint.

That didn’t sit well with United Desert Charities, a Palmdale, Calif., nonprofit that owned seven toilets with the Flushmate pressure system. In 2012, the organization sued Sloan and toilet manufacturer American Standard Brands, alleging the repair kits don’t repair the flaw and cannot even be installed in many toilets. The complaint contended that the defendants failed to properly design and test the Flushmate system, and asked for actual and punitive damages, as well as restitution.

According to settlement documents filed on June 30, the defendants will pay for unreimbursed out-of-pocket repair and replacement costs as well as property damage.

Lead plaintiffs’ attorney is David Birka-White of Birka-White Law Offices.

Lisa Hoffman is a contributor to law.com.

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