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In a little-known but fast-growing cause of action, homeowners across the country are filing lawsuits against Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co. over damage caused by allegedly faulty hoses in home heating systems. Lawyers at two Denver law firms say they are receiving dozens of calls each week about the hoses. Also, they say they have already won cases in Colorado, and are preparing individual cases and class actions in several other states. “None of us know how big it is, but 2003 is going to be a busy year,” said Bill Maywhort of Denver’s Holland & Hart, who sees similarities to the slow public awareness of toxic mold problems in homes and public buildings that are now being litigated for millions of dollars all over the country. The other Denver firm is Rothgerber, Johnson and Lyons, which won a $22.6 million verdict last February for six homeowners. Vista Resorts v. Goodyear, No. 98CV2772 (Arapahoe Co., Colo., Dist. Ct.). The case is now before the Colorado Court of Appeals, said Rothgerber attorney Richard Clark. He added that a national class action against Goodyear has been considered. A statement released by Goodyear said that several years after Vista Resorts Inc. sold the vacation homes, “Vista responded to reported problems with some of the heating systems and litigation threats by paying the homeowners negotiated amounts in exchange for an assignment of claims. Even though in some instances the homeowners had made claims against Heatway, Vista pursued those claims solely against Goodyear.” The complaints involve Goodyear hoses called Entran II, which are found in Heatway heating systems in homes in nearly every state. Colorado uses more of the hose than any other state, however, which is why Denver lawyers are leaders in the litigation. The hose is used in radiant heating indoors and snow melting systems outdoors and was made by Goodyear from 1989 to 1993. Water and a glycol fluid are heated and then transferred through the hoses. In the 1990s, however, the hoses began hardening and decomposing, leaking black sludge into homes and basements and damaging heating systems. A statement issued by Goodyear noted, in part, that “[l]awsuits against Goodyear and other companies related to Entran II are nothing new. The first case, Chiles Power Supply Inc. v. The Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co., was filed in 1998. There, the jury found that all 25 million feet of Entran II hose manufactured by Goodyear was merchantable. The federal district judge entered a judgment dismissing all claims against Goodyear, a decision that is final.” Since then several other suits have been dismissed. The statement also claimed that there is “only one active class action, certified in an Eagle County, Colo., state court. Goodyear has moved to decertify the class, in part because over a hundred of the class members opted out of the case.” Goodyear also asserts that it has offered a free inspection program for homeowners, and that “[t]ypically, systems are running well, or require only minor design or mechanical adjustments.” The statement also noted that “Goodyear was one of the suppliers of Entran II hose to Heatway. Unbeknownst to Goodyear, Heatway was not supporting its customers as promised. Installations were performed by plumbers and contractors not trained or certified by Heatway, and the completed heating systems were not inspected by Heatway representatives. … When Heatway filed for bankruptcy in 2000, Goodyear became the target of lawsuits over Heatway systems. … Based on Heatway data, over 90 percent of the heating systems utilizing Entran II are running properly.” So far, the two Denver law firms have filed a dozen lawsuits against Goodyear in five states. They have also received class action status for suits filed in Colorado and New Mexico and are seeking class action status in the six New England states, Pennsylvania and New York. In the most recent case, Holland & Hart won a $3.5 million liability and negligence verdict against Goodyear last April in Arapahoe County District Court, Maywhort said. Robert Sumeral v. Goodyear, No. 99CV4199. He estimated that Entran II hoses could be in 2,000 homes in Colorado alone.

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