Volume 7, Issue 9 - October 2006

From the Publisher
Lawyers are Coming

by Tara Taffera

Of the thousands who attended the recent GlassBuild America (GBA) show in Las Vegas, only 18 were in attendance at the seminar, “Plugging the Leaks on Lawsuits: Practical Advice for Window Manufacturers in a Litigious World.”

Maybe many of the manufacturers at the show were up late at the gambling tables the night before. But from what the presenters shared concerning lawyers targeting the window industry as their next kill it seems that manufacturers may be gambling with their futures if they’re not prepared. 

So for those who missed it I thought I‘d share some of the items covered (look for a more comprehensive article concerning specific steps to protect yourself in an upcoming issue). The presentation was given by lawyers Charles Gentry and Angela Elbert of Carson and Coil, P.S. in Jefferson City, Mo., and I found many of their statements to be alarming. 

One of these was the fact that “construction defect litigation has been tagged “a growth industry” by the legal world. Gentry reported that 4,000 lawyers attended a construction defect seminar recently that was the largest of its kind. 

“Lawyers are looking at this as, ‘How can I make a buck?’” he says. “They are looking to cash in on this industry.”

To do this, many firms specializing in construction defect litigations have formed, and according to Gentry, one lawyer stated that “the window industry is the next Viox.”

I’m sure if I asked manufacturers, “What is the one item/factor that can best protect you from litigation,” many would answer, “the window warranty.” Yet, many may not know that anything you say about a product can come back to haunt you, should you be the focus of a lawsuit. For example, anything stated in a brochure, website, etc. can be used as evidence during a trial.” So, if you say, “Our windows keep the weather out,” be prepared if they don’t. 

Gentry also warned that manufacturers may face attacks from a variety of plaintiffs. These can include owners, general contractors, subcontractors, architects, engineers and others.

Following the seminar I ran into Randy Ernst, president of FDR Design in Buffalo, Minn. Many of you know Ernst, who is well-known in the industry, and has contact with numerous window manufacturers. I always look forward to catching up with him and learning his latest insights. I told him about Gentry’s comments regarding, “the next Vioxx” and he said, “That’s the first time I ever heard anyone other than me make that statement.”

But on the flip side, if the lawyers are targeting this industry why haven’t we heard more about lawsuits, etc? Are manufacturers being forced to settle due to pressure put on them by well-prepared attorneys? Is this the only way for them to salvage their businesses?

If you have any insights I’d love to hear them. I know this is a sensitive subject so I’d be willing to have these conversations off the record. 

And even if you think you are prepared, check out the upcoming article to make sure that is the case. Your business depends on it.

DWM
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No reproduction of any type without expressed written permission.