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Lumber Liquidator Flooring Concerns Create Risks for Realtors

Updated on March 13, 2015

Liability Remains Unknown from Flooring

Class action lawsuits filed this week against home flooring retailer Lumber Liquidators are creating concern among realtors over their duty to disclose hazards to their clients.

Toano, Virginia-based Lumber Liquidators is being sued nationwide after news reports saying formaldehyde has been detected emanating from some of its Chinese-made laminate wood flooring.

Formaldehyde is a toxic chemical sometimes contained in the glue used to make laminate flooring. In excessive doses, it is believed to be linked to cancer.

Lumber Liquidators denies endangering its customers from its flooring.

Nevertheless several lawsuits filed against the company accuse it of negligence that could cost the company millions of dollars. One of them was filed March 11, 2015 in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.

The lawsuits also create risks for realtors because of their legal obligation to disclose known or easily discoverable hazards to potential homebuyers or renters. A failure to disclose the hazards can expose the realtors to liability.

At this early stage of the litigation, the extent of the hazard from the flooring is undetermined, which means similar uncertainties hang over the potential liability for realtors.

Federal regulations give little guidance on the liability risks. Although federal regulations protect workers from exposure to formaldehyde at job sites, no rules govern most airborne chemicals in private homes.

Toxicologists say that if there is a danger to homeowners, it would come from flooring installed no more than two years ago. Any flooring installed earlier would already have released any gasses it might contain.

Meanwhile, Lumber Liquidators is offering free chemical testing kits to customers who purchased the laminate flooring linked to formaldehyde.

One of the lawsuits filed against the company, John Tyrrell et al v. Lumber Liquidators Inc., says Lumber Liquidators knew or should have known its laminate wood flooring products violated government emissions standards. Nevertheless, the company failed to reformulate its flooring products to make them compliant or to disclose to consumers that the products emit unlawful levels of formaldehyde, the lawsuit says.

The television news story that prompted the lawsuits ran March 1 on CBS’ 60 Minutes.

Lumber Liquidators Denies Health Risks from its Laminate Flooring but Lawsuits Tell a Different Story.
Lumber Liquidators Denies Health Risks from its Laminate Flooring but Lawsuits Tell a Different Story.

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    • Tom Ramstack profile image
      Author

      Tom Ramstack 2 years ago from Washington, D.C.

      I agree with everything you said. But regardless of whether realtors should have no liability, there's always someone trying to get out of a home sale contract who will look for a scapegoat. That's why realtors who fail to warn about formaldehyde should at least be aware of the risk.

    • MarleneB profile image

      Marlene Bertrand 2 years ago from Northern California, USA

      When I saw the interview on 60 Minutes, my first thought was that the owner might be telling the truth when he said he didn't know about the formaldehyde. But, then I started thinking about the fact that Chinese production companies are notorious for putting formaldehyde in just about everything that comes to the U.S. If they put it in toys, it is highly likely that they put it in lumber. I think the minimal effort of the owner should be to know what they are selling - from the raw material to the end product. I think it is stretching too far to add Realtors to the liability.