A lawsuit over defective Pella windows is following a new strategy for gaining class action status. While most class action suits avoid alleging fraud, this case successfully argued that the defective product allegations, including fraud, could fall under class action. Class actions are lawsuits filed by an individual or small group on behalf of a large group of similarly harmed people.
Recently heard in the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals, the lawsuit claims that Pella’s “ProLine” casement windows suffer from defective design, allowing water to leak behind the aluminum cladding (covering). The defect causes water damage and rot to interior wood surrounding the cladding. Plaintiffs argue that Pella knew of the defect, yet did not warn consumers. The appeal, under case No. 1:06-cv-04481, was heard by Judge James B. Zagel. 
The case affects two types of consumers. Some bought homes with ProLine windows but have yet to experience problems. Others experienced damage because of the defective windows and replaced the windows at their own expense. This second group consists of consumers in California, Florida, Illinois, Michigan, New Jersey and New York.
Consumers complain about problems with rotting wood and the cost of replacing the windows. In a communication to ConsumerAffairs.com, one Waterville, Ohio consumer wrote, “In 2003 we discovered the sash on one of the windows had rotted and a Pella representative had the window replaced. Within the last year we discovered that majority of the 20 windows were in the same condition, so we had all 20 windows replaced.” He continues, “We absorbed a window cost of $3,120.26, labor cost of $1,164.46 and cost to stain the windows of $1,000.00. Total cost $5,284.72. Our first choice in windows was Pella due to their reputation. I feel Pella should stand behind their product and absorb the cost of the windows.”
Fraud Allegations Present Class Action Complications
The most serious allegation in the Pella ProLine window case is fraud. The company modified warranties to the windows after learning of the defect yet never informed consumers. Most class actions will avoid fraud allegations because the court usually considers them inappropriate for group actions. The attorney in this case, however, successfully argued that despite fraud allegations, the case was appropriate for class action status.
The Court’s Ruling
The court rejected Pella’s appeal argument that fraud allegations were inappropriate in a class action lawsuit. “While consumer fraud class actions present problems that courts must carefully consider before granting certification, there is not and should not be a rule that they never can be certified,” wrote Judge Zagel. He agreed with the district court ruling that, “individual issues that necessarily arise in a consumer fraud action [do] not prevent class treatment of the narrow liability issues here.”
If you suffered rotten wood surrounding your Pella ProLine windows, or if you have suffered damage from any other defective product, contact our office. We have experienced attorneys on staff who will meet with you free of charge to discuss the facts of your case. We will listen, explain your rights and help you decide if a lawsuit is the right course of action in your situation.