After months of motions and countermotions by Heatway and Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co. on who is to blame, Federal District Judge Dan Aaron Polster narrowed the question down for each side: Was the hose defective?
If Entran II is shown to be defective when Goodyear sold the product to Heatway, a second trial will follow within two weeks for Heatway to recover liability and damages. The first trial is now set for Jan. 10 in Akron, Ohio.
“I know many people will be disappointed that this matter will not be tried for another eight months,” said Mike Chiles, president of Heatway “At first blush, we at Heatway are too. We respectfully defer to his decision.”
The burden of proof lies with Heatway, and is considered a victory for the Springfield, Mo.-based radiant tubing company. Heatway must also show that it used Entran II for its intended purpose.
Goodyear was unavailable for comment at press time. Goodyear had filed motions to include contractors and wholesalers in the lawsuit, including Jack Sibley of Whitewater Plumbing & Heating Inc. in Vail, Colo., and John Kirchner of Kirchner Plumbing & Heating in Gypsum, Colo. Goodyear initially blamed Heatway for poor design, contractors for not correctly installing the system and homeowners for not properly maintaining the systems.
The restructuring of the case effectively eliminates contractors and homeowners from sharing in the blame if Heatway cannot prove Goodyear sold defective tubing. Heatway and its insurance companies have spent more than $5 million in claims.
More than 25 million feet of Entran II were sold between 1989 and 1993. There are about 15,000 radiant heating systems in the United States that contain Entran II tubes, with more than 650 complaints logged by Heatway. The problem is restricted to Entran II, and is not related to Heatway’s Entran I, Entran 3 or Entran Onix. Most problems with Entran II surfaced within two or three years of installation.
When installed, Entran II tubes were orange and flexible, like garden hoses. Over time, the tube released plasticizers that hardened the tube, effectively dissolving in hot water, according to expert testimony. The first phase of the problem begins with leaks where the hose connects to the manifold, and continues until the tube spontaneously cracks and leaks elsewhere.
Heatway has 50 employees and about $12 million in sales a year, and could potentially become bankrupt if held liable for the damages. Contractors can call Heatway toll-free at 800/255-1996 with Entran II questions.