Lumber Liquidators sued in Florida over claim of formaldehyde


Lumber Liquidators is being sued in federal court in Miami for selling Chinese-made laminated wood floors alleged to contain dangerous levels of toxic formaldehyde.

The lawsuit follows a “60 Minutes” report that aired Sunday about the Chinese manufacturer and supplier to Lumber Liquidators labeling the toxic laminate flooring as being compliant with California’s Air Resources Board’s standards. However, according to independent tests, the product exceeded the formaldehyde toxicity limits by six, seven or even 20 times.

Lumber Liquidators said in a statement that the laminate is safe and that “60 Minutes” used an improper test method that does not measure a product according to how it is actually used by consumers.

Theodore “Ted” Babbitt, an attorney with Babbitt & Johnson in West Palm Beach who filed the lawsuit along with Weil, Quaranta of Miami, said lead plaintiff Joaquin Badias of Homestead contacted attorney John Quaranta after seeing the “60 Minutes” segment.

In November 2013, Badias purchased 500 square feet of Chinese-made St. James Collection by Dream Home laminate wood veneer flooring at a Lumber Liquidators outlet south of Miami.

“He has little kids crawling on formaldehyde-infested wood,” Babbitt said Wednesday. “I’m sure there are many people who have the same problem.

“This is the largest specialty retailer of hardwood flooring in North America. Not only is it an unlawful deception it is a public danger potentially harmful to thousands, if not millions, of people. These products are illegal,” Babbitt said.

Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., sent a letter Wednesday to the Centers for Disease Control and the Federal Trade Commission calling for independent testing of the flooring.

If the testing confirms high concentrations of formaldehyde, the solution may include having tainted flooring removed from people’s homes, Nelson said.

“Because this could affect millions of homeowners, it’s imperative we get some answers quickly,” Nelson said.

A statement from the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation said that the Florida senator — the committee ranking member — also wants to know if Lumber Liquidators made potentially false marketing claims about the flooring’s compliance with a California formaldehyde safety standard.

Lumber Liquidators said in a separate press release earlier Wednesday that it was withdrawing from the Raymond James’ Annual Institutional Investors Conference this week. The company also announced plans to provide a business update on March 12.

Lumber Liquidators is a Delaware corporation with central operations in Toano, Va. The company posted more than $1 billion in sales in 2014 and more than 350 locations across North America and 22 in Florida.

Formaldehyde can cause cancer, asthma, chronic respiratory irritation and other ailments, including skin and breathing problems, with a significantly greater risk of health problems in children. Babbitt said formaldehyde cannot be tasted or smelled, but that a detection kit can be purchased for $90.


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