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April 26, 2015

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Judge approves $90 million faulty plumbing settlement

Bad Plumbing

Three of 19 Sun City Anthem homeowners share their concerns after opting out of a class-action suit against Kitec plumbing manufacturer IPEX and numerous plumbers and builders.

Kitec repairs

A Silverado Ranch home shows signs of plumbing work in progress. Launch slideshow »

Kitec plumbing maker IPEX agreed to pay $90 million for its part in a plumbing defect lawsuit that would cover a portion of the cost to repipe about 30,000 homes in the valley.

District Court Judge Timothy Williams approved the agreement today and said the partial settlement seems fair and reasonable despite objections from some of the home builders remaining in the suit who claim IPEX should bear more of the costs because it designed and manufactured the fittings.

The agreement removes IPEX from the class action suit and protects the company and its subsidiaries from future lawsuits.

According to court filings, water causes the brass fittings to corrode and zinc from the brass collects in the pipes, restricting flow and eventually causing breaks. IPEX issued a recall on Kitec brass fittings in 2005.

James Carraway, the local attorney for the Canadian company, said IPEX denies the fittings were poorly constructed and that Southern Nevada's hard water is to blame for the failures.

Builders and their contractors could have used a different brass fittings that contain less zinc, Carraway said, added the Kitec fittings don't fail in other regions of the country.

IPEX wouldn't have agreed to the settlement without the protection from future claims, Carraway said.

"We want to buy our peace and walk away from the state of Nevada for $90 million," he said.

Leland Backus, an attorney for Avante Homes and Maya LLC, called Carraway's argument "preposterous" that builders should have known that dezincification would occur.

The case continues with about 25 home builders and six plumbing companies remaining as defendants in the suit, said Randall Jones and William Coulthard, the class action attorneys of Harrison, Kemp, Jones & Coulthard.

IPEX's portion represents about 25 to 33 percent of the total cost of replacing plumbing fixtures, Jones said. The legal action seeks to collect $10,000 in damages for each property owner for a complete replumb.

Kitec plumbing was used in residential construction in Southern Nevada from 1995 to 2006. The fixtures were also sold under the brand name PlumbBetter.

Attorneys aren't sure how many homes may have the Kitec fittings, but Coulthard estimated the total at 34,000.

Carraway estimated the actual number is closer to 28,000 homes and said the Kitec system wasn't used locally until 1996.

The settlement sets aside $4.5 million for Richmond American Homes, which has started to replumb its 1,251 homes.

The deal also sets aside $11.6 million for Woodside Homes, which creditors forced into involuntary Chapter 11 bankruptcy in September. Woodside has 17 communities in the valley with about 4,000 homes that could have Kitec plumbing.

Del Webb and its Coventry Homes of Nevada subsidiary reached a preliminary settlement to pay $27.2 million toward replumbing about 4,200 homes throughout its communities in the valley.

Affected homeowners will be notified by mail of the settlement.

Jeff Pope can be reached at 990-2688 or [email protected].

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