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What is Kitec?

WHAT IS KITEC

Kitec is a plumbing system that was manufactured by a Canadian corporation named IPEX sold in the United States until IPEX discontinued the product line in 2007.  Kitec became a popular alternative to copper in the mid-1990’s due to its inexpensive cost and simple installation. IPEX marketed Kitec as a rugged, corrosion-resistant alternative to copper that would hold up under aggressive water conditions.

The Kitec plumbing system consists of both pipe and fittings. Kitec water pipe was manufactured as a composite cross-linked polyethylene (“PEX”) and aluminum (“AL”) pipe, whereby a thin, flexible aluminum layer was “sandwiched” between inner and outer layers of PEX plastic.  Thus, Kitec water pipe was commonly referred to as “PEX-AL-PEX” pipe. Kitec pipe and fittings were connected together using either a crimped aluminum or copper ring or a compression fitting using a locking nut and split ring.

THE PROBLEM WITH KITEC

In 2005, Kitec fittings became the subject of a state class action lawsuit filed against IPEX in Clark County, Nevada. Kitec fittings were for the most part made of brass, which is mainly composed of copper and zinc. The Clark County lawsuit alleged that Kitec fittings failed because of a chemical reaction called dezincification. As alleged in the Clark County lawsuit, when hot and/or “aggressive” water flowed through the brass fittings, the zinc leached out of the fittings, thereby weakening the structural integrity of the brass and, ultimately, causing failure in the fittings.

The Clark County lawsuit only concerned Kitec fitting failures occurring in that jurisdiction, and did not concern Kitec piping product, or Kitec fitting failures occurring outside of Clark County, Nevada.  However, failures of Kitec hot water pipe and fittings have been reported across the United States, prompting the filing of multiple federal nationwide class action lawsuits and investigations concerning the manufacturing process and composition of Kitec hot water pipe. During the Kitec hot water pipe manufacturing process, IPEX added an “antioxidant” to the PEX, which is a product intended to prevent the PEX from quickly corroding under the effects of light, oxygen, heat, and water exposure. In the case of Kitec hot water pipe, it appears that the antioxidant is rapidly depleting from the PEX, resulting in separation of the PEX-AL-PEX layers, corrosion of the PEX and the aluminum core and, ultimately, premature failure of the pipe.

WILL KITEC REALLY FAIL

A flood is one of the most disastrous events that can occur to a home, given the damage that invasive water can do to a home’s structure, appliances and furniture.  There have been numerous failures of Kitec fittings and piping components reported across the United States, often resulting in severe damages to homeowners (see map of affected states, below). Given the available failure data, it is perhaps not a matter of if your Kitec Plumbing System will fail, but when.

HOW DO I KNOW IF MY HOME HAS KITEC

Identification of Kitec plumbing should be performed by a qualified plumber.

IPEX manufactured Kitec pipe in two primary colors for the interior of a home: blue for the cold water side and orange for the hot water side. A typical sample length of Kitec pipe prominently displays that it was manufactured by IPEX in Canada, along with its pressure rating and other information (see sample photographs of Kitec hot water pipe, below). Kitec fittings are likewise prominently stamped with “Kitec” and the place of manufacture on the obverse side of the fitting, (often Taiwan, as shown in the sample photographs, below) and rating agency information on the inverse side.

Contractors who plumbed homes with nonmetallic plumbing systems often affixed yellow stickers to warn electricians not to ground the electricity near the nonmetallic plumbing system. Homes that were plumbed with Kitec may have a yellow sticker inside the electrical panel box or on their boiler (see sample photograph, below). If you find this sticker in your electrical panel box or on your boiler, it is likely that your home is plumbed with Kitec or another nonmetallic plumbing system. You should only open your electrical panel box if you have experience with its safe use.

The proper way to determine whether your home has a Kitec plumbing system is to have a qualified plumber inspect your home. In many cases it may be necessary to make drywall penetrations to determine what type of plumbing is installed.



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If my home has Kitec® fittings, what are my repair options?

If my home has Kitec® fittings, what are my repair options?

It is believed that the only adequate repair method is a complete re-plumb of both the hot and cold water lines of your home. Generally, a full re-plumb takes approximately five (5) days for most homes to be completed and does not require relocation.

If you decide to re-plumb your home at your own expense prior to the final resolution of this lawsuit, you may consider using one of the following plumbing companies approved by the Court for a prior settlement involving a number of Richmond American homeowners. Class Counsel does not recommend or guarantee the work of these plumbing companies and you are welcome to consider other plumbing companies for the re-plumb repair. The four plumbing companies approved by the Court and their respective telephone numbers are as follows: Delta Mechanical –1 (866) 4033-582

What do I do if I have a leak?

Treat it as you would any other leak, including taking steps to minimize any damage and contacting your homeowner’s insurance carrier. If a leak occurs, immediately notify your plumber to stop the leak and to minimize any damage to your home. If a repair is required, keep all receipts and documentation of the repair. Please make sure to keep any Kitec® fittings or pipe that must be removed to carry out the repair. Thereafter, please notify Class Counsel so that we can also keep a record of your leak and repair.

As a member of the kitec class action, am I responsible for attorney’s fees and costs?

As a member of the kitec class action, am I responsible for attorney’s fees and costs?

In a class action, attorney’s fees and costs must be approved as fair and reasonable by the Court, subject to both notice and comment to all class members. Therefore, Class Counsel will not receive their attorney’s fees or their costs in this litigation unless a Court first approves them as fair and reasonable.

Class Counsel are also pursuing claims under Chapter 40 of the Nevada Revised Statutes against certain builders of homes with Kitec® Fittings. Chapter 40 is Nevada’s law regarding construction defects. Under Chapter 40, attorney’s fees for construction defects do not come out of the repair money paid to the homeowners by builders. Therefore, if Class Counsel are successful in obtaining repairs for class members through Chapter 40, their attoney’s fees will be paid directly by the builder that carries out the repair.

How do I find out whether I have Kitec® in my home?

How do I find out whether I have Kitec® in my home?

A home plumbed with a Kitec® plumbing system may have a yellow or neon sticker on the inside panel of its electrical box. However, before you check, please be sure that you have experience with the location and safe use of your home’s electrical panel box. The purpose of these stickers is to alert electricians regarding proper electrical grounding procedures for
nonmetallic plumbing. Often, homes with Kitec® plumbing will have stickers tha say “Kitec” or “Plumbetter.” Thus, if you find such as sticker in your electrical panel box, it is likely that your home contains Kitec® brass fittings.
However, please be aware that stickers were sometimes used indiscriminately to warn of nonmetallic plumbing systems othere than Kitec®. It is therefore possible that your home does not contain Kitec® plumbing even if you find a yellow sticker in the electrical panel box. Similarly, many homes that contain Kitec® plumbing do not have stickers in their electrical panel boxes. Thus, if your electrical panel box does not reveal a sticker indicating that Kitec® was installed in your home, you may need to have your home inspected to determine whether it was plumbed with Kitec®.

What is the KITEC® Fitting class action?

What is the KITEC® Fitting class action?

ABOUT THE KITEC CLASS ACTION

NEVADA RESIDENTS

If you are a resident in the State of Nevada and you wish to find out if you are eligible to participate in the Clark County class action against IPEX you may contact Mr. Bill Coulthard or Mr. Randall Jones, of the firm Kemp, Jones and Coulthard at 702-385-6000 or Messrs. Francis Lynch, Charles Hopper or Sergio Salzano, of the firm Lynch, Hopper & Salzano at 702-341-8585

ALL OTHER STATES

If you are NOT a resident in the State of Nevada and you wish to find out if you are eligible to participate in the federal nationwide class actions against IPEX, you may contact the law offices of Merrill, Namura & Molineux, LLP at 925-833-1000 x 100.  Please ask to speak with Mr. Jordan O’Brien.

The nationwide class actions involve homeowners who have Kitec plumbing systems in their homes. The lawsuits goal is to provide homeowners the proper and permanent repair with no out-of-pocket expenses. No action is required to become a member of the class action.

If you are concerned for your home, please contact Delta Mechanical without delay at 877-902-2828.

What is the KITEC® Fitting class action?

This class action involves homeowners in Clark County who have Kitec® fittings in their homes. Class Cunsel’s goal is to enable these homeowners to repair their homes with no out-of-pocket expenses. You do not need to do anything to be a member of the class action.

Does this class action involve claims for personal injury?

This class action lawsuit does not involve claims for personal injury. If you have any reason to believe that you have suffered any adverse health effects because of Kitec® Fittings, you should contact a health professional.

What problems are associated with Kitec® fittings?

The Kitec® plumbing system is for residential use and has been widely used throughout Clark County. The Kitec® plumbing system consists of plastic-coated aluminum pipes and brass fittings. The brass fittings used to connect Kitec® pipe are the subject of this lawsuit. This lawsuit alleges that Kitec® brass fittings are defective because they dezincify. Dezincification is a process whereby zinc leaches from brass, which is an alloy of copper and zinc, thereby creating a white powdery buildup on the inside of the fitting and a weakening of the brass fitting. Dezincification can lead to, among other things, restricted water flow and an increased likelihood of the brass fitting leaking or breaking.

As justice’s wheels grind, frustration over failure-prone plumbing grows

As justice’s wheels grind, frustration over failure-prone plumbing grows

By Brian Eckhouse, Mike Trask

Published at Las Vegas Sun on Mar 23, 2008

Leila Navidi

The faulty Kitec water pipe fitting taken from the home of Bob and Joanne Eckhardt has corroded, causing declining water pressure and leaks.

As many Southern Nevadans know, anyone who moved into a new home here in the past 10 years could have water pipes that are corroding and, in some cases, might explode.

Reports of faulty Kitec fittings first surfaced at the McDonald Ranch residential development earlier this decade. The discovery raised concerns for homeowners across the Las Vegas Valley, but few could have foreseen the enormity of the problem as it stands today.

Civil attorneys now estimate that at least 31,000 homes in hundreds of Clark County subdivisions need new fittings. What’s more, although the Las Vegas Valley appears to be the epicenter of the problem, tens of thousands of homes across the Southwest and stretching north into the Sacramento area also apparently need repairs amounting to roughly $7,000 each, say attorneys and homeowners following the issue.

Class action lawsuits are pending against the manufacturer and plumbers in Las Vegas and Albuquerque, N.M. Others likely will be filed soon.

William Ferguson, an attorney representing New Mexico residents, says Kitec is found chiefly in upscale tract homes there built by several national builders, including multibillion-dollar corporation Del Webb Communities. A San Francisco-based attorney is preparing related suits in Los Angeles and Sacramento. The problem allegedly persists in many parts of Texas, in burgeoning communities in Maricopa County, Ariz., and around Tucson, homeowners, plumbers and lawyers say.

In Clark County, the problem is especially acute in senior communities. To buyers, sun-drenched subdivisions in the arid West seemed preferable to the Floridian communities draped in dampness: Small and tidy ranch homes dot slightly sloping hills, often overlooking the dazzling Las Vegas Valley that sprawls below like spaghetti. Shangri-La is just a drive downhill.

Some owners who left town for a few days, however, have returned to foot-high floods causing pipe, wall and floor damage in excess of $100,000. More common are leaks and declining water pressure — all caused by the faulty brass plumbing fittings, according to the lawsuits filed in Nevada and New Mexico.

•••

By now, many homeowners in the Southwest can define with expert clarity the word “dezincification,” the process that corrodes the brass fittings.

Some have visuals. Summerlin residents Robert and Joanne Eckhardt keep their Kitec fittings, residue still thick inside, in a cabinet in their garage.

Yes, dezincification sounds like something out of Mystery Science Theater, but it’s a fairly straightforward process. As water goes through the fittings it corrodes the metal; zinc leaches from the brass and creates a powdery buildup inside the fittings. It’s called, in science parlance, “meringue.”

“I don’t think you want to put it on top of a Coke,” says attorney Randall Jones, whose firm, Harrison, Kemp, Jones & Couthard, represents the thousands of Clark County homeowners with Lynch, Hopper & Salzano, also of Las Vegas.

If the fittings aren’t replaced, the swelling leached zinc particles eventually clog the pipe, causing decreased water pressure, leaks and even burst plumbing. Replacing the fittings usually means replumbing the house, at a cost of $6,000 to $8,000. Afterward, a perplexing new situation often emerges. The old pipes were in the concrete foundation. To save money, the new ones have been installed above the ceiling. In scorching summer months, you need to run the water a long time before it turns cold.

The maker of Kitec, Canadian manufacturer IPEX, contends the cause of the problem here is the valley’s hard water, which comes from the Colorado River. James Carroway, IPEX’s Las Vegas-based attorney, maintains that other states drawing water from the Colorado River mix it with softer water from other sources — and thus won’t see the effects of dezincification for about 50 years.

That means lawsuits filed in those states are without merit, Carroway says. “They see this big class action going on in Las Vegas and they want to try to make a fast buck.”

Dave Birka-White, attorney for homeowners with Kitec in California, acknowledges climatic differences may hasten dezincification in Clark County, but says he has seen corroding Kitec fittings in Mission Viejo, Calif., and outside Sacramento.

“These are progressive failings,” Birka-White says.

The water in most Southwest communities, including 1.4 trillion gallons pumped annually into Southern California, is derived from the same source: the Colorado River, notes J.C. Davis, a spokesman for the Southern Nevada Water Authority.

•••

The exact number of homes with Kitec water pipe fittings is difficult, if not impossible, to pinpoint. Many homeowners will discover the problem but not know its cause.

The Clark County suit alleges Westmark Homes, American Premiere Homes and Development, Concordia Homes of Nevada, Signature Homes and Nigro Development are among the developers that used the Kitec fittings.

The recent wave of suits began here in 2006 and now includes homes built by 31 developers from the late 1990s through 2006. The largest class action suit in Clark County unites at least 31,000 homeowners. A similar suit filed last year in New Mexico represents 30,000 homes there. The scope of the problem in California is still being determined, says Birka-White.

The targets of the suits include IPEX, homebuilding companies and plumbing contractors that installed it. The primary objective is to compel the defendants to replace the Kitec fittings and compensate those homeowners who already paid to do so.

Increasingly, nervous homeowners are hiring plumbers for inspections, Jones says.

Plumbers bore small holes under sinks, then use an instrument with a flexible arm to help them identify Kitec fittings. They say the solution requires replacing roughly 10 Kitec fixtures in each home, usually found behind all sinks, toilets and showers. It’s a project that generally takes plumbers at least two days to complete.

“They have had to learn how to cut the walls,” says Bob Eckhardt, 77, of Sun City Summerlin. “By the time they got to us, they had it down to a science.”

Eckhardt and his wife are convinced the piping in their 1,400-square-foot duplex would have exploded had they not discovered that something was wrong while replacing the tile in their hallways and bathroom. There had been no hint of trouble until Joanne Eckhardt felt water in the tiny space between the wall and where the toilet usually sits.

It cost them $7,775 to replace the Kitec fittings.

“Everybody’s in the same boat,” Joanne Eckhardt says matter-of-factly. “It’s good conversation over the bridge table.”

•••

Ironically, early versions of Kitec were heralded as resistant to corrosion and pressure. The American Hardware Manufacturers Association in Chicago gave IPEX an award for developing the fitting; a building and materials group in Canada did the same a year later.

Plumbers perceived Kitec as more durable than its predecessor, copper. Kitec was particularly popular from 1998 through 2005, but plumbers based in Las Vegas and Phoenix say it was sold through early 2007.

Recent litigation halted its further widespread use, though an earlier suit filed by more than 1,000 homeowners in Del Webb-built Sun City MacDonald Ranch didn’t deter developers from continuing to use the Kitec fittings.

•••

The Eckhardts, who are from Cleveland, don’t regret their decision to move to Nevada instead of a popular retirement community in Florida. But many of their peers have had second thoughts.

Large swaths of the walls in Bernay Scott’s kitchen have yet to be repatched; a picture of one of her two dogs hides the signs of a wall breached by plumbers to replace Kitec. Scott, 61, works three days a week and is a full-time caretaker for her husband, William, who has lung disease. She says she is struggling to pay off the debt on her replumbing. “It’s not like I had $7,600. Believe me, I don’t,” she says. “It’s sickening. It’s unbelievable.”

She’s pessimistic about the lawsuit’s prospects.

“Where will the money come from?” she says. When “somebody puts money in my hands, that’s when I’ll believe it.”

Del Webb, the developer of the Sun City retirement communities, has agreed to pay 2,700 homeowners in the Anthem subdivision settlements of $7,800, amounting to about $21 million.

Those settlements are in limbo at the moment, however; a District Court judge invalidated them, arguing they interfered with the larger class action lawsuit. A decision by the state Supreme Court is pending.

Last month Harrison, Kemp, Jones & Couthard, in a $10.2 million class action settlement, agreed to replumb 1,200 homes built in Las Vegas by Richmond American Homes of Nevada. It’s the first settlement in Clark County since the lower court filed the newest Kitec class action suit in October 2006. Attorney Jones declined to address any discussions with any of the other 30 developers in Clark County that used the Kitec fittings, though his co-counsel says an agreement with a small Las Vegas-based builder appears imminent.

Cy Ryan, the Sun’s Carson City bureau chief, and Sun librarian Rebecca Clifford contributed to this report.

Beyond the Sun