The U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida granted partial summary judgment for Demilec (USA) LLC in a class action arising out of injuries and damages allegedly caused by the company’s various spray polyurethane foam insulation products, finding that the plaintiff lacked standing to sue under the consumer protection laws of states other than Florida. Renzi v. Demilec (USA) LLC, et al., No. 12-80516-CIV. Plaintiff Lucille Renzi’s suit is one of many cases against product manufacturers, installers, and distributors of what is known as spray polyurethane foam insulation, which allege that the foam remains toxic after installed in homes, posing risks to homeowners and their residents for which the only remedy is complete removal. The spray foam has been marketed as an environmentally safe, nontoxic product. However, the plaintiffs allege the products are defectively designed and continue to emit volatile organic compounds into the air after installation – a process known as off-gassing.
Renzi, a resident of Boynton Beach, Fl., filed the case on her behalf and on behalf of a class, identified as three Florida subclasses, in May 2012, seeking to invoke the consumer protection laws of Florida, Louisiana, Alabama, North Carolina, Virginia, Texas, and Mississippi. Demilec moved for partial summary judgment on the basis of standing, arguing that because Renzi is a Florida resident, and not a resident of the other states, she lacked standing to bring those states' consumer protection claims. Renzi, relying on an asbestos class action case, argued that class certification issues are dispositive and should be dispensed with before reaching concerns based on standing. The court disagreed with Renzi’s reading of Amchem Products v. Windsor, 521 U.S. 591 (1997), finding that Article III standing issues are not required to be delayed until after class certification.
Judge Kenneth A. Marra held: “Here, Plaintiff is a resident of Florida who had the allegedly defective spray foam installed in her Florida home and suffered injuries…Plaintiff does not, therefore, have standing under other state consumer protection acts.” However, the court declined to dismiss the plaintiffs’ claims under the Florida Deceptive and Unfair Trade Practices Act, adding, “That stated, the Court finds that Plaintiff, and the Florida subclass, do have standing to pursue claims under the FDUTPA."
The Renzi decision is another significant victory for product manufacturers faced with toxic-foam related lawsuits nationwide, coming approximately five months after the U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation rejected an attempt to consolidate eight lawsuits from Connecticut, Florida, Michigan, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin, finding the cases too unique to make consolidation efficient.