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Company settles suit over defective siding sold to millions of homes

July 15, 1997 GMT

MOBILE, Ala. (AP) _ Millions of homeowners who bought defective siding could be eligible for compensation under a proposed settlement in a nationwide class-action lawsuit.

A Mobile County circuit court jury found in September that hardboard siding produced after 1980 by Masonite Corp. is defective. The company said the siding, which looks like wood, was used on 4.3 million homes.

Masonite parent International Paper Co. said it doesn’t expect to pay out more than its legal reserve of $150 million under the settlement announced Monday. But plaintiffs’ attorneys estimated damage at $10,000 per home.

Judy Naef of Mobile sued Masonite in 1994, alleging that the siding rots, buckles, cracks and deteriorates when exposed to normal weather conditions. She eventually became the lead plaintiff in the class action.

The jury that ruled against the company was scheduled to determine damages this month.

Masonite has blamed the problems on improper installation.

The court will approve an administrator to handle claims under the settlement, which also calls for Masonite to pay plaintiffs’ legal fees.

The deal will provide homeowners with four to five times what they would receive under the terms of the company’s normal warranty provisions, attorney John Crowder of Mobile said.

The two sides will submit the proposal for a judge’s preliminary approval within two weeks. Homeowners will be advised on how to make claims after approval is granted.