The Commercial Appeal (Memphis, Tenn.)

Alabama Judge OK's Settlement in Georgia-Pacific Siding Suit

The Associated Press

MOBILE, Ala. -- An Alabama judge has approved a class-action settlement of a lawsuit brought by homeowners against Georgia-Pacific Corp., claiming their homes were damaged by faulty exterior siding.

The Jan. 6 decision by Mobile County Circuit Judge Robert Kendall clears the way for thousands of homeowners nationally to submit claims for compensation, said David Guin in Birmingham, one of the attorneys for the homeowners.

Another attorney for the homeowners, Richard Dorman, said Friday that the settlement could cost Georgia-Pacific up to $ 30 million for home repairs.

Carol Gaines and other homeowners filed the suit against the Atlanta-based manufacturer in 1995. They said its exterior hardboard siding deteriorates even when properly installed and maintained.

''There were parts of it you could see falling apart. It looked like it was full of moisture. It buckled, separated at the seams,'' Gaines said Friday.

Her home was built in 1986 and she sought to recover the cost of repairs exceeding $ 4,500.

The company said the majority of claims dealt with siding produced at its Jarratt, Va., plant from 1979 to 1987. Georgia-Pacific said it stopped making hardboard siding at that plant in 1987 because it didn't meet expectations. It bought a plant in Catawba, S.C., that the company says is a quality siding manufacturer.

In the settlement, Georgia-Pacific agreed to establish new procedures to resolve product warranty claims, including refunds to property owners for damages and repairs.

The case could cost Georgia-Pacific $ 20 million to $ 30 million to pay all qualified claims, Dorman said. But that depends in part on how many homeowners file claims.

Dorman said homeowners will receive a ''substantially improved warranty'' because of the lawsuit.

Georgia-Pacific's counsel, Jay Bryan of Atlanta, did not immediately return a telephone message for comment.

But the company, which generates $ 13 billion in revenue a year, has established financial reserves it believes will adequately pay claims.

Georgia Pacific said homeowners who wish to participate in the settlement must file a claim or registration form for future claims by Aug. 18.

Eligible claimants have until Jan. 1, 2001 to file for compensation for Georgia-Pacific's Jarratt siding and Jan. 1, 2007 for Catawba siding.

Compensation will be based on such things as how many years the siding has been on the home, the average replacement cost in that state and whether the claimant had previously received compensation.

The Georgia-Pacific case is the latest of several alleging damage associated with siding. Three other class-action lawsuits were filed last year against other siding manufacturers. One of them, against Masonite Corp., was settled in Mobile last July.

To receive a claims package, homeowners may call toll-free, (888) 882-5246, or obtain more information on the Internet at