Viking's aluminum windows were a popular choice for small contractors and 'do-it- yourselfers' in the 1990s. "We view this as a very strong case," says Eppsteiner. "The defense admits that over half a million of their windows leaked but we believe it is more like three quarters of a million to 800,000 windows are leaking. We obviously think we have a very substantial and valid case."
The windows were manufactured and sold through home repair chains like Home Depot, Home Base and Yards—and came complete with a bold guarantee sticker in the shape of a Viking ship. "It promised a lifetime guarantee, it was very unrestricted," says Eppsteiner.
According the suit filed, plaintiffs claim the aluminum windows leaked when the sealant failed. "The windows leak at their corners," says Eppsteiner. "The combination of the geometry of the windows, the process of shipment, the expansion and contraction of the windows, due to slight movement of the house and heat and cold caused the sealant to fail and water leaked from the corners."
When the windows started dripping water at the corners, homeowners expected that lifetime warranty sticker meant what it said. "Viking has tried to assert that a separate certificate warranty--that nobody was ever given with the purchase of a window--somehow restricted that guarantee," says Eppsteiner.
Eppsteiner isn't buying that and believes Viking's argument is, like their windows, not watertight. "They're saying the warranty is restricted because of some certificate back in their office in Portland that no one ever saw," he says. "We have deposed people who have stated this was not stuck to the window with the life time guarantee sticker."
According to Eppsteiner, Viking was aware that there was a problem with the windows and before the certification hearing did its own "secret survey and inspection" to discover the extent of the problem. In depositions the company claimed that only 43 percent of the windows failed—meaning they leaked. However, Eppsteiner argues that the failure rate is a lot higher. "Our studies show that 61 percent of the windows leaked," says Eppsteiner. "They're saying
4 out of 10 windows leak. We're saying 6 out 10 leak. And windows are expensive to repair and replace."
Plaintiffs are seeking replacement of the windows and cost of damages sustained when the windows are replaced. The cost to remove and replace each window is estimated at between $500 and $700. It is believed that there 1.2 million Viking windows installed in homes in California.
Viking no longer makes the aluminum windows and now operates under a different name. The problem for homeowners is that they no longer have any way to get in touch with Viking. "There's no 1-800 number and no website," says Eppsteiner. "If you are lucky enough to know that Pella bought Viking, you may be able to get Pella to come out and service your window."
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And if a homeowner thinks they have a leaky Viking aluminum window with the blue ship sticker, then they should get in touch with Eppsteiner. It may be the only way they will know for sure whether they are eligible to join the suit and save themselves a lot of money.
Stuart Eppsteiner is a graduate of the University of San Diego School of Law (J.D) and George Washington University (B.A.) The of firm of Eppsteiner & Fiorica has offices in San Diego, California and Boulder, Colorado. Attorneys focus on construction, products liability, class action and insurance law. They specialize in representing consumers in defective product, appliance, home, building and construction product class action lawsuits.