A federal jury in California found on Thursday last week that the US’ largest maker of plastic pipe defrauded states and municipalities over a decade by knowingly selling them defective pipes for use in their drinking water, firefighting, irrigation and other public systems.
The jury’s decision entitles the states and municipalities to be compensated for their losses by the manufacturer, JM Eagle, a private company based in Los Angeles that has 20 plants in the US and Mexico.
The amounts are to be determined in the next phase of the proceedings, a second trial under the same judge, but with a different jury.
The case was brought under a law that calls for triple damages, plus additional penalties for each false claim submitted to a body of government.
Three states and 42 municipalities participated in the seven-week trial, and hundreds more qualify to participate in the second one because they also bought the affected pipes.
“This pipe is buried under the streets of every major city in the country,” said Eric Havian, a lawyer with Phillips & Cohen who represented the states and municipalities.
In some places, pipes made of PVC (polyvinyl chloride) that were supposed to last 50 years or more, exploded in their first year, causing injuries, floods and other dangers.
“JM sold billions and billions of this pipe over those 10 years,” Havian said. “It is enormously disruptive and terribly expensive to replace these pipes.”
JM Eagle said in a statement that it would appeal the verdict “because the jury was not permitted to see all of the evidence.”
JM Eagle’s former corporate parent, Formosa Plastics Group (台塑集團) of Taiwan, was a co-defendant, but it has offered to settle its part of the case for US$22.5 million, the parties disclosed on Thursday.
The settlement still requires approval from the US District Court in Los Angeles.
The case was brought under the False Claims Act, a law that allows private citizens to sue on behalf of government agencies that they believe have been defrauded. Such cases are typically brought on behalf of a federal agency, like the Pentagon or the Medicare program.
The case against JM Eagle was unusual because it was joined by dozens of local governments.
They were on the frontlines because water is generally supplied at the municipal level in the US.
The lawsuit was filed in 2006 by John Hendrix, a former engineer for JM Eagle, whose duties included handling customer complaints.
He said the company trained him to look for ways to attribute pipe failures to construction errors, rather than flaws in the pipe itself.
Later, when he was assigned to oversee the certification of a new manufacturing process, he came to the conclusion that the company had been selling substandard pipe since 1996 and had manipulated test results to make it look stronger than it really was.
After he told his superiors about his concerns, he was fired, Hendrix said. The company said he was dismissed because of unethical behavior. The complaint against JM Eagle did not accuse it of any wrongdoing after 2006.
DEVELOPING TALENT: The electronics contractor is looking to recruit people to work in core tech fields and emerging industries like electric cars and robotics Hon Hai Precision Industry Co (鴻海精密), the world’s largest contract electronics maker, has launched a recruitment drive, offering a monthly salary of no less than NT$45,000 (US$1,485) to university graduates. For those with a master’s degree, the starting pay would be NT$52,000 per month at the minimum, while doctorate degree holders would receive at least NT$60,000 a month, Hon Hai said a statement issued early this week. The latest recruitment drive is aimed at attracting talent in core technology fields — artificial intelligence, semiconductors and next-generation mobile communications — and emerging industries — electric vehicles, digital healthcare and robotics, the
MRT TRAVEL FALLS: In February, ridership on the Taipei MRT System fell 8.96 percent from an average of 2.01 million per day in January Scooter sales jumped 13 percent last month as more commuters turned to two-wheelers to avoid public transportation amid the COVID-19 pandemic, the latest statistics showed. Sales expanded to 74,493 units last month, compared with 65,913 units in February, statistics released on Wednesday by Kwang Yang Motor Co (光陽工業) and the Ministry of Transportation and Communications showed. In the first quarter, aggregate sales slid 0.51 percent year-over-year to 186,627 units, from 187,580 units, data showed. Kwang Yang, the nation’s biggest scooter manufacturer, continued to lead the market by selling 24,136 vehicles last month, growing 6.12 percent from 20,785 units in the previous month, while
Asustek Computer Inc (華碩), the nation’s leading PC vendor, yesterday launched its first dual-screen gaming laptop powered by Intel Corp’s latest central processing units (CPUs). The PC manufacturer’s announcement closely followed the US chipmaker’s unveiling of its 10th Generation Core H-series, the fastest commercial mobile processors with speeds of up to 5 gigahertz. Although Asustek’s Zephyrus Duo 15, the highlight of its Republic of Gamers line, is not the company’s first laptop with two screens, it is its first designed specifically for gaming. Nestled between the primary display panel and the keyboard, the secondary display, which Asustek calls the ScreenPad Plus, is angled
NO ILL EFFECT: Last month’s data mainly reflected deals made in February, when the spread of COVID-19 was still relatively mild in Taiwan, housing brokers said Housing transactions in the six special municipalities totaled 19,824 units last month, up 7.8 percent from a year earlier, brokers said, citing government data. Last month’s data mainly reflected deals made in February, when the pinch of the COVID-19 pandemic was not yet evident, they said. Taoyuan posted the largest improvement, with housing transactions soaring 36.6 percent year-on-year to 3,676 units, local government data showed. Taiwan Realty Co (台灣房屋) attributed the pickup to the completion of two presale residential projects in the municipality. Houses in Taoyuan have increasingly gained in popularity in the past few year years due to relatively affordable home prices and