The attorneys at Morgan & Morgan are investigating potential lawsuits on behalf of owners of homes and other structures outfitted with corrugated stainless steel tubing (CSST), a flexible piping used to supply natural gas and propane within residential and commercial properties.
It has been alleged that CSST products contain design and manufacturing defects that may put millions of homes at risk for lightning-induced fires. Since August 2011, it has been reported that at least 140 fires involving lightning and CSST have occurred across the United States.
What’s the Problem with CSST?
CSST is not able to withstand the electrical charge dissipated by lightning strikes due to its corrugated design and thin walls, according to reports. As a result, in the event that CSST becomes energized due to a direct or indirect lightning strike, the current will “arc” or jump across a gap to a less resistant pathway, such as nearby metal piping, in an attempt to reach the ground.
Although the arc will only last a fraction of a second, it has been alleged that the temperature of the event is hot enough to melt and penetrate the thin walls of the CSST. If the gas line melts or is punctured, the gas inside can escape and cause a fire.
Our attorneys believe that the thin walls of CSST put properties at risk for fire-related damage. It is estimated that the walls of CSST measure at a mere .011 inches, 10 times thinner than the walls of traditional black iron pipes.
It has been alleged that unlike CSST, the walls of traditional black iron pipes are generally thick enough to withstand the energy produced during a lightning strike. CSST was developed in the early 1980s in Japan and was introduced into the U.S. market as an easier-to-install alternative to black iron pipes in the 1990s.
Manufacturers and Products Under Investigation
Unfortunately for property owners, the problem with CSST reportedly affects all brands, as these products each have the same inherent design, wall thickness and physical properties. There are several major CSST manufacturers in the United States. These manufacturers and their related products include the following:
- Ward Manufacturing, LLC - Wardflex and Wardflex II
- Titeflex Corporation - Gastite and Flashshield
- Parker-Hannifin Corporation - Parflex
- Truflex - Proflex
- U.S. Hose
- Hose Master
How Do I Know if CSST Has Been Installed in My Home?
CSST systems consist of flexible pipe between a building’s gas sources and appliances, as well as fittings and other accessories. The gas tubing is often covered with a yellow or black jacket, which may be stamped with the manufacturer’s name.
It is important to remember that CSST is not always exposed to view. CSST can be found under, through or alongside floor joists in your basement, inside interior wall cavities, on top of ceiling joists in attic spaces, or connected to appliances, such as water heaters. More than six million homes in the United States have been outfitted with CSST, which commands over 50% of the market for fuel gas piping in new and remodeled homes through the country.
CSST Safety Questioned
CSST manufacturers claim that their products are safe when properly bonded; however, it has been alleged that even if all mechanical and electrical systems of the property are properly bonded, there is still an opportunity for a CSST lightning-induced fire. States such as Florida, which exhibits a significantly high rate of lightning strikes, have strict building codes and practices, including a requirement for bonding. Unfortunately, these codes provide minimum bonding standards that continue to be reviewed. As these standards are revised, properties previously installed with CSST may not benefit from these changes.
Homes fitted with CSST have led the National Fire Protection Association to form a committee to study this problem. In 2010, a technical committee for the Association reported that it received information of “limited value” from CSST manufacturers with respect to the effectiveness of bonding, and has considered a ban on the installation of CSST in a 2014 edition of the National Fuel Gas Code.
The problem has also led two fire departments in Texas to seek a ban on CSST and fire officials in Pennsylvania to issue a warning to homeowners about the dangers of the products.